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UK to increase the minimum age for marriage visas | Immigration Matters

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The UK government plans to increase the minimum age for a marriage visa from 18 to 21 in a bid to combat forced marriages.

Spouses or fiancés from outside the EU may also have to pass an English test before being granted a visa.

Family members standing as guarantors for people on family visit visas could also face fines of £1,000 if they overstay.

The proposals are part of continuing efforts to strengthen UK border controls, which will see more people being screened before being allowed to enter the UK.

This week the Home Office and Foreign Office jointly published the ‘Securing the UK Borders’ document, which outlines far reaching plans to overhaul the visa system.

British people standing as guarantors in the newly proposed ‘Sponsored Family Visitor’ visa category may have to give undertakings to house the applicant and pay for any non-emergency medical care they require during their stay.

Mr Byrne said: “I think a fine of £1,000 or more will encourage sponsors to take their responsibilities seriously.

“We need to consult with a number of organisations about how best this can be put into effect.”

In a report published earlier, the Home Office says “there are sometimes situations in which a young person is forced by family pressure into an unwanted union,” with one party needing a visa to enter the UK.

However, Cynthia Barker, immigration adviser and co Author of ‘How 2 Come to the UK’, thinks the fines could hit families who have “little control over the visitor”.

Fiancés face “confidential” interviews

Raising the minimum age to 21, would “allow the young people involved to have completed their education as well as allowing them to gain in maturity and possess adequate life skills,” it adds.

The government is also expected to introduce confidential interviews for people entering the country to make sure they have not been forced into marriage.

About 15,000 British people marry foreign nationals from outside the European Union each year. The age at which people can legally marry in the UK is 16.

The government said it expected the number of people entering and leaving the UK to increase by 50% in the next seven years.

It wants to “export” Britain’s borders and create so called “off-shore” borders to screen more people wishing to enter the UK before they get there.

“The days when border control started at the White Cliffs of Dover are over,” said Mr Byrne.

He also pledged to count in and count out 95% of travellers by 2009.

At present the Home Office has no idea how many immigrants are in the UK illegally, but admits that over 500,000 people could be here without permission.

The government has increased charges from 1 April this year to immigrants for work permits, visas, leave to remain and naturalisation. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) accused ministers of being “completely unfair to these vulnerable groups”.

Immigration Matters believes these proposals may breach the European Convention on Human Rights and could be challenged.

In 2005 UK Visas, through its posts around the world, processed 2.5 million visa applications, of which 2 million were approved. Put another way, 500,000 people were refused entry clearance or a visa.

In the last 18 months our specialist legal team has successfully overturned a large number of ‘Entry Clearance Refusals’ on appeal. See www.visaappeals.com.

If you should have any questions on working or studying in the UK email Charles Kelly info@immigrationmatters.co.uk.

For immigration updates see: www.immigrationmatters.co.uk

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