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By Rumbidzai Bvunzawabaya  April 18, 2011


ON APRIL 4, 2011, the United Kingdom parliament approved the Remedial Order that will abolish the certificate of approval scheme for couples seeking to get married. The abolition of the scheme takes effect on May 9, 2011.

At present, any migrant who is already in the UK and is subject to immigration control must apply for a certificate of approval before they can get married or register a civil partnership in this country (unless they are getting married within the Anglican Church).

The government is now seeking to remedy the declaration by the UK courts that the scheme is incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (read with Article 12). Additionally, changes made following rulings from the courts have weakened the scheme, and it is no longer an effective method of preventing sham marriage.

Entering into a sham marriage does not entitle migrants to any right to remain in the UK. The UK Border Agency will continue to investigate suspected abuse and, where possible, disrupt marriages before they take place.

Do you still need to apply for a certificate of approval if you want to get married or register a civil partnership?

The certificate of approval scheme remains in operation until the Remedial Order comes into force on May 9. Migrants who are subject to immigration control must follow the current application process until further notice.

When will the scheme be abolished?

The scheme will end on May 9, 2011.

I want to marry in summer 2011. Will I still need a certificate of approval?

No. Now that parliament has approved the Remedial Order, the government will end the scheme on May 9. There will be no legal requirement to obtain a certificate of approval after that date.

When will the UKBA stop processing certificate of approval applications?

They will continue to process applications until the scheme legally ends.

I want to get married in a civil ceremony and I am subject to immigration control. When the scheme is abolished, will I still need to give notice of my marriage or civil partnership in a designated register office?

Yes. The requirement to give notice in a designated register office is not affected by the abolition of the certificate of approval scheme. The requirement will remain in force when the scheme is abolished.

Following marriage in the UK to a British citizen, the question that many readers will ask is how this affects their immigration status. In this post, I will give three examples of cases that our firm has dealt with recently. Please note that all these examples are of people that are in a genuine and subsisting relationship.

A Zimbabwean woman with refugee status got married to a Nigerian national who was a student. They made an application for an extension of the husband’s visa for leave to remain as a spouse. This application was refused by the UKBA. RBM Solicitors successfully argued that the decision to refuse the applicants case was incorrect and not in accordance with the immigration rules.

A similar case that we have dealt with is that of a failed asylum seeker from Gambia who was married to a person with Indefinite Leave to Remain. We were able to successfully present further submissions to the UKBA. Our client was granted three years discretionary leave to remain.

The third example is that of a South African national married to a British citizen. He initially arrived in the UK on a working holiday visa. He met and fell in love with a British citizen. They lived together for five years but he failed to regularise his immigration status. We successfully prepared an application for submission at the British High Commission in South Africa. Our client was able to return to the UK within a matter of three weeks.

In a similar scenario, RBM Solicitors advised a Zimbabwean failed asylum seeker who was married to a Zimbabwean national with Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. We encouraged him to return voluntarily to Zimbabwe and submit an application for entry clearance as a spouse. The application was checked and thoroughly prepared in the UK before the applicant returned to Zimbabwe. He was granted leave to enter the UK in a record time of five days.

These are merely examples of cases that we have dealt with at RBM Solicitors and should not be seen as replacements for legal advice. Each situation is different and it is therefore important to obtain legal advice in relation to your case.

If you think you will be affected please contact RBM Solicitors on 02476520999 or 07956949500 or 07772790291