Church of England Prepares New Guidelines to Tackle Bogus Marriages

The Church of England is embarking on a new project to create new guidelines for its marriage procedures to prevent the spread of "bogus weddings".

The move comes after a sharp rise in the number of migrants seeking church weddings following a crackdown by the Government on marriages of convenience at registry offices.

Marriages of convenience have been one way that foreign nationals have attempted to gain access to British citizenship, and has been the subject of a Government crackdown since 2005, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Current law requires all non-British or European Union citizens to obtain a certificate of approval to marry. However, the marriages conducted by Church of England clergy are exempted from this process.

At the same time the number of applications for "common licences", which are required for church weddings, have seen a large increase since 2005.

The Home Office has denied that churches are being used for bogus marriages, saying that clergy come to know couples and can assess the relationship for themselves. However, a number of clergy have expressed their concern over sham couples approaching them for weddings.

The concerns have now led to the Bishops of London and Southwark ordering a review and a drawing-up of new guidelines for clergy.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Archdeacon of Lewisham, the Ven Christine Hardman, has admitted that the increase in church common licences was very apparent, but said that it was very probable that this could be due to the increasing number of Christian migrants entering Britain and especially London.