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Minimum age for marriage visas to rise to 21


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Only yesterday I was telling someone there is no timescale for the Home Office to introduce this controversial measure, but today it has been announced it will take effect from 27 November 2008.

The history is that a consultation was put out in 2007 about raising the minimum age of a sponsor for a marriage visa from 18 to 21 amongst other measures. The Home Office then put out their own response to the various consultation responses received, saying that they would go ahead with raising the minimum age but not giving any idea as to date. I wrote a post about it at the time.

Well, the date has been announced now, and not only that but both parties to the marriage have to be 21 before a visa will be issued.

This is purportedly to protect young people from exploitation and specifically to combat forced marriages. No explanation is given of how this measure achieves this aim, though, and in reality it looks a lot like an attempt to reduce the number of young British Asian men and women bringing in spouses from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. It is only a few years since the minimum age of the UK-based sponsor was 16, the same age as for consent to marriage. It is really hard to see the justification for raising it beyond 18. The effect may prove to be that a young person getting married to someone from the Indian sub-continent will now have to go and live there for a few years first, before their spouse is eligible for a visa.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


10 Responses

  1. To be fair in the consultation earlier this year on marriage visas the Home Office did state that they would introduce this in December 2008. So a date was there. Conceded that they didn’tsay whether it would be the start of December or the end but the date of December 2008 was there in writing.

  2. One thing is uncertain. Will the age also be raised for applications in relation to fiances? if not then surely it is better to apply for a fiance visa and then register the wedding in the UK. Nowhere is the fiance visa mentioned at all as far as i am aware.

  3. Harj, that is an extremely good point about fiance(e)s, and I must admit I’d missed the December suggestion in the consultation paper. A massive number of new immigration rules were also published yesterday (60 pages worth!) and I haven’t posted on them yet as I haven’t had a proper chance to read them (and probably won’t for some time). However, when I skimmed through I couldn’t immediately see the implementing provision for spouses, never mind one for fiance(e)s and ‘proposed civil partners’.

  4. I’m hoping that someone who will read this may have more information on the subject than what I have been able to gather myself. I’m engaged to a man of my age that currently resides in Britain, while I myself reside in the United States. We were planning to be married after we completed school, at the age of 18, but now that is no longer possible. I loathe to think that I will now be wasting 4 years of precious time that I could be spending with him, on my own, in a country I no longer wish to reside in. If anyone has any information that may be of use to me, it’d be very appreciated. I’m looking up the thing on Fiance’s that was mentioned. Thank you.

  5. The age for the unmarried visa and the fiance visa have both been raised, neither will work for anyone under 21

  6. It will be interesting to see how the new requirements, would stand up to an Art 8 or age discrimination challange, If possible. But until then … long distance relationship or the first few years living in your spouses country I guess.

  7. I think the grounds for age discrimination and human rights challenges are considerable. How can the state tell, say, a 20 year old young lady who has married another 20 year old chap from another country that they cannot live together in the UK when the only justification put forward is the need to protect them both from a generalised (not specific) risk of a forced marriage? The Home Office has learned nothing from the Baiai debacle.

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