CoS - UK Home Office News Crime & Courts Zimbabwe


THE undying quest to travel abroad in search of greener pastures has prompted many people to do the unthinkable.

Nowadays, it is common to see posts on social media from men and women seeking a partner for an arranged marriage.

An arranged marriage is loosely defined as a marital union where the bride and groom are primarily selected by individuals other than the partners themselves, particularly by family members such as parents.

However, in this case, the arranged marriage — also referred to as a sham or fake union — is advertised online by the bride, groom or middlemen who facilitate such arrangements for monetary gains.

Some people are allegedly getting married to total strangers in a bid to migrate

The number of Zimbabweans who are entering into such sham arrangements keeps swelling with each passing day.

Some people are allegedly getting married to total strangers in a bid to migrate.

The marriage of convenience is designed to expedite the processing of spousal visas to enable the “couple” to travel abroad, especially to the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada.

Apart from being a thriving business for the brokers, sham marriages have also been identified as a “cheaper” alternative for one to acquire a certificate of sponsorship (CoS).

A CoS is an electronic document issued by foreign employers to prove that one has secured a job, which, in turn, makes them qualify to get a visa to travel to the respective country.

The document gives a foreign job seeker access to skilled worker or temporary worker visas.

According to the authorities, the CoS is not supposed to be sold, but unscrupulous and greedy individuals — including companies — have found ways of cashing in on the document by selling it for as high as US$8 000.

The supposed couples split the cost and jointly acquire the document, instead of each individual paying the total figure.

Armed with the CoS and a fake marriage certificate, both partners are able to legally work in a particular foreign country.

In the case of the UK, the spouse is exempted from writing the mandatory English test. However, the spouse still has to undergo a medical test for tuberculosis.

The British Embassy reported a 57 percent increase in the issuance of certificates of sponsorship from July 2022 to June this year. This followed the introduction of the health and care worker visa three years back, in response to the devastating effects of Covid-19.

It was also reported that Zimbabweans are currently the third largest visa holders in the UK after India and Nigeria.


However, recent developments in the UK are set to derail plans for potential immigrants — including those engaging in sham marriages.

The British government on Monday announced tough new immigration rules that are aimed at significantly lowering the number of authorised people able to move to specific European countries.

Reports indicate that immigration to the UK hit a record high of about 750 000 people in 2022.

Under the new rules, which come into force early next year, immigrants will have to earn more to get a work visa and will find it harder to bring family members.

Prospective immigrants will have to earn £38 700 (US$48 900) annually to get a skilled worker visa, up from the current £26 200 (US$33 000).

British citizens who want to bring their foreign spouses to Britain will have to earn the same amount.

Health and social care sectors, which are highly reliant on immigrant staff, are exempt from the salary rule. But care workers from overseas will no longer be able to bring dependent relatives with them.

At the same time, rules — including spousal visa regulations — have not changed for countries like Australia, Canada and the US.


Purporting to be a job seeker, this writer was linked to a UK-based man identified as Kingsley (surname withheld).

Kingsley quickly suggested an arranged marriage as the “cheapest” and “fastest” way to take the next flight from Zimbabwe.

“I can facilitate a partner for you, then do the CoS for the principal member. You guys just need to get married, share the certificate of sponsorship costs and when you get here, you can then divorce. The cost of the CoS is US$6 000,” he said.

This writer was then immediately linked to a potential partner through WhatsApp and a court date was promptly suggested.

We agreed that we would divorce in the next six months.

The other half kept mounting pressure for the “marriage” to sail through as the suggested court wedding date drew closer. It is then that this writer gave an excuse and backed off from the arrangement.

Currently, court weddings are pegged at US$25 (or equivalent in the local currency).

Booking through a magistrates’ court, the partners are required to bring their national identity cards and photocopies, a divorce decree (if divorced), a death certificate (if widowed), two witnesses and passport photos.

The couple should then fill in a form and indicate its proposed dates.

But some individuals are using outright fake marriage certificates they acquire through unscrupulous marriage officers.

Using authentic certificates, the officers charge between US$100 and US$200. Some rogue elements prefer this route as it is said to be fast, convenient and does not involve several other processes.

