Expected End to the UK Certificate of Approval (COA) Scheme

Published: 06/04/2011

A recent announcement by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has clarified the proposed date on which the Certificate of Approval (COA) scheme will end. Subject to approval by the UK Parliament, the scheme will end on 9th May 2011, following a debate which was held on 4th April in the House of Lords.
The Certificate of Approval scheme has affected any migrant already in the UK who is subject to immigration control, and they have been required to apply for a Certificate of Approval prior to getting married in the UK, although those couples getting married in the Anglican Church were exempt. This has also applied to foreign migrants registering a civil partnership in the UK.
The UK Border Agency have supported the abolition of the Certificate of Approval scheme as it is no longer considered an effective way of preventing sham marriages, a major cause for concern at the UKBA. It has now stated that a concerted effort to investigate suspected abuse will be made, and it will step in to disrupt marriages before they take place. The UKBA has also made it clear that any bogus UK marriage visa applications will be challenged and prosecuted if necessary.
The change in the requirement of the Certificate of Approval scheme, if approved for certain by 9th May, will mean that any foreign migrant wishing to get married in the UK will no longer need to apply for the certificate, although COA applications prior to that date will still be processed, albeit returned if handled after 9th May 2011.
It is worth noting that the need to give notice of marriage or civil partnership in a designated register office will remain in force and is not affected by the change in the Certificate of Approval scheme.

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