Court of Appeal ruling on UK marriage visa age

Published: 11/01/2011

The well-publicised debate regarding the rise of the UK marriage visa age that has involved the Joint Council of the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the Court of Appeal and the Home Secretary has taken what many campaigners will see as a positive step.
The ruling to increase the UK marriage visa age to 21 had been called ‘arbitrary and disruptive’ by the Court of Appeal, as even though the ban was introduced to cut the problem of bogus marriages, many genuine young couples were kept apart. Couples where one or both were in HM Forces were allowed to be aged 18.
The basis for the rise was that bogus marriages were often seen in cases were one or both partners was aged under 21, so the rise was expected to prevent forced marriages, but a recent decision by the UK Court of Appeal has thrown the change into legal disarray.
The Court of Appeal judgement of Quila & Anor v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWCA Civ 1482 (21 December 2010) has declared the increased spouse age to the appellant in the Quila appeal unlawful.
The ruling promotes the notion that such a blanket ruling is impracticable and unworkable, and that even though the desire to protect vulnerable young people from bogus marriages is important, it cannot disrupt the lives of innocent young couples wishing to live together in the UK.
Lord Justice Sedley said, “The Home Secretary’s stance that only a rigid rule will serve the necessary purpose is lastly, in my judgement, undermined by the exception made by amendment in favour of members of the armed services. It is impossible to see, and no reason has been suggested, why the possibility of a forced marriage on which the rule is predicated is any less present among members of the armed services than among the population generally. The introduction of the exception, in our view, makes all but untenable the Home Secretary’s contention that an all-embracing rule, making no distinction of the person, is necessary if the objective is met.”
This current ‘all-embracing rule’, which therefore includes all non-armed forces applications for UK marriage visa, UK spousal visa, UK fiancee visa, UK civil partnership or proposed civil partner visa, has now been challenged in the Court of Appeal, with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) yet to comment on the outcome. Marriage Visa Help will post further updates to this case, and the impact it has on UK settlement visa applications, as further information becomes available.

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