Charedim fight new marriage visa rules

The government may face a challenge to a law that will raise the marriage visa age from 18 to 21.


The government may face a challenge to a law that will raise the marriage visa age from 18 to 21.

Campaigners, led by Michoel Posen of Agudas Israel Community Services in Stamford Hill, have warned that the law will have a severe effect on many marriages in the Charedi community, involving young people from Israel, America and Canada.

European Union countries are not affected by the law, due to come into force on November 27.

Mr Posen said: "The announcement this week by the Home Office that the law will come into force at the end of the month represents a grave disappointment and means it has not taken into account any of the representations that have been made by us, our MPs and the Board of Deputies.

"There is no doubt this will have a quite severe effect on a number of families in the Charedi community.
"We have already begun to seek advice on whether or not we have a case to mount a legal challenge against this law and the government on human rights grounds. The Home Office appears to have not listened to anything we said.

"We understand that forced marriages cannot be allowed to continue. But at the same time it cannot be right that the Charedi community is affected like this. I am sure there must be other communities affected in a similar way.

"The Home Office said it is doing this to protect vulnerable young people. But in fact, it is discriminating against young people by forcing them to go elsewhere to get married."

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, said that the board had held talks on the issue with Secretary of State Hazel Blears and before that with Liam Byrne, then minister for immigration.

"We have also corresponded directly with Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who has agreed to meet us."

My daughter will have to marry abroad

Mrs W from Stamford Hill is a teacher and a mother of five. She has an 18-year-old daughter who is engaged to a 20-year-old Canadian, currently living and studying in Israel.

The couple plan to wed in July next year and neither will be 21 before then.

"A law that has nothing to do with us has presented us with enormous difficulties," she said. "My daughter and her fiancé want to live here in London. The problem is that if they get married before they are 21, my daughter's fiancé will not be recognised as British and therefore would not able to claim any benefits.

"Rents are astronomical and even if they both had jobs they would not be able to afford a house so they would have to claim benefits.

"We are lucky because there is still just about time for us to get him a visa before the law comes in on November 27. It will be impossible for anyone who gets engaged after that date."

She explained that the family was examining several options. One is to apply for a visa now and hold a civil marriage ceremony abroad, either in Israel or Canada.

If her daughter's fiancé were to come here, he would have to wait nearly five weeks before a civil service could take place. They are also considering the possibility of going to Scotland, where the whole matter can be dealt with in one day.

"I work and my daughter works. We chose to have the wedding in July rather than now because it fits in with our lifestyle.

"We will start the visa process but nothing can be done until my daughter's fiancé is a permanently legal citizen," said Mrs W.

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