Tackling abuse of the system is a significant element of the Government’s immigration policy. This includes preventing marriage in the UK being used solely to gain an immigration advantage. The Government have been working with partners to look at ways in which the problem of sham marriages can be addressed.
I am therefore pleased to welcome procedural changes which have been made by the Church of England which will afford closer scrutiny and help to deter or prevent those seeking to marry in order to gain an immigration advantage. The Church of England has issued new guidance to allow for greater scrutiny for applications for marriage where one or both parties is a non-EEA national (that is, not a national of a country that belongs to the European economic area or a British citizen).
This will allow the clergy greater opportunity to satisfy themselves, prior to the ceremony, that the marriage is a genuine one and, where they have concerns, to refer the matter to the UK Border Agency.
In order to enable the Church of England to introduce its new procedures in respect of non-EEA nationals, I have agreed that use can be made of an exception under the Equality Act 2010 for differential treatment on the basis of nationality.
These measures took effect from 11 April and a copy of the ministerial approval and guidance have been placed in the Library of the House.