AT least 50 applications for change of residency status by non-EU nationals married to Irish people have been turned down by immigration officials over suspicions that they are “marriages of convenience”.
New figures from the Department of Justice show that there have been almost 500 applications to the Spouse of Irish National Unit in the Immigration Services Section of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in the past year.
However, more than 10% of those applications were refused, or in some cases abandoned, because the applicants did not show that they were living together in Ireland.
According to a Department spokesperson: “It is a fundamental requirement that a non-EU national seeking residency in the State on the sole basis of marriage to an Irish national resides in the same household and in a family unit with that Irish national.”
If a non-EU national spouse of an Irish national was already legally resident in the State prior to the marriage, then he or she can make a request to the local Registration Officer for a change of their immigration status to reflect their marriage to that Irish national.
However, if the non-EU national has no legal status or is an asylum seeker in the State at the time of the marriage, they have to apply to INIS.
According to the department, the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 will provide for stronger legislative measures for addressing marriages of convenience once it is enacted.
Meanwhile, almost 3,000 applications have been received so far this year from non-EEA (European Economic Area) nationals for residence in the State on the basis of marriage or durable partnership with an EU citizen.
Over 8,000 applications have been received since a European Council Directive on the free movement of citizens came into effect in April 2006.
Almost 25% of all applications are refused, but the Department said INIS cannot provide any definite figures regarding the number of marriages of convenience among the applicants.
A spokesman said: “The pattern of applications suggests that a significant number of the applications involve marriages of convenience.
“About 30% of the applications have come from persons illegally in Ireland or living here on the basis of a temporary or limited permission, such as students.”
Certain nationalities feature disproportionately among the applicants, and the department said there were some “highly unusual patterns of marriage between citizens of certain EU member states and specific non-EEA nationalities and intelligence suggests that the provision of financial and other inducements has played a role in the emergence of these marriage patterns”.
Residence cards have been granted in some cases where the INIS was not fully satisfied with the bona fides of the application, but investigations are continuing with a view to the withdrawal of these residence cards if bogus marriages are then uncovered.
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