Court of Appeal rules against Home Office ‘sham’ marriage rules

Court of Appeal rules against Home Office ‘sham’ marriage rules


Written by: Miranda Wilson

The Court of Appeal has ruled against the Home Secretary by upholding the right of non-European nationals, who are in genuine relationships, to marry in the UK irrespective of their immigration status.

Under rules introduced in 2005, non-European nationals with limited leave to remain had to show they had a fiancé visa, or Home Office permission to marry, before being married in a legally recognised ceremony in the UK. Under the rules, the Home Office could refuse people with less than six months’ valid leave to remain the certificate of approval needed to demonstrate permission to marry to a registrar. The rules effectively treated those with less than six months’ valid leave as seeking to enter marriages of convenience even when they were able to demonstrate that they had no such intention.

This week, Lord Justice Buxton ruled that the scheme was disproportionate to the objective of preventing marriages of convenience for immigration benefit because it:

  • discriminated against non-Anglicans by exempting marriages under banns in Anglican churches;
  • was not adequately directed to identifying real marriages of convenience rather than preventing wide categories of persons from marrying on the assumption that these were marriages of convenience.

Habib Rahman, the Chief Executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the organisation that brought the legal challenge to the legislation, commented that the judgement was, ‘a vindication of the genuine intentions of many migrants and their partners who have been prevented from marrying in a legally recognised ceremony by these cruel rules.’

Related links

To visit the JCWI, click here.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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