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Sham marriages shoot up

Registrars reported more than twice the number of suspicious marriages to immigration authorities last year than they did in 2010, new figures reveal.

Registrars alerted the authorities to 2,135 possibly sham marriages in 2013, compared to just 934 during 2010, the Home Office statistics suggest. Marriage registrars are required by law to inform officials if they believe “a marriage or civil partnership is a sham being entered into for immigration purposes”.

According to an article in the Telegraph, EU nationals, who, of course, have a right to residency in the UK, are increasingly being targeted by people born outside the EU who are seeking residence visas.

John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, recently highlighted the rise of so-called ‘proxy weddings’. In these, individuals with EU residency engage in a ‘marriage’ in one of the several countries in which it is legal for a third party to attend a ceremony in place of one of the spouses. Such countries include Brazil and Nigeria. The resulting certificate is then used to try and gain spousal residency visa in the UK.

Home Office data reveals that nearly 20 per cent of sham marriages now involve proxy ceremonies.

MP Keith Vaz is chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. He described the figures as “worrying”, saying:

“The significant increase in recent years raises serious questions over the processing, reporting and investigation of suspicious unions. It is vital that all applications for admission to this country are subjected to appropriate levels of scrutiny. Any person suspected of abusing the system should be investigated thoroughly.”

What do I think? I wonder how such figures dovetail with the plans for ‘over the counter’ divorce we highlighted yesterday? If divorce becomes a rubber-stamping administrative exercise, what is to stop those intent on abusing immigration law from casually sundering their fake unions when they have served their purpose? Do we want fake divorce to shoot up in the wake of this boom in fake marriage? Something for Sir James Munby’s working group to consider carefully.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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