FOREIGN nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA)
and Switzerland who want to marry in the Church of England will
require an Archbishop's special licence, or a certificate issued by
a superintendent registrar, if draft provisions in the Government's
Immigration Bill be-come law.
Current guidance from the House of Bishops states that clergy
should not publish banns if one of the parties is not a British or
EEA national. It says that such marriages should instead be
authorised by a common licence.
The new law removes the option of a common licence, and says
that couples seeking to marry in the C of E should provide the
priest with "specified evidence" that both parties are "relevant
nationals". The Bill does not say what the "specified evidence"
will be - this will be subject to regulations made by the Secretary
of State as secondary legislation.
"Recent experience has demonstrated that there are those who
seek to abuse both the system of ecclesiastical marriage
preliminaries and the office of Holy Matrimony by contracting
marriages solely for the purpose of obtaining an immigration
advantage," the House of Bishops says in its guidance note. "The
marriages in question have often been arranged by organised,
The new rules place a duty on superintendent registrars to refer
proposed marriages, as well as civil partnerships, involving
foreign na-tionals who do not have appropriate immigration status
or relevant visas, to the Home Office, which would then have up to
70 days to investigate whether the proposed union was a "sham".
Besides tightening up the provisions of marriage law, the new
Immigration Bill contains a number of provisions designed to make
it harder for illegal immigrants to regularise their life in the
UK. Landlords could be fined up to £3000 if they enter a tenancy
agreement to people disqualified as a result of their immigration
The new rules also make it an offence for banks and building
societies to open accounts for "disqualified people", although
credit unions will not be affected. People seeking leave to enter
or remain in the UK will be required to pay a "health charge" to
cover potential usage of NHS facilities.
The Bill will receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons
Preliminaries for Marriage
Banns of Marriage
A verbal notice of the intended marriage is published in the
principal service on three separate Sundays preceding the marriage
in the parish church where the wedding is to take place, and/or
churches in the parish where the parties live or regularly
A statutory licence issued under the authority of the Chancellor
of the diocesan consistory court, usually by surrogates - priests
or suitably qualified people authorised by the Chancellor to issue
licences to those who have made sworn statements of
In cases where a couple wish to marry in a parish where they
have no legally qualifying connection, the licence of the
Archbishop of Canterbury is required. These are issued by the
Faculty Office, near Westminster Abbey.
Superintendent Registrar's Certificate
A couple may seek authority to marry from the Superintendent
Registrar. To obtain a certificate, the details of the proposed
wedding will be published on the Registrar's noticeboard. Clergy
are not obliged to accept a Superintendent Registrar's Certificate,
and can insist on the publication of banns.