In a written statement delivered to the House of Commons yesterday, Immigration Minister James Brokenshire announced new measures designed to counter sham marriages and unlawful civil partnerships. Although the plans will be incorporated into the Immigration Act 2014 subject to parliamentary approval, the new legislation won’t be implemented until 2nd March 2015.
Part 4 of the Act will be strengthened, entailing the extension of marriage and civil partnership notice periods from 15 to 28 days for all couples living in England and Wales. The notice period will be even longer for couples who are citizens of countries outside the European Economic Area, where at least 70 days’ notice will be required – giving the Home Office plenty of time to investigate whether relationships are genuine and subsisting.
Moreover, in an attempt to counter non-EEA nationals marrying EU citizens solely to enter or remain in the UK, a new referral and investigation scheme will be introduced. This will lead to non-EEA nationals being referred to the Home Office if they do not provide evidence that they are exempt from the scheme. Consequently, the Home Office will have much more time to identify and nullify sham marriages and civil partnerships before they occur.
In 2010, registrars notified the Home Office that there were roughly 934 potential sham marriages, a number which has risen to 2,135 in 2013. Whether the government is aware of the severity of the problem remains unclear, however the Home Office has left us in little doubt regarding their intentions.