Written statement to Parliament

Sham marriage: Church of England handling exemption for non-EEA national marriage applications

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

Statement laid in the House of Commons on 26 April 2011 by Damian Green, and in the House of Lords by Baroness Neville-Jones.

Tackling abuse of the system is a significant element of the government’s immigration policy. This includes preventing marriage in the UK being used solely to gain an immigration advantage. The government has been working with partners to look at ways in which the problem of sham marriages can be addressed.

I am therefore pleased to welcome procedural changes which have made by the Church of England which will afford closer scrutiny and help to deter or prevent those seeking to marry in order to gain an immigration advantage. The Church of England has issued new guidance to allow for greater scrutiny for applications for marriage where one or both parties is a non-EEA national (that is not a national of a country that belongs to the European Economic Area or a British citizen).

This will allow the clergy greater opportunity to satisfy themselves, prior to the ceremony, that the marriage is a genuine one and where they have concerns to refer the matter to the UK Border Agency.

In order to enable the Church of England to introduce its new procedures in respect of non-EEA nationals, I have agreed that use can be made of an exception under the Equality Act 2010 for differential treatment on the basis of nationality.

These measures took effect from 11 April and a copy of the ministerial approval and guidance have been placed in the library of the House.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Date: Tue Apr 26 00:00:00 BST 2011