Sham marriages rising

Marriages of Convenience, as they are called in Cayman law, are on the rise.

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said the Immigration Department is investigating several marriages that appear to have been entered into to avoid provisions of the Immigration Law.

Charges could be laid against some of those involved in these marriages.

‘There are a couple (of cases) with the Legal Department right now for ruling,’ he said.

A person who enters into a marriage of convenience is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction of a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment for one year.

Mr. Manderson said marriages of convenience are not a new phenomenon.

‘People have been convicted of this already,’ he said.

Mr. Manderson said marriages of convenience were a problem many years ago, but then the problem seemed to wane. He said recently it was becoming a problem again, possibly because of the implementation of the seven-year term limit.

‘But some are not because of the rollover policy,’ he said.

Technically, if a marriage of an expatriate to a Caymanians is entered into principally to derive some benefit or to avoid provisions of the Immigration Law, it is an offence, Mr. Manderson said.

However, if a Caymanian and expatriate couple who have been together for a long time get married to prevent the expatriate from having to leave the country as a result of the rollover policy, the Immigration Department will not be hauling them in for questioning.

‘If somebody has been in a relationship for years… that’s not the kind of cases were looking for,’ he said. ‘But when somebody met someone else today and gets married tomorrow, we’re going to investigate that.’

Proving a union is a marriage of convenience is usually not very easy, but Mr. Manderson said sometimes it is.

One step of the investigation is to bring the participants of the marriage in for an interview and ask them questions about their spouse that they should know.

Not everyone passes that test.

‘One man told us he had known his wife for a long time, and that she didn’t have any children and in fact didn’t even want children. He seemed to know a lot of about his wife, but when we asked him to call his wife in, he had trouble remembering her name.’

Sometimes, Caymanians enter into marriages with expatriates in return for money, which can make it easier to prove it is a marriage of convenience.

The Immigration Department has received information about several of the marriages in recent months.

‘We looked into certain cases that were blatantly obvious,’ he said.

Mr. Manderson said he really did not like the phrase marriage of convenience.

‘I’m trying to get them to change the name to sham marriage, which is what the U.K. uses,’ he said.

Mr. Manderson said sham marriages are a significant problem in the U.K. and that Immigration enforcement personnel there have told him they investigate about 400 cases a month.

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