Did you know that it is possible for a foreigner or a non-U.S. citizen to be granted a green card if they are legally married to a U.S citizen? The truth is – you can gain citizenship or entry to the country if you are married to a US citizen (USC) or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR).
However, it is also possible that you might be committing marriage fraud if the relationship was entered for the sole purpose of getting a U.S. lawful permanent residence. According to the Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986, you can be fined $250,000 or imprisoned for five years for knowingly entering into marriage with intentions of avoiding the immigration laws.
Even so, what does immigration marriage fraud entail? How do you ensure the immigration authorities don’t come knocking on your door?
Read on for an insight into everything you need to know about immigration marriage fraud, including U.S. immigration laws concerning the immigration of foreign spouses. We have also highlighted the penalties, reporting tips, and suggestions on how to stop marriage fraud.
What Is Marriage Fraud?
Marriage to a U.S. citizen or legal resident is fraudulent as described in Section 204 (c) of U.S. Immigration Laws. This section defines the conditions under which a marriage is fake. These conditions include marriages constituted to bypass U.S. immigration laws or to obtain U.S. citizenship fraudulently.
For a marriage to be legal, a couple must prove the legality of their marriage. Courts may require spouses to provide legal documentation proving the status of their marriage.
Couples may also have to prove their desire to live together by actions. If a couple fails these tests, the Court may consider their marriage null and void and therefore illegal.
Other factors the courts may evaluate include being married to another partner and imminent or pending divorce proceedings.
Despite partners loving one another, U.S. immigration law may consider a marriage illegal if it violates some or all of Section 204 (c) provisions. For this reason, applying for a green card without meeting these requirements makes one liable for marriage fraud.
Marriage fraud primarily occurs because foreign partners have ulterior motives. For example, they may perceive marriage to a U.S. citizen as a simpler and faster way for obtaining U.S. citizenship. Others may deceive their partners about their marital status.
Typically, marriage fraudsters are interested in only being inducted into the host country and not living with a partner. Once they get the green card, they abandon or dissolve the union.
What Are Valid Marriages in the United States?
Regrettably, the U.S. lacks a specific statute defining valid marriages. Even so, couples must fulfill various conditions before marriage is validated. These conditions evaluate the legibility of the immigrating partner and the relationship between the spouses.
Evaluations focus on elements of a couple’s relationship, important events, or milestones. Expect to answer questions such as your spouse’s birthday, anniversaries, or the location where you met. Finally, the government assesses if both partners can start a life together and that marriage is not a scheme to acquire citizenship.
Is Marriage Fraud a Permanent Bar?
Marriage fraud is a major offense according to the U.S. Constitution. Any person who commits marriage fraud, whether a citizen or not, violates U.S. immigration laws. Doing so has serious consequences for the offending partner. Foreigners face the risk of deportation and any subsequent application for a Visa is limited or denied.
What happens to a U.S. citizen who is accused of marriage fraud? Any citizen participating in marriage fraud can be incarcerated for a maximum of five years, a fine of $250,000, or both. Besides that, an individual might incur additional fines or sentences.
What If I Am a Victim of Marriage Fraud?
Numerous foreign nationals tend to dupe U.S. citizens into thinking they are interested in marriage. After staying married for months or, at times, years, one realizes a partner’s duplicity. The reason why the person chose to get married to them was to acquire a green card. But what should you do after realizing you have been duped?
The first step you should take is contacting a family law attorney living within your state. The attorney will help you get the most favorable terms for the termination of the marriage. He will help you file for divorce, and the proceedings will determine how the property will be allocated for spousal support.
If you have children, the attorney will help in the child custody case. However, the annulment proceedings vary across states. For this reason, you need a competent attorney to handle this issue.
On the other hand, If the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not rescinded your Form I-751, you can file a request to withdraw the joint petition. Nevertheless, if your spouse has been given a green card, your actions won’t help much. You can only sue him or her for “marriage fraud” and nothing more.
Reporting your case to the USCIS that you are a victim of the crime is an effective way for seeking legal redress. Remember your testimony is admissible in a court of law that your words can be used against you, especially if you facilitate the fraud.
You can be investigated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the USCIS if they suspect you were involved in the marriage fraud.
These agencies have handled thousands of cases of citizens duped for the green card. And in other cases, some had even reported their spouses even when the marriage was not a scam.
How Do I Report Marriage Immigration Fraud?
If you would like to report a marriage immigration fraud, then you have two options:
1.Report to the USCIS
ICE is the immigration department’s enforcement division which executes U.S. immigration policy. You can obtain help from their offices and report any marriage fraud cases via the official tip line.
What’s more, the agency investigates marriage fraud and arrests suspects. ICE will investigate any reported cases, especially the “mail-order” type marriages, and determine if money was paid or coercing was used to affect the marriage of a U.S. national to a foreigner.
