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Heartbreak for couples as marriages wrongly called 'sham' face lengthy delays


(stock photo)

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

Dozens of couples have had to delay their marriages after their relationships were wrongly labelled as fake.

Officials have objected to 320 proposed marriages in the past two years due to concerns they would be sham marriages or "marriages of convenience".

However, in a fifth of these cases, the registrars' objections were deemed to have been unfounded, according to figures released to the Irish Independent under freedom of information laws.

Under legislation introduced in 2016, registrars with the Civil Registration Service were given the right to investigate whether proposed marriages were genuine.

They can refuse to issue a marriage registration form to the couple and can inform and make inquiries with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice over the proposed marriage.

The law was brought in to combat abuse of marriage for immigration purposes.

According to gardaí, sham marriages have become prevalent in Ireland in recent years.

They generally involve a man from outside the EU marrying a female EU citizen, with whom he had no prior relationship, to secure the right to live and work in Ireland.

Fees of up to €20,000 are reputedly paid as part of such arrangements.

While the legislation has caught out hundreds of immigration scammers, it has also had the unintended consequence of delaying many genuine marriages.

Under the Civil Registration Act, a couple must give three months' notice of their intention to marry.

This is considered by a registrar, and if the registrar has an objection, they are obliged to make a report to a superintendent registrar, who then decides the matter.

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The intended solemniser will be notified and directed not to solemnise the marriage until the investigation is complete.

According to the HSE figures, of 320 objections raised since the start of 2016, 198 were upheld. However, 60 were deemed unfounded.

The objections involved 49 nationalities. The most common were Pakistani (173), Irish (94), British (62), Nigerian (37), Indian (35), Polish (28), Romanian (27), Hungarian (18) and Bangladeshi (17).

Next month, the High Court is due to hear a case involving a couple in the north-west who had their proposed marriage objected to. This has led to it being delayed for a year.

The couple, an Indian man who sought asylum in Ireland and a woman originally from the UK, say they are in a loving relationship and vehemently deny their proposed marriage would be a sham.

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