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Changes to the certificate of approval scheme

The government has yesterday announced its intention to abolish the 'certificate of approval' scheme. A Remedial Order under the Human Rights Act 1998 has been laid in Parliament to achieve this aim.

At present, any migrant who is already in the UK and is subject to immigration control must apply for a certificate of approval before they can get married or register a civil partnership in this country (unless they are getting married within the Anglican Church).

The government is now seeking to remedy the declaration by the UK courts that the scheme is incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (read with Article 12). Additionally, changes made following rulings from the courts have weakened the scheme, and it is no longer an effective method of preventing sham marriage.

Do I still need to apply for a certificate of approval if I want to get married or register a civil partnership?

Yes, if you are subject to immigration control. The certificate of approval scheme remains in operation until the Remedial Order comes into force. Applicants will need to follow the current process until further notice.

When will the scheme be abolished?

We expect the scheme to end in late 2010 or early 2011, subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

We do not know how long it will take for the process of parliamentary scrutiny to be completed. When we know the exact date for the abolition of the scheme, we will announce it on this website.

Can I still apply for a repayment of my certificate of approval fee?

Yes. Since 31 July 2009, migrants who applied for a certificate of approval between 2005 and 2009 have been able to apply for their fee to be repaid. They must show that paying the fee caused them real financial hardship at the time of payment.

The formal repayment scheme comes to an end on 31 July 2010. This date has been advertised since the start of the repayment scheme. All requests for repayment received by 31 July 2010 will be processed under the terms of the scheme.

After 31 July 2010, any enquiries about the repayment of the fee should be addressed to:

UK Border Agency,
COA Repayment Scheme,
NCC1,
Lunar House (9th floor),
40 Wellesley Road,
Croydon
CR9 2BY

When the scheme is abolished, will I still need to give notice of my marriage or civil partnership in a designated register office?

Yes. The requirement to give notice in a designated register office is not affected by the proposed abolition of the certificate of approval scheme. The requirement will remain in force when the scheme is abolished.

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