Sham Marriages and Immigration
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How Do Immigration Laws Apply to Sham Marriages?
US immigration laws don’t define "sham marriage." However, it is illegal to marry simply to attain citizenship.
It is common for an immigrant to seek US citizenship by marrying a US citizen or permanent resident. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has indicated that sham marriages have been detected in as many as one-third of immigrant marriage applications. Therefore, USCIS is given a broad authority to conduct detailed investigations and test the validity of a marriage.
How Do Authorities Detect and Prevent Sham Marriages?
To detect sham marriages, authorities may require additional documentation from the spouses and may also subject them to detailed interviews. Investigations often entail home visits and interviews with friends and employers.
Immigration authorities may also collect and review documents to determine the extent spouses share their personal lives, living arrangements, and finances. The following documents may be requested by authorities:
- Correspondences between spouses showing an ongoing relationship prior to marriage
- Joint bank accounts
- Property lease agreements with both spouses' names
- Tax return forms filed jointly
- Birth certificates of children
What Are Some Penalties for Sham Marriages?
Sham marriage leads to civil as well as criminal penalties for both the immigrant spouse and US citizen/permanent resident spouse.
Penalties for the Immigrant Spouse
- Revocation of a visa
- Bad immigration record
- Loss of the ability obtain a visa in the future
- Various criminal penalties
Penalties for the US Citizen or Permanent Resident
- Criminal penalties of imprisonment for up to 5 years
- A $250,000 fine
- Removal and deportation for a permanent resident
When to Seek an Attorney's Advice?
It is in your best interests to consult an immigration attorney prior to entering into marriage with an immigrant—especially if a primary purpose for the marriage is to gain citizenship. An experienced attorney will help you understand the applicable laws that may apply to your situation.
If you face a serious immigration issue, such as deportation, than you should contact a qualified attorney immediately.
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Last Modified: 10-10-2013 12:09 PM PDT
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