17 March 2009

UK Border Agency to change marriage visa rules

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The rules for marriage visas in the UK are to be changed in an attempt to curb forced marriages and abuse of the spousal visa system.

Currently, overseas nationals who need a visa for UK can apply to remain indefinitely in the UK if they are the husband, wife, civil partner, fiancé(e), proposed civil partner or unmarried/same-sex partner of someone who is settled or applying for settlement in the United Kingdom.

After many months of consultations, the UK Home Office increased the minimum age of an applicant for a UK marriage visa to increase from 18 years to 21 years, as of 27 November 2008.  This is hoped to maintain a level of independence to work or study for those who are forced into marriages against their will.

Following this, the Government established a Code of Practice for case working teams in the event that someone is identified as vulnerable to a forced marriage and the UK Home Office have a UK marriage visa application for that person.  The Code will ensure support is offered to those persons forced into a relationship they have not chosen for themselves.

The spouses will also have to prove a commitment to learn the English language after they have settled, and the UK Home Office will soon introduce a compulsory pre-entry English language test for all applicants.

Other proposals include revoking "indefinite leave to remain rendering the individual liable to expulsion where there has been abuse of the marriage route" and introducing "a requirement for British citizens and permanent residents who are seeking to sponsor a spouse to come to the UK to first declare their intention before leaving the UK and marrying abroad."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visa and immigration services.

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