Sham Marriages – The Home Office Crackdown
By Ramzan Sharif – Solicitor at Fountain Solicitors
A sham marriage, or marriage of convenience, or a sham civil partnership describes a marriage or civil partnership entered into for immigration advantage by two people who are not a genuine couple. A sham marriage or civil partnership is to be distinguished from a marriage or civil partnership entered into by a genuine couple where it may be convenient for immigration or other reasons for the couple to be married or civil partners.
A sham marriage or civil partnership can appear to be a relatively attractive option for those seeking to remain in the UK. The Immigration Rules and the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006 allow a non-EEA national to remain in the UK on the basis of their marriage or civil partnership with a British Citizen, a person settled in the UK or an EEA/Swiss national. It has become more attractive for non-EEA nationals to try to use marriage or civil partnership as a means to remain and settle in the UK.
The Home Office estimate that around 4,000 to 10,000 applications a year to stay in the UK are made on the basis of sham marriage or civil partnership. Many of those involved in a sham marriage or civil partnership admit to using an individual facilitator or an organised crime group to co-ordinate it. The level of profit for criminals can be very high, with non-EEA nationals reported to pay up to £20,000 to facilitators.
The Immigration Bill published on 10 October 2013 contained new measures to prevent migrants gaining an immigration advantage by entering into a sham marriage or civil partnership. The Home Office had introduced an investigation scheme to crackdown on sham marriages.
The changes which were introduced are as follows:
1. Notice of marriage involving a non-EEA national who could benefit from its 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.
2. All marriages and Civil Partnerships will be subject to a notice period of 28 calendar days rather than the current 15 days. This will be enforced from the 2nd March 2015;
3. Where a sham is suspected before, when or after a notice is given the Superintendent Registrar or authorised person will submit a report of their suspicion to the Home Office under section 24 or 24A of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
4. In the case that the Home Office decide not to investigate it will notify the Superintendent Registrar and the couple will then be issued their certificate after the 28 day notice period has expired.
5. Where the Home Office decide to investigate the proposed marriage or civil partnership the Home Office will before the end of the 28 day period notify the Superintendent Registrar and the couple and the notice period will be extended from 28 days to 70 days.
6. During the 70 day period the Home Office may investigate the proposed marriage by examining documentary evidence, by interview and by home visit.
7. Where the Home Office is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the marriage will be a sham marriage it may take an enforcement decision to remove the non-EEA national.
8. The Home Office will also consider investigating and prosecuting any sham related criminal offence including actions against British Citizens.
Ramzan Sharif of Fountain Solicitors, in Walsall states that “The legislation will reduce the scope for immigration advantage from entering into a sham marriage or civil partnership. It will also reduce the scope for organised crime to benefit from sham marriage and civil partnerships. It will also help the Home Office to remove migrants from the UK who have no basis to remain here”.
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