MPs are calling for a change in the law to allow registrars to refuse to conduct marriages where they believe a couple is marrying for the purposes of obtaining a UK spouse visa or residency rights.
In the past three years, the number of suspected bogus marriages has doubled to 2,135 but that figure is thought to be the tip of the iceberg because most suspect marriages are not reported. Now the Home Affairs Select Committee is urging the adoption of tougher regulations to stamp down on this route to UK immigration through the back door.
A report from the Committee said that registrars should be given powers to use their discretion when they believe a marriage is for bogus reasons. The Committee spoke out following evidence from John Vine, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration. He said there was ‘widespread abuse’ of the system, which is causing a major problem for the Government’s attempts to limit UK immigration.
Committee chairman, Keith Vaz, told The Guardian: "There is an industry of deceit in the UK which uses sham marriages to circumvent immigration control.
"The estimated 10,000 sham marriages appear to be increasing at an alarming rate. One sham marriage can provide UK residence rights to an entire extended family who would otherwise have no right to be here."
The Committee also wants embassies to issue warnings when people from their countries are found to be among the most prolific offenders. It called for prosecutions for sham marriages to be publicised widely to put off potential offenders in future.
In addition, the Committee said overseas nationals in UK jails should be deported and people being sentenced should be asked to prove their nationality.
A Home Office spokesman said that it would continue to ‘crack down’ on those trying to ‘cheat’ the UK immigration system via the bogus marriage route.
UK spouse visas are legitmately available to those with a genuine relationship who meet the required minimum income thresholds.