Immigration Marriage Fraud

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What is Immigration Marriage Fraud?

Immigration marriage fraud is a violation where a person enters into a fake or fraudulent marriage with the intent to deceive immigration officials.  Some examples of conduct that might fall under immigration marriage fraud can include:

Marriage fraud is illegal and can result in various legal penalties.  Even still, it is one of the more common types of immigration violations and has led to several adjustments to immigration laws and enforcement policies.

What are the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments?

The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 (IMFA) is a set of immigration laws that was passed in order to deal with the problem of immigration marriage fraud.  It was passed in order to accomplish two goals: 1) To promote family unity, while at the same time 2) discouraging immigration-based marriage fraud.

The IMFA seeks to accomplish these goals by classifying aliens whose immigration status is based on marriage as “conditional immigrants”.  They are granted conditional status or conditional resident status upon entering the U.S., and then must apply later to have the conditional status removed. 

When applying to have conditional status changed to permanent resident, the alien must prove that their relationship to their citizen spouse is valid; this may be done through the presentation of various documents and evidence.  Prior to the IMFA, immigration-based marriages were validated through case-by-case interviews, which led to somewhat inconsistent results. 

Thus, under the IMFA, the granting of conditional status helps to provide a more consistent process for verifying immigration-based marriages.

What is a Hardship Waiver?

Under the IMFA, the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INA) has the discretion to grant “hardship waivers” to certain alien spouses who qualify.  The hardship waiver basically removes the conditional status and grants the alien permanent resident status.  Hardship waivers may be granted if:

Also, the alien may also request an appeal if their application for removal of conditional status is denied (prior to the IMFA, an appeal was not possible).  However, the granting of hardship waivers and appeals is largely discretionary; this means that it’s basically up to INS officials to determine whether or not to grant a waiver or appeal.

When making such determinations, the INS officials may consider all relevant evidence that is related to the time period when the alien had conditional immigrant status.

What are the Penalties for Immigrant Marriage Fraud?

Penalties for immigration marriage fraud can be very far-reaching.  For the immigrant, these can include:

For a U.S. citizen who knowingly engages in immigration marriage fraud, the penalties can also be severe.  These may actually include criminal charges, such as falsifying documents or deceiving government officials.  Such charges can result in penalties like criminal fines and possibly jail time.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Immigration Marriage Issues?

Immigration based on marital relationships shouldn’t present any legal issues if they’re legitimate.  If you have any questions or concerns regarding immigration and marriage, you may wish to hire an immigration lawyer for help.  Your attorney can assist you with the petitioning process if necessary, and can also keep you updated on any changes to immigration laws.  Also, if you’re facing any legal disputes regarding immigration, an experienced attorney can provide you with legal representation in court.

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Last Modified: 11-21-2012 11:52 AM PST

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