There have been major changes made to the process involved in giving a notice of impending marriage or civil partnership. Effective 2 March 2015, all couples will be required to give a longer notice period of 28 days (up from the current requirement of 15 days). The Home Office does, however, retain the right to extend this to 70 days, if one or both of the parties planning to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK is a non-EEA national with no immigration status, or a status which is limited by the addition of other clauses. This extra time is so that investigations can be made to prevent sham marriages.
Plans are in place to reduce the number of sham marriages
Anyone planning a marriage or civil partnership in the UK must now be prepared for extra investigations to be made if they are a non-EEA national with no or limited immigration status in the country. Additionally, anyone who cannot provide unequivocal proof of immigration status (even if it is held) the period may be extended to 70 days and anyone who suspects this might apply to them is urged to make wedding plans accordingly, to allow for the possible delay.
Registration officials must share information
As of 2 March 2015, all marriage and civil partnership notices received by registration officials in which one or more partner is a non-EEA national who cannot provide specified evidence of their status as having indefinite leave to enter or remain must be referred to the Home Office for consideration. This also applies to people who do not come under an EU law right of permanent residence or do not have a fiancée or proposed civil partner visa; and finally, people who do not have exemption from immigration control. This must be explained to the applicants and they must also have pointed out to them that their application may become subject to the new 70 day timescale to allow for more information to be gathered. The Home Office will let the registration official know as soon as possible what the timescale will be. If it has been extended to 70 days, the applicants must comply with an investigation and if they refuse, there will be no permission given for the marriage or civil partnership to go ahead.
Anglican Church weddings
In cases where the couple wish to marry in an Anglican Church (which covers the Church of England and the Church in Wales) the preliminaries as above will need to be completed. To ensure that no one slips through the net, all couples will, from 2 March 2015, be required to provide evidence of British Citizenship or EEA nationality before having the banns read or being married in church by common licence.
Correct paperwork is essential
When making an application to marry or enter a civil partnership in the UK where one or both parties is a non-British or EEA national, it is essential to be able to provide the correct evidence. Failure to provide the evidence will result in the registration official being unable to process the application. Typically, the following will be required, although more may be requested on an ad hoc basis: name, date of birth, nationality, place of residence. Applicants will also need to provide additional proof of immigration status, including but not limited to photographs. Home Office officials will request proof of ongoing relationship in most cases, as these new rules have been brought in specifically to prevent sham marriages occurring – it is estimated that 2000 such marriages were reported between July and December 2014, almost double the number in the same period in the previous year. No accurate figures are available for marriages which took place but which were not discovered.