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Understanding Marriage Fraud Penalties In The United States

Understanding Marriage Fraud Penalties In The United States

The United States does not limit the number of citizens who can get married. If the application is processed on time, including background checks and medical exams, the spouse who immigrated to the United States with the other American citizen spouse is granted a green card for permanent residency.

However, some people use marriage as a way to bypass the US immigration system and get a green card. This attracts marriage fraud penalties. There is a popular notion of getting married for a green card.

For many people facing imminent deportation, getting married seems like a good solution: marry a US citizen, and you can get permanent status and eventually citizenship.

The US government doesn’t limit who citizens can marry, and as long as you pass the proper background checks, you can get permission to work and live in the country for the rest of your life. Immigration officials are very cautious about this, seeing it as a way to bypass the immigration system altogether.

If you marry solely to get a green card, you are in violation of federal law, and both you and your spouse can face severe marriage fraud penalties. It is crucial to understand marriage fraud. This will help you understand the gravity of the crime and how to avoid it.

With useful information about marriage fraud, you can fight off allegations of fraud. Keep reading to learn more.

What is marriage fraud?

Marriage fraud is a crime committed by immigrants who marry green card holders or US citizens to obtain marriage-based visas. It is a serious crime that can result in jail time, a fine, removal from the United States, or all of the above.

Perpetrators of marriage fraud can be charged with fraud if they paid a US citizen for their marriage or if the US citizen married the foreign spouse in favor of the US citizen. The foreign spouse will also face prosecution if they cheat on the citizen who thinks the marriage is legal.

The foreign spouse will also be charged with mail-ordering the marriage or participating in a visa lottery fraud marriage. In simple terms, marriage fraud is the practice of marrying someone for the sole purpose of evading immigration regulations.

In most cases, a foreign national marries an American citizen or a resident of the United States solely to obtain a green card.

Signs of marriage fraud

The following are some of the most common signs of marriage fraud:

  1. Lack of legitimate relationship: The marriage is for the sole purpose of getting immigration benefits rather than having a normal married life.
  2. Financial arrangement: The marriage is usually based on some financial agreement in which either the foreign national or US citizen is paid to marry the other.
  3. Deception: A US citizen may be duped into a marriage where the foreign national only cares about getting immigration benefits.

Marriage fraud is a criminal offense under US immigration law. Violations can lead to marriage fraud penalties, fines, removal of the alien from the United States, and legal sanctions for the United States citizen(s) or permanent resident(s) involved. USCIS, along with ICE and HSI, conducts active investigations of suspected cases of alien marriage fraud.

Are all marriages for immigration purposes marriage fraud?

It is important to know that not all cases are the same. In some cases, both the citizen and the foreign national marry for the ‘right’ reasons, believing the marriage will last forever. However, as soon as the marriage ends, the relationship worsens.

Fearful of the adverse immigration consequences if the marriage ends, both parties decide to stay married for the requisite number of years to ensure that the foreign national is not expelled after the divorce. So, does staying married for this immigration reason constitute marriage fraud?

Several federal appellate courts have ruled that keeping a marriage together for immigration reasons does not constitute marriage fraud for federal officials. Therefore, if your marriage was lawful at its entry into force, reasons for keeping it together later should not concern federal officials.

However, this rule is not absolute. The law requires that there be a “true family unit” at the end of the conditional status period at the time of your spouse’s permanent status application for married alien status. If you are concerned that the termination of your marriage could impact your immigration status, talk to your immigration lawyer.

Marriage fraud penalties

If marriage fraud is discovered, the maximum sentence for a fake marriage is five years in jail, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Immigration and criminal consequences for a fake marriage for immigration purposes are spelled out in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The INA defines marriage fraud as the act of intentionally entering a marriage to avoid immigration laws. A person who commits marriage fraud will be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined the amount mentioned above, or worse.

If a person commits marriage fraud for immigration purposes, they will face visa fraud, conspiracy, and false statements charges. Each charge carries its own prison sentence and fine, which is added to the above. Marriage fraud is a federal offense; immigrants and citizens will be prosecuted if caught.

For immigrants, they will be fined, imprisoned, or both. Their visa will be immediately revoked, and when they are released from prison, they will be immediately deported to their home country. They will also have difficulty obtaining a future US visa or green card.

