LONDON (RNS) Couples suspected of using their wedding vows as a ruse to skirt immigration laws will be required to meet strict identity checks and face greater scrutiny under new Church of England guidelines to stop sham marriages.

The guidelines announced Tuesday (April 12) by the Church’s House of Bishops target the practice of some vicars conspiring in fake weddings between British nationals and illegal immigrants as a means toward gaining legal residency.

The church directives place the onus on clergy and legal officers to help stop the scam that has resulted in 155 police arrests around the country.

In one case, one vicar was sentenced to four years in prison for his involvement in a sham marriage ring that helped hundreds of illegal immigrants remain in Britain.

The new guidelines advise clergy against offering to publish banns (in which a couple’s marital intentions are read aloud on three consecutive Sundays), particularly for marriages involving non-European Economic Area nationals.

Instead, the couples will have to apply for a “common license,” including swearing affidavits that give proof of identity and address, as well as agreeing to a visit from a vicar and attending marriage preparation classes.

The rules were coordinated with the UK Border Agency. The British government’s immigration minister, Damian Green, warned would-be fraudsters that “a marriage itself does not equal an automatic right to remain” in Britain.

Church leaders are clear, Bishop John Packer of Ripon and Leeds said, “that the office of holy matrimony must not be misused by those who have no intention of contracting a genuine marriage but merely a sham marriage.”

– AL WEBB, Religion News Service

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

Holding a Bible in her hand, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump’s visit to the historic church earlier this week. She also condemned his actions towards protestors and called for healing. “Peaceful demonstrators in front of the White House were beaten — some people came out and beat them so they could clear […]

On Sunday night, the largest group of protesters that Lexington had seen yet walked to the police headquarters on Main Street. They stood face-to-face with a line of police officers. The protesters, who were standing up against police brutality, begged the officers in front of the building to kneel with them. After several of the […]

In a speech delivered at Philadelphia City Hall on Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden condemned Trump’s confrontational response to peaceful protestors outside the White House to stage a photo op in front of a noble church. “When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, […]

The new White House Press Secretary believes she is in her role for a reason and God is part of it. Since entering her role, McEnany has been a stern defender of President Trump. In her position, she explains and defends the president’s decisions and policies, while also taking on the media unapologetically. You may […]