Civil ceremony before a registrar

Ireland's main marriage registrar has warned that between ten and 15 percent of civil ceremonies carried out are "shams" to cheat immigration rules. Officials are now discussing the idea of Green Card-style interviews for those entering marriage.

Dennis Prior, superintendent registrar for the Health Service Executive eastern registration area, said "Currently, registrars only ask basic questions at interview such as a couple’s name and address.

"If the plans under consideration were implemented, couples could face more detailed questions, such as how they first met; if they lived together; what they had for breakfast; and to provide photographs of themselves together."

He said "When you look at our own Constitution it is there to prevent an attack on marriage and actually it just seems like an attack on marriage is taking place…I have seen ceremonies where two interpreters were required for a marriage when clearly the bride and groom couldn’t understand each other.

“Other indicators are: a man holding all the documents for a woman; the bride and groom not knowing each other’s address at the interview; a bride having no friends at a ceremony; and the same people often attending different marriages.”

The number of suspected sham marriages being reported is increasing. Registrars are calling on Prior for support on marriages which they think are shams. He said “I get one or two requests for support a week and I would estimate that 10 to 15 per cent of marriages are at risk of being a sham marriage. This is a big increase from two years ago.”

An increase in sham marriages has been noted all over the country, as non-European nationals, typically Pakistan or Indian, seek residency after marrying. Non-European spouses and family are free to travel freely within Europe.

The number of people claiming residency rights through marriage has risen from 1,207 in 2006 to 2,129 in 2009. In the first six month of 2010 1,182 non-European national applied for residency.

This year 223 Pakistanis have filed spousal applications. Almost one third of these applications are based on recent marriages to Latvian women. There have also been 131 application from Nigerians and 71 applications from Indians.

Currently there is no law defining sham marriage or marriages where people accept money for the service. The Irish police are currently trying to launch an operation to detect any criminality associated with sham marriages. Their efforts have led to numerous arrests linked to bigamy, false document and evading deportation.

Prior pointed out that this problem of not being able to identify sham marriages is not as much of a problem for Church weddings as the local priest meets with the couple several times before they are married.