2.ICE or Homeland Security Investigations (HIS)
HIS is another option if you have pending paperwork at the USCIS. Use this option if marriage fraud occurs while your residency application is being processed.
Visit the infopass.uscis.gov site to book an appointment. Also, note down the HIS’ toll-free care number. The USCIS hotline is 1-800-375-5283. Use this number to report marriage fraud, and the agency will investigate your case upon receiving your request and evidence of marriage fraud.
The priority of USCIS is to detect marriage frauds and the ICE (its affiliate agency). Also, recent government surveys indicate that over 30% of marriages between U.S. citizens and foreigners do not last. And though it is doubted by many, the increasing number of marriage frauds prove its accuracy.
What Are Penalties for Immigration Fraud?
Federal Immigration Law Enforcement (ICE or HSI) must prove that marriage fraud has occurred which can be particularly difficult for one-sided marriage fraud cases where the immigrant spouse dupes the other USC spouse into marriage.
Two-sided marriage fraud cases are far more likely to be investigated and prosecuted than one-sided marriage cases. Two-sided marriage fraud cases involve both parties who knowingly agree to enter into a fraudulent marriage. Typically, these two-sided cases involve a USC spouse who receives money while the immigrant spouse receives immigration benefits.
Typically, the U.S. can revoke an immigrant spouse’s visa if found guilty of marriage fraud. Soon after, the offender is deported to their country of origin. The immigration officers will also make him/her ineligible to get a green card or U.S. visa in the future.
Besides, the guilty party may be charged for various crimes under national law. If found guilty, one is liable for a prison term of 5 years and up to $250,000 penalties or both. The U.S. immigration department can detect this fraud at any stage of the marriage.
If a marriage escapes their scrutiny, they can still evaluate it after two years whether one has acquired a green card.
Therefore, the immigration department can easily detect marriage fraud at almost any level. This means it is an effective mechanism for detecting, investigating, and punishing marriage fraud offenders.
Currently, the immigration department has advanced investigative powers, and they can easily identify a marriage fraud. It helps U.S. citizens avoid falling victim to marriage fraudsters by ascertaining the validity of marriages.
How Can I Stop Marriage Fraud?
If you are a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, foreign nationals may use you to obtain citizenship. Whether you met your fiancé or fiancée during travel or online, marriage can grant them U.S. citizenship. Remain wary of marrying or sponsoring them to visit the U.S., especially when you just met them, and they insist on getting married immediately.
Exercise caution also if your potential spouse had had prior marital engagements. Watch for red flags, such as reluctance to share family or marital status during personal and social engagements. These are just some red flags, but you can also notify them if you are observant.
Remember, some sponsors may lure you with money and other offers to migrate to the U.S. Note that helping them with this scheme can lead to criminal charges against you. If you are not interested in marriage, forget it!
Then again, sponsoring foreigners can cause you to incur hefty financial expenses. This is because U.S. immigration laws require you to support their upkeep in the country, whether the marriage or relationship works or does not. But rest assured, effectively applying the recommendations will safeguard against any adverse outcomes.
Marriage is a legal contract with the government which obligates it to protect you from fraudulent partners or spouses. The ICE and USCIS aim to protect the citizens, and they are the departments you will seek help from if you suspect or find out that the marriage is a fraud.
How Can I Avoid Marriage Fraud Accusations?
It is easy to prove your case if your marriage was legitimate. However, to avoid marriage fraud accusations, you need to prepare for the interview in advance.
Be ready for the questions the immigration officer will ask you and be truthful. You should know that immigration officers are experienced in handling marriage fraud and can easily ascertain when the marriage is a fraud.
During the first session, you and your spouse will answer the same questions. However, on the second one, U.S. immigration officers will interview you differently about the relationship. If there are any discrepancies or signs of abuse, these agents will use them to prove marriage fraud.
You should note immigration officers are trained and experienced in reading attitudes and body language. If your partner is a fraud, then they can easily detect it.
Therefore, you won’t need to stress yourself much as U.S. immigration officials will note their authenticity during the interview. If they are lying or their answers are not adding up, the immigration officials would easily detect it.
On your side, if you suspect the marriage is a fraud, then you can tell the officials beforehand. But if you think it’s genuine, then bring the required forms and documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, visa documents, passports, wedding photos, statements from family and friends supporting the wedding, among others. They will help you prove your marriage is not a sham.
Can I Stop My Partner from Getting Their U.S. Citizenship?
Yes, if you can prove that they are in a relationship or marriage to get the green card, you can report them to the ICE/ USCIS. However, if he/she has gotten a green card, then it will be a daunting task but possible. Remember, you should report it before your spouse gets the green card.
Final Thoughts on Immigration Marriage Fraud
There is no doubt that, based on the above review, it is possible to find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you enter into marriage with the wrong intention. Ensure you put all the above factors into consideration and observe the law for a successful marriage.
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