I now pronounce you… under arrest

A major crackdown is underway against illegal immigrants who try to marry in an attempt to remain in the UK.

The UKBA says that there has been an increase in sham marriages since foreign nationals no longer need to apply to the Home Office to get married.

To counter this, UKBA has established routine liaison with registration office staff in order to identify suspicious weddings. Immigration Officers follow up with “Abuse Enforcement Visits” at the time the marriage is to take place and arrest the offending parties. Those detained are placed in immigration removal centres and face almost certain deportation.

Sham marriages on the rise

Between March 2011 and March 2012 197 arrests were made in the UK and 27 in Scotland, as a result of these visits.

In April, a Pakistani man was arrested at the registration office in Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, when he was attempting to marry a woman from Poland. His visa expired nearly two years ago.

According to Fiona McBeth of the UKBA, there are many different scenarios that lead to people attempting to marry for a visa.

“Sometimes you get a bride who has been duped – who thinks that the groom is madly in love with her and he is only doing it because his visa has run out. Sometimes the bride or groom is doing it for money – they will be paid and they think it is easy because their home country won’t know they are married so they can go home and get married at another time.”

Ms McBeth was also quoted as saying that often people with EU citizenship formed one half of the wedding party. If a foreign national marries a British national they have to apply to stay in the UK; it is easier to marry an EU national because if the EU national is exercising their treaty rights then their spouse is automatically entitled to the same rights.

Wrongful arrest

A couple wrongly suspected of a ‘sham marriage’ in 2011 had their wedding day ruined when police arrested them in front of their guests moments before the ceremony was to begin.

Neil McElwee and his pregnant Chinese fiancée Yanan Sun were held for five harrowing hours and were only released when their solicitor became involved.

For advice or information on UK visas, visit www.1stcontactvisas.com.