Dear reader, this is the third publication this month about the topic, there are a lot happening and we feel we should keep you on the loop, especially if you are intending to marry in this country; you must be aware prior to your big day. Europe, in recent years, has considerably tightened spousal immigration regulations, mostly in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands. In the UK, the issue has not received comparable political and public attention until now. Further, after recent public policy consultations, law enforcement measures have been put into practice; it seems the UK will follow the example of its neighbors in its attempt to halt the number of visa concessions for non EU spouses. It is not without reason the government has declared “war” against sham marriages. Spouses are the largest single category of migrant settlement in the UK (39% in 2008, and 40% in 2009, statistics from Home Office 09/10). These worrying figures are leading the government to direct extra attention to the route. Coincidence or not, in addition to such rising, the number of suspicion of fraudulent marriages has also soared. In 2010, registrars reported 934 suspected sham marriages in England and Wales – 66% more than were reported in 2009. A sham marriage typically occurs when a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area as a means of attempting to gain long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits in this country.
The number of suspected sham ceremonies has rocketed within a year from around 300 to 900. Immigration Minister Damian Green has said that the current system will be replaced by a system of ‘enforcement’ and ‘education’. “We will not tolerate immigration abuse, including sham marriages. The UK Border Agency investigates all reports of suspected sham marriages – and recent enforcement action has resulted in 155 arrests. The most effective action is to increase enforcement and work closely with registrars and churches to identify marriages that may not be genuine. Registrars will be trained to look for suspicious activity, and anybody involved in fake ceremonies will be arrested.” But Home Office will not stop there, now other than registrars; the church will also play its part on helping the government identifying possible fake marriages. To ensure the marriage complies with both UK Civil and Church law, there are certain aspects of a church wedding that must be fulfilled, according to the Church of England. For example the “Reading of the banns” which is an announcement made in church of the intention to marry and a chance for anyone to put forward a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place. The banns need to be read in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding, in the parish where each of you lives as well as the parish church in which you are to be married, if that is somewhere else.
If there is not enough notice given for the Banns to be read before the marriage, in the case of a marriage of people whose nationality is not British, or if one or both of you do not live in England, it is recommended that the ‘license procedure’ be used rather than Banns. This is especially recommended if there is any doubt as to the legal requirements of the home country of a non-British person for recognition of an English Church marriage. For example: under 18 years old will need their parents consent to marry; mind you that by law one can not be married in the UK until turning 16. Also, for the wedding to be legal it must take place between 8am and 6pm on any day. So, if your marriage is taking place and one of the people marrying is a foreign national, then a “Common License” application must be sought. It is granted in the name of the Bishop of the Diocese you are marrying in. Common Licenses are only valid for three months. Application should be made to a surrogate for granting marriage licences in the Diocese, or to the Diocesan Registrar. The fee for a Common Licence is around £100. A Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate is another alternative to having Banns read, and involves the publication of a notice at the Register Office of the district. Your Vicar will be happy to explain more about this and whether it is necessary for you. As you can witness, the government will not spare ways of making sure a marriage is genuine as this has been extremely abused over the past years. Here lies the importance of being assessed by an immigration adviser to strength your visa application should this be your case. We have the most capable team within the community to support you, do not trust your life at unprepared hands; come to LondonHelp4u.co.uk.