Tuesday, 14 April 2020


What is a sham marriage?

The UK’s Home Office defines a sham marriage or civil partnership as one whereby “the relationship is not genuine, but one party hopes to gain an immigration advantage from it”. If you are able to regularise your immigration status, the Home Office will be highly alert to the prospect that your marriage may not be genuine. A sham marriage is a criminal matter and lead to formal charges being laid against either party and anyone who has knowingly facilitated it.

You may also hear the use of the term ‘marriage of convenience’ which is defined in Recital 28 of the EU Free Movement Directive (Directive 2004/38/EC) as “a relationship contracted for the sole purpose of enjoying the right of free movement and residence”.

When registering to marry, the Home Office will automatically be informed if one of the couples is not: a British citizen, EEA or Swiss national, an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residence (PR) holder, or exempt from immigration controls. Not all intended marriages will be investigated, however, only cases whereby there is a reasonable ground to suspect a sham marriage.

Unfortunately, two of these grounds, as defined in the Marriage and Civil Partnership Referral and Investigation Scheme guidance are that either party:

Is an immigration overstayer or absconder or otherwise in breach of the conditions of their leave.
Entered the UK illegally, or has been removed from the UK and should not be here.

As such, the marriage of a former illegal immigrant is very likely to attract the attention of the Home Office.

That said, if you are investigated, as long as your planned marriage is entirely honest and genuine, and you prepared for the sham marriage investigation process, you have every reason to be successful.

Final words

Getting married in the UK as an illegal immigrant requires careful consideration. It is essential to seek expert legal advice from the outset before you make any plans. While the path ahead may be full of uncertainty, with the right advice, you may have a strong chance of success.

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