Marriage Immigration Fraud and How an Attorney Can Help

When an immigrant and a United States citizen get married legitimately and with genuine intentions, the immigrant spouse is entitled to stay and work in the U.S. and eventually obtain permanent status. While most such marriages are legitimate, some are fraudulent and entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining an immigration visa. In this situation, while the couple may meet all the requirements of marriage, including medical tests, licensing, and wedding ceremonies, they fail to have a bona fide marriage and live together. Most often, the U.S. citizen is paid to marry the noncitizen or is tricked into marriage by the immigrant.  In other situations, the marriage falls apart but the noncitizen forces the U.S. citizen spouse to continue being married for the time period needed to gain permanent residence status.

The U.S. government takes the issue of fraudulent marriages seriously, as this undermines the legitimacy of immigration processes and allows potentially dangerous and undesirable individuals to fraudulently enter the country. As a result, consequences for being found guilty of marriage immigration fraud are severe and may include fines, deportation, and ban on re-entry to the country.

Anyone accused of marriage immigration fraud will have to go through a long process of interviews and documentation to prove their marriage is legitimate. It can help to seek legal guidance from an experienced immigration attorney to fight these charges and enable the noncitizen to remain in the United States.

Consequences of Marriage Immigration Fraud

If the marriage is not found to be legitimate, immigration authorities could charge both the noncitizen and the U.S. citizen with marriage fraud, which is prosecuted under 8 U.S.C . §  1325 and 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a). The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 provides a penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for any “individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws.”

In addition, marriage fraud is a serious criminal offense that can result in consequences that include:

  • Denial of the change of status application
  • Deportation of the noncitizen spouse
  • Denial of future immigrant visa petitions and re-entry to the country
  • Sentence of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000
  • Risk to the citizen spouse who has allowed the foreign spouse access to private and financial information
  • Possibility of a significant security threat to this country
  • The breakdown of relationships due to the strain caused by legal issues and investigations
  • Additional criminal charges such as visa fraud, harboring a noncitizen, or making false statements, which may result in more prison sentences and fines.

How the U.S. Government Deals with Suspected Marriage Fraud

The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 (Public Law 99-639) established two-a year conditional status for noncitizen spouses seeking permanent residency. It requires that the marriage still exists by the end of the two-year period to achieve full permanent resident status to avoid any immigration consequences. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decides whether the marriage was made in good faith and whether the spouses continued living together, through a visa interview.  If fraud is suspected, the couple may have to appear before an immigration judge in an immigration court or have a marriage-based interview. Questions may be personal in nature, such as:

  • What kind of birth control do you use?
  • Who makes the meals in your home?
  • What time did you go to bed last night?
  • How many televisions are in your home?

Couples will also have to bring any requested documents, forms, and other evidence that can prove the legitimacy of their relationship. In addition to a marriage certificate, the USCIS will likely ask for documentation such as proof that you have combined your bank accounts, utility bills listing both of you as residents at the same address, and pictures of you as a couple together taken over time.

What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for Marriage Immigration Fraud

If you are being investigated for marital fraud, or if you’ve been charged, the stakes are high, and it can help to have guidance from an experienced immigration lawyer. Your lawyer can gather necessary and required information, handle legal hurdles that arise, and make sure all forms are filed correctly and submitted with proper documentation. Your lawyer can provide representation at all immigration proceedings and hearings, ensuring that your rights are protected, and will formulate a comprehensive defense strategy based on the specifics of your case. This may involve challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution, demonstrating the legitimacy of your marriage, and addressing any legal or procedural issues that may arise.

In addition, you should:

  • Make sure you understand the specific allegations against you and work with your attorney to clarify any questions and build a strong defense.
  • Cooperate with authorities during an investigation, by being truthful and gathering any requested documentation, information, and evidence that proves a legitimate marriage.
  • Prepare for scheduled interviews with immigration authorities by working with your attorney and answering sample questions and by being honest and consistent in your responses.
  • Keep your attorney informed about any developments in your case; accept their guidance, and allow them to negotiate with immigration authorities on your behalf.

Get Help from Our Immigration Attorneys

The experienced marriage immigration fraud attorneys at Carman Fullerton in Lexington, KY, provide skilled legal representation to provide guidance and deal with all issues that can come up during the marriage fraud investigation process. We know the laws, the courts, and the system, and can communicate and negotiate with USCIS on your behalf, ensuring that all inquiries are handled promptly and professionally. We also can help with the appeals process or assist in applying for waivers if your application is denied.

Your life, relationship, and future are too important to risk, so call us today for an initial consultation to see how we can help with all aspects of the citizenship process.

Get Started Now Call 859-971-0060

Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton

Mr. Fullerton’s practice is focused on immigration law. He speaks Spanish, and represents clients in cases before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He began his career practicing criminal defense, and understands how matters in criminal courts can affect a client’s immigration status. [Attorney Bio]