Legislation for the sake of legislating? Suspect sham marriages and the Immigration Act 2014

The immigration Act 2014 ushered in new statutory powers to target the issue of sham marriages. It is common ground amongst all right-thinking members of society that only genuine marriages should give right to some form of residence in the United Kingdom whether under domestic law or European Community law.

The immigration Act 2014, however, took a completely new approach to the situation whereby any proposed marriage which involved at least one person subject to immigration control, at the notice stage before the Registrar, would be subjected to an extended notifcation period of 70 days to enable the Home Office to carry out any potential investigation.

At the time when the immigration Act 2014 was doing the rounds through parliament, the immigration Minister claimed that there were over 1,300 sham marriage interventions in 2013-2014 and that, therefore, the measures introduced by the Act were necessary to address a growing problem.

In the last year, therefore, there have been only 47 investigations against approximately 70,000 granted visas or residence cards involving a right of residence based on marriage.

This raises the question as to whether the legislation is A, effective and B, necessary.

The Home Office states that the decrease in investigated cases from over 1,300 actual interventions in 2013/2014 to just 47 cases in the last year is directly because the new Act has a deterring effect and that less persons are giving notice of intention to marry because of fears that, during the extended 70 day notification period, their marriage will be investigated.

Even if this were to be accepted, the outcome is ironic in that this legislation was intended, as an enforcement mechanism, to identify and catch those who had no right to be in the UK. Yet the deterring effect has only forced such persons to remain underground and not give notices of intention to marry.

The result is that the previous system, by the government’s own confession and if the government’s analysis were to be believed so as to not raise questions as to the necessity of this legislation, used to directly identify and catch suspected persons in over 1,300 cases. Now, the government is only able to identify and latch onto circa 47 suspected cases (some or many of whom may not even be sham marriages) in the whole year if recent statistics remain the same.