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Consequences of Immigration Marriage Fraud for Citizenship

Immigration Marriage Fraud, a federal crime, is when 2 people enter into a sham marriage in order to gain United States permanent residency. Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both (INA § 275(c); USC § 1325(c)). The United States citizen/resident spouse could also face criminal prosecution, including fines and imprisonment, depending on the circumstances.

A perpetrator can be prosecuted for:

  • Criminal conspiracy – pursuant to U.S. v. Vickerage, 921 F. 2d 143 (8th 1990); conspiring with immigrant is enough;
  • Establishing a “commercial enterprise” to get people green cards – pursuant to INA § 275(d); 8 USC § 1325(d);
  • Visa fraud
  • Harboring an alien
  • Making false statements

Intercepting fraudulent marriages is a top priority of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The government does not believe marriage fraud is a victimless/innocent crime and strongly opposes the idea of United States citizenship being for sale. According to United States Immigration of Customs and Enforcement (ICE), marriage fraud is a threat to national security, financial institutions, and the integrity to the immigration system. Marriage fraud investigations conducted by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) have revealed massive schemes that involve complex criminal organizations.

The typical types of marriage fraud are:

  • A United States citizen is paid or asked to perform a favor to marry a foreign national;
  • A mail-order marriage, where either a United States citizen or alien knows the marriage is a fraud;
  • Visa lottery fraud
  • A foreign national defrauds a United States citizen who believes the marriage is legitimate.

Other than prison and fines, there are many other consequences to marriage fraud. At the very least, an immigrant perpetrator will be deported, even if not prosecuted, and will never be allowed to enter the United States again for the rest of their life, even if they subsequently enter into a legitimate, legal marriage with a United States citizen or resident. Further, a United States citizen or resident assumes severe financial liability when they are a party to a fraudulent marriage by allowing an alien spouse access to sensitive information and assets such as: bank accounts, heirlooms, social security numbers, pensions, real property, valuable personal property, etc.

ICE has also linked marriage fraud to terrorist activities. According to DHS, terrorists and other criminals can use marriage fraud as a vehicle to enter the United States. They can hide their identity, gain lawful employment, access government buildings, open bank accounts, and establish businesses to conduct further criminal activity. Often times, a United States citizen engaged in marriage fraud may be aiding terrorists, foreign intelligence or other criminal organizations and, if they knowingly aid they can and will be held accountable and charged with terrorism.

In 2006 HIS created the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTF). This task force has teamed up with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and have also aligned themselves with the United States Attorney’s office.

If you believe you or somebody you know has been a victim of marriage fraud and want to preserve your rights, contact Lee, Green, Stewart & Paul Attorneys at Law , we can assist in answering any questions.