Monday, December 29, 2014

Sham marriage crackdown by Home Office under New UK Immigration Rules

The Home Office will implement reforms to clamp down on sham marriages or bogus weddings - where a non-EU national marries a British, EU/EEA national in order to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain under UK Immigration Rules. 

The UK Minister for Security and Immigration, Mr James Broken-Shire, recently announced that Part 4 of the Immigration Act 2014 is to be put in place on 2 March 2015, Colin Yeo of the Free Movement blog reports.

The new rules will change the procedure for marriage and civil partnership for both UK citizens and foreign nationals with the current notice periods being almost doubled.

New powers and duties are being created to report suspected sham marriages and to investigate and prevent bogus marriages, which are generally used to extend the UK visa (obtain a spouse visa) or leave to remain of a non-EU national.

According to official estimates the new measures will result in up to 35,000 suspected sham marriages per year being referred to the Home Office for investigation, with 6,000 marriages actually being investigated.

After 2 March next year, anyone who wants to get married in the UK will be subject to the extended 28 day notice period.

Anyone marrying a non EEA national in the Anglican Church will be forced to undertake full civil preliminaries.

The new powers means that any couple involving at least one party who is subject to ‘immigration control’ and not holding settled status in the UK, or permanent residence under EU law, or not exempt from immigration control, could be investigated by the Home Office where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a sham marriage.

The Home Office will use a number of potential ‘risk factors’ (most of them fairly obvious) to help identify possible sham marriage cases requiring further investigation including those where one of the parties:

·        Belongs to a ‘high risk’ nationality with possible involvement in a sham, based on objective information and intelligence held on sham cases.
Has a UK visa type known to be linked based on intelligence to bogus marriages.
Is a visa overstayer with illegally here no immigration status or their leave is about to expire.
Has already had a UK visa or leave to remain application refused by the Home Office.
Previously sponsored another spouse or civil partner to enter or remain in the UK.
Has been or is currently subject to a section 24/24A report.

How these investigations will work in practice largely depends on Home Office workloads where staff are already overstretched and dealing with huge backlogs of hundreds of thousands of immigration applications. However it works, the Home Office are taking sham marriage, increasingly between non-EU nationals and EEA nationals, and immigration crime extremely seriously. 

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