UK reinstates minimum age of 18 for foreign spouses

The UK Border Agency has announced new policy guidance after the Supreme Court declared the government's ban on non-EU foreign spouses aged under 21 applying for UK marriage visas unlawful.

The ban, introduced in 2008, stated that foreign spouses and their sponsors in the UK must meet a minimum age of 21, instead of the previous age of 18, before the foreign spouse could be granted a visa. Although it was designed to stop forced marriages, the Supreme Court ruled that the change in the rule disproportionately interfered with the rights of those who were in genuine marriages.

UK Immigration Minister Damian Green said there was "no place in British society for the practice of forced marriage" and the government was looking at what more could be done to identify and assist those at risk.

"I would acknowledge that the change in rules is rationally connected to the objective of deterring forced marriages," said Lord Wilson in the Supreme Court judgment last month. "But the number of forced marriages which it deters is highly debatable."

According to today's press release from the UK Border Agency, changes to the immigration rules were made in Parliament today to "reinstate a minimum age of 18 for a spouse, civil partner, fiance, proposed civil partner, unmarried partner or same-sex partner and for their sponsor in order to qualify for entry clearance, leave to enter, leave to remain or a variation of leave on that basis."

The new rules will come into effect on 28 November 2011.

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