Changes to the Certificate of Approval scheme

26 July 2010
The UK government has 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. Under the scheme anyone in the UK on limited leave who wants to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK, must apply for a Certificate of Approval. Those who plan to marry within the Anglican Church are exempt from this requirement. However the Certificate of Approval scheme was ruled by the UK courts as being 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, which the government presented as an effective way of preventing sham marriage although it is acknowledged that some genuine relationships may have been penalized by the scheme. 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? The government expects to abolish the COA scheme in late 2010 or early 2011, subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. It is not certain at this stage how long the process of parliamentary scrutiny will take. The exact date will be announce on the UKBA website. Can I still apply for a repayment of my certificate of approval fee? Yes. Since 31 July 2009, anyone who applied for a certificate of approval between 2005 and 2009 can apply for a refund. They must show that paying the fee caused them real financial hardship at the time of payment. Note that 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.
Source: UKBA

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