Marriage registrars in Ireland who suspect that a couple is entering into a sham marriage for immigration purposes will not now be permitted to question the couple to ascertain the validity of their relationship, the Irish Attorney General, Paul Gallagher, has announced.

Until recently, if a registrar was suspicious of a couple, they could quiz them on their relationship and, if the answers did not satisfy them, they could refuse to grant the marriage certificate.

In recent years, marriage scams have been organized by men from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and parts of Africa. Sham marriages are arranged with women from the EU, mainly eastern Europe, with the Irish Independent reporting that the women are offered up to €3,000.

Up until recently, a suspicious marriage registrar could write a letter of objection opposing the marriage, but the AG has now said that this is not supported by law.

While new guidelines have been issued to marriage registrars to try and deal with fake marriages, staff say they are “effectively … powerless.”