For American citizens, the punishment depends on their level of involvement. If they knew the marriage was illegitimate, it was called a sham marriage. If they don’t know, it is called marriage fraud. The punishment could be jail time, fines, or both.

If they consented to the marriage in exchange for money or benefits, they will likely be charged with serious crimes. The severity of the marriage fraud penalties listed above will vary depending on the specifics of each case.

The US government has a history of handing down the harshest sentences to US citizens or residents who conspire to arrange fraudulent marriages for money.

How marriage fraud is spotted

The USCIS is aware of the high rate of marriage fraud, which is why marriage visa petitions are subject to rigorous scrutiny. If the USCIS has reasonable grounds to suspect or suspect that a married couple is not legitimate, the officers of the USCIS, or in collaboration with an attorney, will conduct a life investigation on the spouse based on the law.

They may visit the married couple’s home (usually one at a time) or check with neighbors to see if they live together. They will also ask whether the couple owns their property together or if they share a household and other relevant questions in accordance with the law.

Additionally, USCIS officials may arrange an interview or start a process with you at the government offices or at the couple’s home. During the interview, you will be asked sensitive questions about every part of your marriage.

For instance, they will ask the spouse about their underwear brand, their favorite food, and anything else – except intrusive matters such as sexual habits. If your truths are rejected, your next step is to contest these allegations in court. When denied, it is not enough to file a petition.

You must understand the immigration law and how it applies to immigrants. Hiring an immigration lawyer is the best way to resolve the issue between you and your spouse.

Fighting marriage fraud allegation

Marriage fraud is a criminal offense against the US government. It is a flagrant violation of the immigration laws of the United States. Marriage fraud also plays a role in the nation’s intelligence. Many individuals who want to immigrate to, work in, or establish a business relationship in the US always try to get married.

Those who obtain a conditional green card and are found guilty of marriage fraud face severe immigration and criminal sanctions. Fortunately, there are ways for citizens accused of marriage fraud to fight the charges and clear their names with proper documentation and contact.

Fighting allegations of marriage fraud in court

You can contest the charges in court if you have been charged with marriage fraud. This will help you avoid the marriage fraud penalties. In some cases, couples are charged with marriage fraud because they did not correctly answer the questions or did not provide sufficient evidence of the validity of their marriage.

Once charged, the USCIS issues a Notice to Appear, placing you in removal proceedings. If you do not fight, especially if you are innocent, you will not only face expulsion but also be barred from ever receiving a family-related visa.

Hiring an immigration lawyer is essential because immigration cases like marriage fraud can be challenging to win. Develop a client relationship with your lawyer and develop strategies to fight fraud allegations, such as obtaining the proper documents and describing your life together.

Avoid marriage fraud allegations in your interview.

Due to the high number of marriage fraud cases in the US, marriage-based visas and green cards are subject to extra scrutiny. Therefore, you must be careful about what you say during your immigration interview so that the immigration officer does not suspect you of marriage fraud.

The best way to avoid this is by working with an experienced immigration lawyer who:

  1. Will prepare you for the interview questions;
  2. Will help you with the documents you need to submit for the interview, including official and informal forms and documents;
  3. Will resolve any issues that could alert the immigration officer to red flags.

Appealing marriage fraud decisions

In some cases, couples are charged with marriage fraud because they do not have enough evidence to prove that their marriage is genuine. If the immigration judge does not believe that you are telling the truth, the immigration judge will reject your visa or green card application because marriage fraud has been committed.

In such cases, you can file an appeal with the District Director of your local USCIS office. This appeal must be filed with the immigration judge who denied your visa petition and must be filed within 30 days of receiving notification.

The best way to file an appeal is to hire an immigration lawyer with experience. Hiring an immigration lawyer will increase your chances of reversing the judgment.

Get help!

Winning an allegation of marriage fraud is not as simple as you thought. Many clients spend thousands of dollars and still don’t achieve their goals. Marriage fraud penalties can be severe. So, you must get help. If you want to avoid marriage fraud penalties, it is a good idea to hire qualified immigration lawyers skilled in visa and green card applications for spouses.

At Gehi and Associates, you will find experienced immigration lawyers and a team of outstanding lawyers who will take care of your immigration case and ensure you beat all marriage fraud allegations that stand in the way of getting a green card for your spouse. Schedule an initial free consultation with us today!

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