'We're Scared We'll Be Torn Apart' – Lockdown Wedding Ban Leaves Couples In Legal Limbo

It has been very depressing for the both of us because we cannot live together until we are married.” Sarah, a marketing communications student in London, met her fiancé through a mutual friend in 2017. Since the government announced the lockdown on March 23, all social gatherings such as weddings and baptisms have been put on hold. On May 11, justice secretary Robert Buckland told the BBC he was giving “anxious consideration to the effect of the potential changes” to rules on marriage ceremonies, telling people to “watch this space – we’re working on it”. Sarah and her fiancé are both originally from Thailand – he has indefinite leave to remain in the UK, while she is on a tier 4 student visa, which expired on Sunday. In order to legally stay in the country, Sarah needs to submit a marriage certificate to meet the requirements of a spouse visa – an impossible task under current lockdown regulations. “I know many people who are in the same position as me and we are all desperately worried about what to do next.” Geraldine Calog and Darrel Wilson met via Facebook last year; their wedding was booked for April 17. It was going to be a simple ceremony in Dumfries and Galloway, with a bigger celebration planned in Geraldine’s home town in the Philippines for later this year. All we want is a normal family life together.” Dr Lusine Navasardyan, a solicitor specialising in immigration law, said her firm had received a lot of calls from individuals like Geraldine and Sarah, who find themselves in danger of breaching UK immigration laws – and the penalties that follow.  “There’s a risk they’ll find that they’ve become so-called ‘overstayers’,” she told HuffPost UK. “As overstayers, they face a whole bunch of issues: they won’t have the right to work in the UK, their current employers may be penalised, they could lose access to their bank accounts.” Navasardyan said the coronavirus lockdown had “completely stopped” all immigration, as the closure of appointment centres meant there have been no new applications from abroad. “Lots of people have called asking how they can bring their families to the UK – their partners, their wives or husbands, their children,” she said. The lockdown has prevented them from moving forwards.” Stevens said that while the FIEC has advised couples to wait until legal marriages are allowed to take place, “a small number of churches have chosen to conduct marriages knowing full well that it doesn’t meet the legal requirements.” Nicole, 23, had every intention of waiting until the lockdown was over to get married – her wedding date was set for November 2021. “Our full wedding will be next November and we’ll be getting remarried then too, as my family won’t see this one.”  From June 1, officials are “examining how to enable people to gather in slightly larger groups to better facilitate small weddings”.  The document also said places of worship might be reopened as early as July 4, provided they meet social distancing guidelines. If the worst came to the worst and something happened to one of us, we would have no legal protections.” Although weddings have officially been suspended since March 23, there have been the rare exceptions where local registrars have used emergency powers to allow marriages to take place.  In April, Middlesbrough Council allowed a 59-year-old man who learned that he may only have weeks to live after being diagnosed with cancer to marry his long-term partner, as registrar staff looked on in plastic gowns and visors. And on Friday, a woman receiving treatment for a terminal cancer diagnosis will be allowed to get married after her family lobbied Northern Ireland’s ministers. The couple, who are both key workers, followed the news of the outbreak and were not surprised when they received an email informing them their ceremony had been cancelled.