Fiancé visa fraud occurs when someone uses deceit or misrepresentation as a means to obtain a K-1 fiancé visa. This type of fraud is fairly common, as the time it takes to secure a K-1 visa is often shorter than with other types of visas.
Not only are there instances of individuals attempting to defraud the federal government through marriage immigration, but it is also common for one party to the supposed engagement to be defrauding the other.
Fiancé visa fraud can happen in a variety of ways. It can be as simple as a person approaching an American tourist abroad and offering money in exchange for faking a relationship in order to deceive immigration officials.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has instituted measures to prevent anyone in a sham marriage from being issued a visa, and will penalize those who are caught. Common examples of fiancé visa fraud that are discovered by the USCIS include:
- Lying and providing false information on the visa application;
- Showing staged photos or other fake evidence supporting a sham marriage; and
- Witnesses falsely testifying on behalf of the couple and their relationship history.
If the USCIS suspects that a couple is not being truthful during the K-1 visa process, it is highly likely the individuals will be investigated for fraud.
Immigration laws strictly prohibit anyone from defrauding the U.S. government. For those individuals who are caught doing so, harsh penalties may follow. Possible penalties for immigration fraud include:
- Non-U.S. Citizen Alien: Deportation from the U.S. is likely. It is also possible that the individual will be barred from reentry into the U.S. for a specified period of time. Non-citizen aliens may lose the chance for naturalization, and become ineligible for a change of immigration status.
- U.S. citizen and Any Other Party Who Participated in the Fraud: Anyone who participates in defrauding the government by way of visa fraud may be subject to criminal charges, fines, and incarceration.
Some couples may wish to speak with an immigration attorney prior to applying for a K-1 visa. An experienced attorney will be able to advise a couple on what evidence they need in order to prove their relationship is true and not based on false pretenses.
There are certain red flags that USCIS looks for in determining whether there is immigration fraud for a K-1 visa. Below are a few examples that may signal USCIS authorities to further investigate a visa application:
- No shared language;
- Large age gap between both parties;
- Difference in race and/or religion;
- Unequal educational backgrounds;
- The couple is residing in separate addresses;
- The marriage has been kept a secret from friends and family;
- The timing of the marriage is such that it could have taken place out of urgency;
- For instance, if someone is approaching the expiration date on a nonimmigrant visa, and will have to leave the U.S., a marriage at this time may be suspicious.
- The marriage took place soon after the couple met, or quickly following a divorce;
- The U.S. petitioner has a history of supporting other spousal immigrants;
- The U.S. petitioner has little money and is in need of cash;
- Either party has a history of crime, especially fraud; and
- Attempts to create false evidence of a shared life before the interview.
The first part of the approval process for a petition for a fiancé visa can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months. For the second part of the process, applicants can expect another 45 to 60 days. Some K-1 visas have been approved in as little as 3 months, and others have taken well over 12 months. Each case is different, and an experienced immigration lawyer will be able to give you a better idea of how long the process should take for your own situation.
If you are experiencing any issues related to fiancé visa fraud, you should contact a local immigration law attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will advise you of your rights, and assist you in making a solid case for being issued a visa. In the event you are required to take extra steps with the USCIS, your lawyer will provide representation throughout the process.