COA scheme to end in May

01 Apr 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The government has announced the intention of ending the certificate of approval (COA) scheme, originally designed to stop sham marriages taking place for spouse visas.

At the moment, people who are already living in the UK but who are subject to UK immigration control must apply for a COA before they can get married or register a civil partnership.

This applies in all cases unless they are getting married within the Anglican Church.

However, in 2008 the Law Lords ruled that the certificates discriminated against foreign nationals and their human rights under the 1998 Human Rights Act.

As such, a number of changes were made to the scheme. The Home Office claim that this rendered the certificates ineffective in their purpose - which was to help to counter the practice of sham marriages arranged for people to illegally acquire spouse visas - and announced its intention to scrap the COAs.

The House of Lords is due to meet on April 4th to discuss the order to close the scheme and it will be abolished on May 9th if the Lords approve the motion.

This means that foreign nationals resident in the UK will no longer require certificates of approval if they wish to marry after this date.

Any documents held by the Home Office or the UK Border Agency, such as COA applications or documents, will be returned to their owners as soon as the scheme legally ends.

However, anybody who is suspected to be in violation of UK immigration law may find that their documents are retained; in which case they will be notified by letter.