Major changes announced to tackle sham marriages

The Government yesterday (24 November 2014) announced changes to the process for giving notice of marriage or civil partnerships.

The changes, which come into effect on 2 March 2015, will subject all couples to a longer notice period of 28 days before they will be able to marry or form a civil partnership in England and Wales.

It is hoped that the longer waiting period will deter the creation of sham marriages and civil partnerships used to obtain an immigration advantage for one or both of the involved parties.

The issue of immigration has escalated in recent years, with the Government receiving criticism for its inadequate handling of increasing immigration numbers.  Indirectly, this purported failing has also led to the growth in popularity for UKIP, a previous fringe party that opposes the free movement granted to immigrants through the EU.

Following the new law, cases in which one or both of the parties is a non-EEA national with limited or no immigration status will lead to a possible extension of the notice period to 70 days – giving the authorities time to investigate the authenticity of the arrangement.

Outlining the plans, Minister for Security and Immigration, James Brokenshire, said: “By extending the notice period and channelling to the Home Office all proposed marriages and civil partnerships which could bring an immigration benefit, the new system will give us much more time and information to identify and act against sham marriages and civil partnerships before they happen and, where they do go ahead, we will have the evidence we need on file to be able to refuse any subsequent immigration application in terms which will withstand appeal.”

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Nigel is the Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution in the London office of Mackrell Turner Garrett.