HC Deb 13 February 2004 vol 418 cc239-40W
Mr. Malins

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is his policy to permit persons to marry in this country without both parties satisfying the authorities, prior to the marriage ceremony, as to their immigration status; and if he will make a statement. [143215]

Beverley Hughes

In order to marry in the United Kingdom, a couple must demonstrate that they have the legal capacity to marry and are not of a blood relationship. The immigration status of a person is not a legal impediment to them marrying here.

A person will only be granted leave to remain in the United Kingdom on the basis of marriage if the requirements of the Immigration Rules relating to marriage are met.

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, places a statutory duty on registrars to report to the Home Office those marriages where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that the marriage will be a sham.

Last year there were around 2,700 reports of suspicious marriages from registrars. On receipt, the reports are examined to ensure that the suspicions warrant further investigation. If appropriate, the papers are passed to whichever office is in the best position to deal with it. This would normally be the local Immigration Service enforcement office.

Action has led to the successful apprehension of immigration offenders. Several "professional" spouses, and their prospective husbands and wives, have gone to prison for sentences ranging from three to nine months.

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