The law has changed this month for those who are not British citizens who wish to be married in one of our churches, nearly a year on from my last my last reflecting on all this. There are three details which are not the ones most people are drawing out about this.
First, for those from outside the European Economic Area (something slightly larger than the EU) the situation has got worse as the Government seeks to police potential sham marriages itself rather than through us. The ancient right to use banns or a common licence as the legal preliminary for their wedding has simply been taken away. Instead couples must use the secular superintendent registrar’s certificate procedure - which has always been, but has hardly ever been used as, an alternative to banns and common licence. And, worse for them, only those of them exempt from immigration control can pop down to local Register Office at Cleethorpes to arrange this – the rest need to travel to the nearest specially designated Register Offices in Hull or Lincoln. Think perhaps of someone local wishing to marry an Egyptian or Nigerian carer in a local care home who cannot afford to run a car.
Secondly, for those from within the EEA the situation has got better. Because the government is now policing directly those from outside the EEA (those from among whom most sham marriage applications might have come), the legal officers of this diocese are now more relaxed about other non-British citizens and are no longer directing that they must use the common licence system (for a fee of £200) but are content that they use banns (for a fee of £28). I’m not actually sure that the legal officers had secure grounds for insisting that common licence should be used in the past – when I have queried this I have simply been told that this is the ‘direction’ which had been made. Think perhaps of someone local wishing to marry a Portuguese nurse in the local hospital or an Icelandic teacher – the two most recent examples of those who I have dealt with who have been forced to use the more expensive common licence system.
Thirdly, there is an ‘identity card’ sting in the tail for everyone including all British citizens for whom none of the above might yet seem relevant. All those who apply to have banns read need to demonstrate their nationality. This is simple for those who have a passport, but far from simple if they do not. In fact, so complicated that the legal officers of the diocese now advise ‘it may be easier for them to obtain one’ for £72.50. Think perhaps of an unemployed couple on the Willows who have never aspired to holiday abroad.
It doesn't look like a net gain for the vast majority of couples for whom an application is not a sham.
Meanwhile, the picture was taken last week by the Freshney on the same walk as last week’s picture of St Michael’s.