The age at which someone can apply for a marriage visa will increase from 18 to 21 from the end of this month, the Government announced today.
From 27 November both parties in a marriage will have to be 21 before a marriage visa can be issued.
Raising the age is part of the Government's concentrated effort to tackle forced marriages and abuses to the marriage visa system.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: It is important that we protect vulnerable young people and this measure will help avoid exploitation".
The news has not been welcomed by the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS). Keith Best, IAS' Chief Executive, told Newswatch they "did not see the need for the rise" and "they are not convinced by the Government's argument" which they believe is based on "inadequate evidence". He added that the IAS believes this would place further restrictions on British citizens on when they want to marry and that it is likely to be challenged under the European Convention on Human Rights.
In addition to the age restriction, before they come to the UK, spouses will need to sign up to an agreement to learn English. Soon after their arrival, the UKBA will check they are fulfilling their promise. If they are not, their leave could be cancelled.