Friday, 29 June 2007

Marriage rate hit by crackdown on immigrants

The number of Britons choosing to marry has fallen to its lowest level since records began after a government crackdown on bogus weddings.

The marriage rate fell by 10 per cent to 244,710 in 2005, down nearly 30,000 from the previous year, according to figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics.

The drop was a return to the trend of long-term decline that had been interrupted by rises in the rates between 2002 and 2004.

It coincided with a Home Office initiative to halt sham marriages in which foreign nationals attempted to avoid immigration controls by gaining instant British citizenship.

Since February 2005, all non-British or European Union citizens have been required to obtain a Home Office certificate of approval to marry - a long and costly process.

Only those choosing Church of England weddings have been exempt, and vicars have noticed a sharp rise in the number of migrants approaching them over the past two years. The dioceses of London and Southwark issued new guidance to clergy last week to ensure they were not unwittingly conducting marriages of convenience. Read more

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