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Warning: How Fradulent IELTS Test Results Can Be Detected!

What type of integrity checks are in place to assure that a visa applicant is actually the person who has taken an IELTS test? 

What kind of evidence might the Department or the Tribunal rely upon to determine that an IELTS test result report that is submitted is a “bogus document” and thus trigger the application of Public Interest Criterion 4020 to result in the refusal of the visa application? 

Or to put it another way, how can a person who is attempting to carry out a fraud, by using an “imposter” to take elements of the English language proficiency test for her/him, get “tripped up” so that the fraud comes to light? 

These interesting questions were explored in a decision of the Federal Circuit Court from last year, Chopra v Minister for Immigration & Anor (2017) FCCA 1081 (26 May 2017). 

This is what happened in the case: 

The applicant was seeking a Skilled (Provisional) – Subclass 487 visa. In his application, the applicant reported that he had taken an IELTS test in December 2011, and he provided an IELTS test report that stated that he had achieved “passing results” - 7.5 for listening, 9.0 for reading, 6.0 for writing, and 7.0 for speaking, resulting in an “overall band score” of 7.5. 

Impressive, or “too good to be true”? 

After the application was submitted, an officer of the Department sought to verify the test results. The officer was informed by the organisation that had administered the test that all of the results had been “cancelled” and that the band score for each element of the test had been reversed to “zero”.  The officer was informed that the reason that the testing organisation had cancelled the results was that it had been discovered that an impostor had taken (at least) several elements of the test for the visa applicant? 

How could that be proven? 

The applicant argued before the Tribunal that there must have been an error on the part of the testing organisation, because the photograph of the person who had purportedly taken the test matched the applicant.  So the applicant argued that there must have been some confusion or mistake on the part of the testing organisation in advancing the claim that the test results had been obtained by fraud. 

This was the proof that the Tribunal relied on: 

* The testing organisation found that there were differences between the voice that was recorded during the testing that had taken place in December 2011 and an earlier test that had been taken by the applicant; 

* The Tribunal itself found that there were differences between the voice that was recorded during the December 2011 testing and the applicant’s speaking voice as heard at the hearing before the Tribunal; 

* The testing organisation also found that there were differences in the handwriting that was used during the successful December 2011 and an earlier test that the applicant had undertaken; 

* The Tribunal found that a sample of the applicant’s handwriting that was provided at the hearing “matched” the handwriting on the earlier test, and that the handwriting sample differed from the handwriting that appeared on the successful test from December 2011; 

* The applicant did not dispute at the hearing before the Tribunal that the handwriting sample that he provided at the hearing appeared different from the handwriting used on the successful test; 

* The Tribunal’s suspicions that the applicant had not taken the written component of the test was reinforced by the fact that he was not able to remember the subject-matter of the written component of the test when he was asked about it at the Tribunal hearing (and the Federal Circuit Court concluded that it had not been “unreasonable” for the Tribunal to expect that the applicant should be able to recall the subject-matter of the written test at the time of the Tribunal hearing, even though the hearing took place several years after the applicant had taken the test. 

So there you have it! The case provides an “object lesson” that is not as easy to “get away” with obtaining fraudulent results on an IELTS English language proficiency test than it might appear: there are mechanisms in place, through preserved voice recordings and handwriting samples, that can be relied upon by the testing organisation and the Tribunal to identify when a fraud has taken place. 

And of course the consequences of getting caught trying to obtain fraudulent IELTS test results are severe: not only the end of the current visa application but also a 3-year bar against the grant of any further visa, not to mention the imposition of the section 48 bar against the grant of all but a very limited types of visas onshore.

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