UK Immigration will be abolishing the 'certificate of approval' scheme probably in the next six months. It is currently the case that if you are an immigrant wishing to marry or register a civil partnership you will firstly need to apply for a certificate of approval. The only exception to this is if you wish to marry in an Anglican church.
The UK Courts have decided that the certificate of approval scheme is in breach of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK Government also says that due to certain Court rulings it has "…weakened the scheme, and it is no longer an effective method of preventing sham marriage…".
Please note that until the certificate of approval scheme is abolished you will still need to apply for permission to marry or register a civil partnership. It is not certain exactly when the scheme will be abolished. Probably it will be abolished towards the end of 2010 or early in 2011. However, this depends on the UK Parliament.
The one year period during which you could apply for a repayment of the certificate of approval fee if this caused you financial hardship ended on 31 July 2010. This covers certificate of approval fees paid between 2005 and 2009.
Even after the 'certificate of approval' scheme is abolished you will still need to give notice of your intended marriage or civil partnership to a designated register office. Abolishing the scheme will benefit thousands of people a year who will be able to more easily remain with their spouse or partner in the UK.