This week, Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration John Vine, published a report on the Rights of European citizens and their spouses to come to the UK. The report focused on the application process and the tackling of abuse of the immigration system. The report revealed that 28 out of 29 refusals of EEA nationals registration certificates were refused on reasonable grounds. Whilst assessing 55 cases where non-EEA spouses and partners had been refused residence cards, they found 47 to be refused on reasonable terms and eight refusals on unreasonable terms. Allowing appeals in European cases were also analysed in the report, examining the Home Office’s long lasting approach to proxy marriages. In accordance to the report by Vine, there has been a number of articles about ‘proxy marriages’ today.
UK Immigration Caseworker: There is some room to Improve the Interview Process
A proxy wedding occurs when one of the parties to the marriage is not physically present at the ceremony and allows a third party to be present on behalf of one of the parties to the marriage. This is a common practice in most countries as some individuals may have had long engagements and wish to legalize their marriage but are unable to do so due to them being imprisoned, in military service or travel restrictions. Although proxy marriages are not recognized in most countries they are common practice in Mexico, Paraguay and surprisingly in some US states such as California and Texas
Today’s report focused on mostly Nigerian and Ghanaian proxy marriages. It was found that none of the 29 proxy couples had been on the same continent as their wedding ceremony, most of them were in the UK at the time of their wedding. 24 out of the 29 couples were refused on the basis that their marriages were invalid.
A Case workers who made decisions on whether a proxy marriage was valid or not stated despite the fact they have an efficient process, there is always room for improvement:
“We found an efficient process for identifying forged and counterfeit documents submitted with applications. Both caseworkers and managers were alive to the risks that these posed. The marriage interview process had given caseworkers an additional source of evidence on which to make decisions in cases where they suspected a marriage was one of convenience. While there is some room to improve the interview process, we agreed from our observation of eight of these double interviews that they are a useful addition to the investigative stage.”
Case Study of an EEA2 Refusal Decision Considered Unreasonable
A Ghanaian national applied for a Residence card on the basis of a proxy marriage which took place in Ghana to a Portuguese woman. As part of his evidence submitted with his application, he supplied a ‘statutory declaration’ from both his father and father-in-law. In Ghana, such declarations are an optional way of registering a proxy marriage, along with stating where the couples place of residence at the time of marriage. The couple’s fathers’ wrote in their declaration that ‘our said son and daughter are currently residing in the UK’.
The Home Office’s reason for refusing the application was because the declaration written by the fathers’ did not state specifically where the Ghanaian national and his EEA national wife were residing at the time of the marriage.
Chief Inspector John Vine thought that the refusal was unreasonable and said that if the Home Office wanted specific details, they should be more clear:
“The declaration stated that the couple were living ‘in the UK’, but the application was refused on the basis that it did not say where they were living. If the Home Office knew that more detailed residential information was required to confirm the validity of the marriage, it should have provided evidence of this. It did not, and we can find no such evidence.”
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