One: The Home Office Laboratory

The Home Office – the main UK public authority responsible for immigration – is keenly interested in identifying ‘sham’ marriages which are designed to game the immigration system.1 Since at least 2015, the department has used an automated system to determine whether to investigate a proposed marriage.2 Marriage registrars across the country transmit details of proposed marriages to the system via ‘data feeds’. The system applies eight ‘risk factors’ to assess the risk that a couple’s marriage is a sham. These risk factors include the couple’s interactions before the registrar, ‘shared travel events’, and age difference. The system allocates couples either a ‘green’ rating, indicating that no investigation is warranted, or a ‘red’ rating, indicating that an investigation is warranted to identify possible ‘sham activity’. This algorithm processes a large number of marriages each year. In a 12-month period across 2019 and 2020, the Home Office received 16,600 notifications of marriages involving a non-European national, of which 1,299 were subsequently investigated.

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