Church issues UK spouse visa guidance

12 Apr 2011 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The Church of England is due to issue new guidance to its clergy in a bid to reduce the number of sham marriages taking place in the UK.

People tend to go through with sham marriages in order to falsely obtain a UK spouse visa for somebody from outside of the European Union.

However, the Church of England hopes to reduce the numbers of these UK spouse visas issued to immigrants who are not interested in a genuine marriage.

To this end, the religious establishment is advising its clergy to report any suspicions that they have about marriages involving people from outside of the European Union.

Furthermore, clergy are urged not to offer to publish banns for any intended marriage involving a non-EU national.

Instead, couples will be required to apply for a licence if either the bride or the groom concerned is not from a Europe.

This "common licence" involves the swearing of affidavits and classes.

Rt Rev John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, commented: "The office of Holy Matrimony must not be misused by those who have no intention of contracting a genuine marriage but merely a sham marriage.

"The purpose of this guidance and direction from the Bishops to the clergy and to those responsible for the grant of common licences is, therefore, to prevent the contracting of sham marriages in the Church of England."

Meanwhile, the UK immigration minister Damian Green noted that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is already working "very closely" with the Church in order to investigate and disrupt any suspected sham weddings.

He added that the increasing level of enforcement already conducted by the Church and the UKBA has resulted in 155 arrests of people involved in sham marriages for UK spouse visas around the country.