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Changes to UK Marriage and Partner Rules

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As from 1 February 2005, the rules for overseas nationals wishing to marry in the UK have changed. All overseas nationals who wish to marry in the UK (apart from EEA nationals) will now need a Government certificate of approval to marry. The main changes are outlined below:

  • Those people coming under the new rules will be required to give notice of their marriage at one of 76 designated register offices in England and Wales and all designated offices in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
  • Strict new eligibility criteria will also have to be met before mandatory entry clearance and permission to marry is given.
  • The new rules will also affect you if you are already in the UK. If you have no right to be in the UK, have a visa that was originally valid for less than six months, or have a visa which will expire in less than three months, you will not be given permission to marry and a registrar will not allow you to get married.
  • From 1 January 2005, the age at which you can obtain a fiance visa to marry in the UK or apply for an unmarried partner visa has been raised from 16 to 18 years old. You will not qualify to remain in the UK on the basis of marriage or as an unmarried partner if you or your partner is under 18. This includes applications where you are applying to remain as the spouse or partner of someone in the UK in a temporary capacity, for example as a student.
  • These rules do not apply to anyone who has already given notice to marry to a registrar before 1 February 2005
  • The rule changes affect people who are subject to immigration control (people who are not EEA nationals), and wish to marry in the UK. This includes people who wish to enter the UK to marry and people who are already in the UK and wish to marry and remain in the UK.
  • If you are not subject to immigration controls the new rules do not apply to you. This includes British citizens, EEA nationals, (a person from any country which is part of the European Community (EC), Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, or from Switzerland) and those who have a certificate of entitlement showing a right of abode in the UK in the passport. Also some people in work related categories do not come under the new rules. The rules also affect same-sex couples using the new civil partnership laws.
  • The new rules have been brought in because the Home Office wants to reduce the number of people who enter into bogus marriages with British or EU citizens simply to remain in the UK. There are a number of criminal gangs involved in arranging marriages that are not genuine simply to enable people to remain in the UK.
  • Some organisations support the rule changes and others do not. For example, organisations such as The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have stated that the rules are unfair and are at risk of being discriminatory against minorities.
  • The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights report has also warned that there is a "significant risk" that the law contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights and will challenge the new law in the High Court.
  • Overseas nationals have complained about the added £135 cost of the Government 'certificate of approval' and have also complained that they consider it insulting that they should have to ask permission to marry.
  • Registrars on the other hand welcome the changes as they feel that UK law has not been effective so far in preventing sham marriages. They feel that more has been done in other European Countries to prevent sham marriages.