1 March 2015
Effective March 2015, the notice of marriage period needed before a couple can marry or enter into a civil partnership in a UK registry office or church has been increased from 15 days to 28 days. In certain circumstances, the Home Office now has the right to require a 70 day notice period. The new procedure is designed to give the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) officials time to investigate cases in which the immigration status of one or both parties gives cause for concern. The reported numbers of suspected sham marriages discovered before the ceremony took place had doubled to 2,000 in the period between July and December 2014 from the same period in the previous year. The immigration and security Minister, James Brokenshire, announced the changes, saying, ‘As of today, marriage can no longer be seen as a “fast-track option” for those seeking to abuse marriage to cheat their way into the UK.’
Registration officials must share information
From 2 March 2015, UK registration officials are obliged to share information on any couples applying for a marriage or civil partnership licence if one or both partners are non-EEA citizens with no permanent immigration status in any way, for example, not having indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK. If one or both parties do not come under an EU law giving right of permanent residence or who does not have a marriage or proposed civil partner visa the case must be reported. Finally, cases must also be reported if neither partner (being a non-EEA citizen) has exemption from immigration control. Upon receiving the referral, the Home Office will assess the case and undertake to let the relevant registration officials know as soon as possible whether the marriage can go ahead after 28 days or whether they are applying the new 70 day rule to enable further investigations to be made.
Couples are urged to allow extra time
Registrars that report any applicants who may be subject to the longer timescale have been asked by the Home Office to advise them that they should not make firm plans for the ceremony in the short term, as the 70 day rule will be strictly applied in all cases where a question mark hangs over the authenticity of the relationship. In all cases where the longer time is needed, an investigation will be conducted and couples will be required to show relevant paperwork – which may include proof of a long-standing relationship – before permission to marry is granted. Failure to produce sufficient evidence when requested will automatically result in no permission being given, so it is important for any non-EEA national wishing to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK to be fully prepared to manage several critical Home Office compliance requirements when giving a notice to their local Register office.