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500 FAKE WEDDINGS EVERY YEAR; Shocking sham total in Brum.


UP to 500 bogus weddings a year could have been taking place in Birmingham, new statistics have revealed.

Figures from the city's register office show a huge drop in civil ceremonies since new rules on foreign nationals marrying in the UK were introduced in February.

Statistics reveal that the number of civil weddings taking place in the last four months was 20 per cent down, which works out at around 470 per year.

A register office spokesman said: 'We have noticed a significant decrease in the number of marriage applications since February.

'The new law has tightened up the marriage regulations and we believe that this is the cause for the decline The Home Office has been devising new laws to crack down on fake weddings, exploited by foreign crime rings who have made millions out of the immigration scams.

In February it became compulsory for foreigners from outside the European Union looking to wed in the UK, to get a marriage visa before entering Britain.

If this has not been done, then they must apply for a Home Office certificate proving they have a right to stay here under the Asylum and Immigration Act.

Since the new law was passed the number of civil marriage applications have plummeted across Britain, with Birmingham seeing a 20 per cent drop. It is expected that a similar decline may be seen in divorce rates in the region.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there were 2,332 civil marriages in Birmingham during 2002And a spokesman for Birmingham Register Office said there has been a 20 per cent fall in the number of civil marriage applications since February - 466 less weddings per year.

'Before February, registrars were required to contact police if they suspected that a marriage was a sham,' he said. 'Now foreign applicants must have valid certification from the Home Office or have an appropriate visa before they enter the country.

'The number of applications for marriage have fallen by 20 per cent since February compared to previous years.

'The year is not complete yet, so it may be too early to say that the act has been a complete success, but it looks as though it has had some effect.'

As well as requiring non-European foreigners to gain special permission to marry in the UK, the Home Office has set up designated register offices for the ceremonies.

In the Midlands these are based in Birmingham, Coventry, Shrewsbury, Stoke-on-Trent, Leicester and Nottingham. A Home Office spokeswoman said: 'These register offices must be used by everyone subject to immigration control. They must attend with their prospective spouse to give notice of marriage.

'Any person subject to immigration control is not able to give notice of marriage unless they have entry clearance granted expressly for the purposes of marriage in the UK, or they have written permission from the Secretary of State to marry in the UK


VOWS ABOUT THAT: there may have been 500 fake weddings last year
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 29, 2005
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