The new arrangements – part of the government’s flagship Immigration Act, which became law last year – represent the biggest shake-up of marriage and civil partnership preliminaries for a generation. The changes will give the Home Office more time to investigate whether couples are trying to cheat the immigration system.
Where a sham is suspected, couples may be subject to an extended notice period of 70 days before they can say ‘I do’, to allow investigators extra time to consider whether the proposed marriage is a sham.
The new powers build on previous changes under the Immigration Act introduced in July last year which widened the duty on registrars to report suspected sham marriages to the Home Office.
This, together with closer joint working with registrars, has resulted in over 2,000 reports of suspected sham cases between July and December 2014 – up by over 80% compared to the same period the year before (1,099).
Immigration and Security Minister James Brokenshire said:
This government has done more than any before it to clamp down on sham marriage and the Immigration Act has given us the strongest ever platform to identify and disrupt such abuse.
As of today, marriage can no longer be seen as a ‘fast track option’ for those seeking to abuse marriage to cheat their way into the UK.
Between April and December 2014, the Home Office carried out over 2,000 sham marriage operations resulting in over 1,200 arrests and more than 430 illegal immigrants have been removed from the UK as a result.
The government has also introduced new removal and re-entry ban powers for EU nationals who attempt to abuse free movement rights by participating in sham marriages for cash.
Non-EU nationals who try to organise or participate in a sham marriage face being immediately detained until their enforced removal. Any outstanding leave to remain can be curtailed.
The implementation of the extended notice period was announced in November giving couples plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements to give notice before their marriage or civil partnership takes place.