“The cases often come to light when a challenge occurs and out of bitterness, one of the parties decides to expose the issue,” revealed Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s Pastor Cephas Nyoni, who is also a marriage officer.

“It, however, becomes difficult for them or even us to take the legal route because in this case, an authentic certificate is used so the evidence is difficult to use in court.”

Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi said there is need for the authorities to relook some of the marriage laws and have clauses that curb such rot.

“We need to nip this rot in the bud. There is an urgent need for us to amend parts of our marriage laws to ensure that more is done in terms of marriage and divorce. We cannot sit back and let people abuse the law,” said the minister.

Registrar-General Henry Machiri added that marriages of convenience are an abuse of the marriage law.

“According to our dictates, when two adults get into a marriage, it means there is mutual agreement and it makes it difficult for us to tell if everything is a charade or not,” he said.

“This is actually taking place not only in Zimbabwe, but globally save that the motives may vary; some do it to get work permits, others for medical insurance and plenty other reasons,” explained the Civil Registry Department boss.

In the UK, couples suspected of entering into sham marriages are investigated by the Home Office and tried in the magistrates’ court or, on indictment, in the Crown Court. The maximum sentence on indictment is 14 years in jail.

Split the CoS costs

Karen Sigauke, who was desperate to migrate, joined a WhatsApp group of like-minded locals.

In the group, she came across several advertisements from people in search of partners to marry.

Within a few weeks, and in a fairytale style, she had tied the knot.

“He was the principal visa holder and I was the spouse; we split the CoS costs, thus we paid US$4 000 each,” explained Sigauke.

“Nonetheless, we ended up falling in love and it has been two years now. Our marriage is still intact.”

However, keeping such marriages intact is often an uphill task.

Sharon Chareva (name changed) was linked to a 35-year-old local man by a friend in the diaspora.

Chareva (36) had forked out US$6 800 to obtain a CoS and wanted a “partner”, who could reimburse her half of the costs.

“The plan was that when we get married, he gets a spousal visa and then pays me about US$3 750 as a refund for my expenses towards the CoS. We went on and got married and in a short time, all the paperwork was in place.

“However, instead of getting my payment, my so-called husband’s elder brother — the one whom he was to stay with upon arrival in the UK — pleaded with me that he uses the reimbursement funds for a plane ticket and other stuff and then he (elder brother) would refund me once we landed.

“Unfortunately, they shifted the goalposts when we arrived. They told me to stop troubling them and threatened to report me for using a fake marriage certificate. They also refused to grant me the divorce,” explained Chareva.

The “couple” is still married two years later.

“I am stuck in marriage with a man whom I am literally not with. I felt betrayed, robbed and I am still bitter but there is nothing I can do about it. I cannot even settle with someone else because I am legally married to this man.”

Statistics provided by the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC) reveal that at least 30 percent of new marriages are collapsing within five years.

According to the commission, the number of filed divorce cases increased to 2 735 last year, up from 1 351 in 2021, which was a more than 100 percent increase.

JSC notes this could be testament that couples are marrying “for various reasons other than love”.

The couples were married either under the Marriage Act Chapter 5:11 or the Customary Marriages Act Chapter 5:07.

Reasons cited in the divorce files include irreconcilable differences, lack of communication, financial challenges and infidelity.

According to Zimbabwean laws, there are no stipulated time frames that deny a legally wedded couple the right to divorce or bind them to stay married.


In some cases, expired certificates of sponsorship are sold to desperate immigrants, only for them to discover this during final verification stages.

Recently, a Zimbabwean couple was charged with 46 counts of fraud involving certificates of sponsorship and fake marriages between August 2022 and May this year.

The suspects had allegedly swindled desperate job seekers out of about US$134 552, while posing as agents facilitating job placements in Canada and the UK.

Their processing fee was pegged at US$4 500 per person.

Similar arrests have been made in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and India.

Monsurat Temidayo Awodein — a Nigerian student studying in Scotland — was recently arrested after duping more than 40 Nigerians in a CoS scam.

Reports indicate that Awodein, who was working in cahoots with an unregistered firm, allegedly defrauded his fellow kinsmen by
providing them with counterfeit CoS documents.

The documents were purportedly issued in the name of reputable UK-based care providers.-ZP

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