News story

Damian Green: we do not tolerate sham marriages

Immigration minister reiterates commitment to cracking down on marriages for visas as reports by registrars rise.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

An increase in suspected sham marriages has been accompanied by a rise in enforcement action, the Home Office said today.

Registrars reported 934 suspected sham marriages in 2010, compared to 561 the previous year.

But 155 arrests have been made by UK Border Agency officers in recent targeted operations.

UK Border Agency officers also work closely with registrars - including providing advice - in order to help them identify marriages that may not be genuine.

We investigate all reports

Minister for immigration Damian Green said: ‘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 our enforcement efforts and work closely with registrars and churches to identify marriages that may not be genuine.’

Certificate of approval

The Home Office has also been using a certificate of approval scheme to help minimise the occurrences of sham marriages.

The scheme meant people not legally permanently settled in the UK needed Home Office permission to marry.

But in 2008, Law Lords ruled that the powers discriminated against foreign nationals on human rights grounds.

And changes made following subsequent court rulings have weakened the scheme, meaning that it is no longer an effective method of countering the practice of sham marriage.

The certificate will therefore be scrapped shortly.

Arrests this week

This week has seen eight people arrested for arranging sham marriages in London and Yorkshire.

A Bangladeshi man and a Portuguese woman were arrested in Tower Hamlets on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, at Halifax Register Office six people, including a would-be Polish bride and Pakistani groom, were also arrested.

Today all six are appearing at Halifax Magistrates Court charged with conspiracy to assist unlawful immigration to the UK.

What is a sham marriage?

Sham marriages are usually attempted as a way of gaining long-term residency and the right to work and claim benefits.

They involve situations where a non-European national marries someone from the European Economic Area, including the UK.

Updates to this page

Published 24 March 2011