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SHAM MARRIAGE CRACKDOWN HITS REAL WEDDINGS; Genuine couples face extra checks for city register office ceremonies.

Byline: Sandish Shoker

ATTEMPTS to crackdown on sham marriages have led to an increased workload at Coventry register office.

Last May the city centre register office was chosen, along with Birmingham, to deal with all marriage requests in the West Midlands involving asylum seekers or immigration issues.

The move came after the Home Office decided to scrap the Certificates of Approval which was needed by anyone who wanted to get married. As a result more checks need to be carried out and any applications suspected of being related to illegal marriages are reported to the Home Office for investigation.

This has led to almost a three month delay in appointments for some couples just to declare their intentions of tying the knot.

Bosses say delays are not nearly as bad as in Birmingham where weddings are being affected.

Sue Hammond, superintendent registrar and business manager for the Coventry office, said: "In May 2011, the Home Office decided to abolish Certificates of Approval, which was a requirement of any persons who wanted to get married and were subject to regulations.

"This meant more checks were required to be undertaken by registration staff. Any applications suspected of relating to 'sham' marriages were then to be reported to the Home Office for further investigation. This has increased the workload of the Coventry office by about 10 per cent which has meant delays for appointment requests.

"However the office is ensuring all marriages are taking place as requested."

Ms Hammond said although appointments, where couples give notice of their intention to marry, were being offered up to three months after a request had been submitted, they had been able to accommodate some couples who wanted to get hitched sooner.

Between May 2010 and March 2011, the Coventry office dealt with 2,122 appointments.

After the changes in immigration rules, between May 2011 and March this year, the figure had increased to 2,329.

Last month, the Coventry office received 154 requests for appointments from couples, of which 38 were for non-EU nationals and required extra checks and investigation. The UK Border Agency said that it does not keep figures on the numbers of sham marriages, but said there have been a number of successful prosecutions for fraud.

Agency deputy director for the Midlands, Alice Hopkins, said: "We are working with the church, registrars and international crime fighting partners to ensure that those who take part in sham marriages end up where they belong - behind bars.

"We do not tolerate abuse and will take decisive action against those who try and abuse our immigration system."
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 16, 2012
Words:430
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