Sham marriages (or marriages of convenience) and sham civil partnerships – where the marriage or civil partnership is contracted for immigration advantage by a couple who are not in a genuine relationship – pose a significant threat to UK immigration control. The Home Office estimates that 4,000 to 10,000 applications a year to stay in the UK, under the Immigration Rules or under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, are made on the basis of a sham marriage or civil partnership.

In response to this challenge the UK government enacted the Immigration Bill that provides for some key changes under which:

  • Notices of marriage following civil preliminaries or civil partnership in England and Wales involving a non-EEA national who could benefit from it in immigration terms will be referred to the Home Office for a decision as to whether to investigate whether the marriage or civil partnership is a sham.
  • Non-EEA nationals will only be able to marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales following civil preliminaries, except in limited circumstances.
  • All marriages following civil preliminaries and all civil partnerships in England and Wales, including those involving British Citizens or EEA nationals, will be subject to a 28-day notice period revised from 15 days.
  • Notices referred to the Home Office under the scheme will be assessed against intelligence/evidence-based risk profiles and factors.
  • Where the Home Office has reasonable grounds to suspect that a proposed marriage or civil partnership referred under the scheme is a sham, it may decide to extend the notice period to 70 days in order to investigate this.
  • A couple will be unable to get married or enter into a civil partnership if they do not comply with such an investigation.
  • Where the Home Office establishes that a proposed marriage or civil partnership is a sham, it may take enforcement action under existing powers (e.g. curtailment of any extant leave, removal) against a non-EEA national involved. It may also refuse any subsequent immigration application based on a sham marriage or civil partnership and prosecute any individual involved in a sham-related criminal offence, e.g. perjury.

While we agree with the need for the Home Office to practise due diligence in evaluating applications to curb the menace of sham marriages, it is important to realize that there could be genuine relationships between non EEA nationals and EEA nationals and may not always be sham. If you feel that your relationship is wrongly construed as false or if you believe that the Home Office has erred in deciding your application you can book an appointment for consultation with our UK Immigration experts to get a second opinion, from our UK Immigration experts at SmartMove2UK by calling +919819127002 or email us to book an appointment.

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