The Minister for Security and Immigration, James Brokenshire, has today announced that the Government plans to implement new provisions under part 4 of the Immigration Act 2014 on Monday 2 March 2015.
Part 4 relates to marriages and civil partnerships and is designed to give the Home Office significant new powers to prevent so called ‘sham’ ceremonies from taking place.
Of greatest concern is the implementation of a new referral and investigation scheme in relation to proposed marriages and civil partnerships across the UK involving a non EEA national who ‘could benefit in immigration terms’. Cases involving a non-EEA national who has limited or no immigration status in the UK, or who does not provide specified evidence that they are exempt from the scheme, will be referred to the Home Office.
Those who hold valid limited immigration status have been vetted by the immigration authorities and are in the UK perfectly lawfully. In our opinion subjecting individuals who are in the UK perfectly legally and their partners to a blanket and intrusive referral and investigation process is unnecessary and unfair.
Under the new powers, where the Home Office believes it has ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect a sham, it will be able to extend the notice period to 70 days in order to investigate and take appropriate enforcement or casework action where the Home Office concludes that there is a sham. A couple will be unable to get married or enter into a civil partnership on the basis of that notice if they do not comply with an investigation under the scheme.
In addition, couples involving a non-EEA national who wish to marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales will be required to complete civil preliminaries and give notice at a register office. Currently the requirement to give notice does not extend to such ceremonies.
The marriage and civil partnership notice period will also be extended from 15 days to 28 days for all couples in England and Wales marrying following civil preliminaries or forming a civil partnership.
Some limited transitional measures are included in the statement and the Home Office has also just published guidance on these changes which can be found here.
Family related immigration in the UK is already an inherently complex and often unfair process for many individuals and their families. These draconian measures will add an extra layer of difficulty to the process.
If you require legal advice on these changes or any other aspects of immigration law concerning partners and families please contact us.