Fraudulent Marriage Arrangements
For immigration purposes, what is marriage fraud?
In an immigration law context, marriage fraud refers to the use of deceit or untruthfulness in entering into a marriage. While it is okay for immigration concerns to be a factor in marriage, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) will presume marriages to be fraudulent if the sole purpose is to obtain a green card.
What are some common types of marriage fraud?
Some common types of marriage fraud schemes that ICE agents encounter are:
- "False arranged marriages” in cultures where arranged marriages are practiced
- “Mail-order bride” arrangements and online services
- “Cash-for-vows” arrangements wherein American citizens are paid to wed a foreigner
- “I do, I don’t, I do” arrangements: this is where the foreign nationals divorce their spouses in their home country, marry American citizens, then divorce the American citizens in order to remarry or petition their former spouses
- “Pop-up marriages”: aliens who are granted a green card are allowed to petition their spouses; many enter into marriages for financial gain after obtaining a green card
- “Heartbreaker” arrangements: when a non-citizen induces an American citizen into marriage, while their true purpose is to obtain citizenship
The above schemes are frequently identified by ICE officials and may result in rigorous penalties for all parties who are involved in such arrangements.
What are some factors used to determine the validity of a marriage?
Couples who are petitioning for a green card will typically be subject to an interview during which the validity of their marriage will be determined. Officials will use the following factors to assess the marriage:
- Length of marriage: Marriages lasting less than two years are presumed to be fraudulent
- Difference between spouses’ ages: Large discrepancies in age are questionable
- Previous marriages to U.S. citizens or foreign nationals
- The existence of children who live outside the U.S.
- Excessive or questionable documentation of the marriage
- Events related to the marriage such as a divorce or change in residency just prior to the marriage
What are some of the penalties for an illegal marriage fraud scheme?
Truthfulness is one of the main requirements for any immigration application. Involvement in a fraudulent marriage for immigration purposes can have severe consequences, such as:
- Permanent removal (deportation) out of the U.S.
- Lifetime ban on obtaining U.S. citizenship
- Permanent loss of U.S. benefits
- Annulment of the marriage
- Possible conviction of a federal crime
Do I need lawyer for my immigration marriage issues?
If you are applying for immigration to the U.S., or are involved in petitioning a foreign national, it is important that you seek legal counsel to assist you. The requirements for immigration can be complex, so it is wise to obtain the advice of a lawyer.
Violations of immigration requirements can result in serious consequences for both aliens and U.S. citizens, so it is in your best interest to comply with requirements at all times. An attorney can help you prepare the necessary documents, and they can help keep you informed regarding changes in immigration laws and requirements.
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Last Modified: 03-09-2011 12:05 PM PST
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