Green Card Fraud: Risks, Penalty, Examples, and Consequences

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 What Is Green Card Fraud?

A green card is an extremely powerful type of immigration document that provides many benefits and privileges to non-U.S. residents who obtain one. For instance, a green card allows a non-U.S. resident to exercise many of the same rights that a U.S. citizen has. These include: to legally live in the United States, to lawfully work for an employer that is located in the United States, and the potential to become a U.S. citizen after a number of years. 

Thus, it is not surprising to find that many people will attempt to obtain a green card by any means possible; it is simply too valuable to pass up the opportunity. One common way, albeit an illegal one, in which a person may try to do this is by committing green card fraud. Green card fraud is a type of immigration fraud that involves the use of deceit or misrepresentation of information associated with a green card or a green card application. 

Specifically, green card fraud issues often arise in situations where a non-U.S. resident is attempting to secure U.S. citizenship or a permanent resident status. In contrast to other forms of immigration fraud (e.g., visitor visa fraud), green card fraud is usually much more intricate and involves a certain level of detail to commit. 

Additionally, immigration fraud is an issue that is taken very seriously by the U.S. government. In general, laws and statutes concerning immigration fraud typically carry harsh penalties for those who violate their provisions. This is especially true for cases that involve green card fraud issues. 

Therefore, if you have been accused of committing green card fraud, you should speak to a local immigration lawyer or criminal defense attorney immediately.

What Are Some Examples of Green Card Fraud?

One of the most common examples of green card fraud occurs when a couple stages a marriage or arranges a fake engagement for the purposes of obtaining a green card through marriage or a K-1 visa (i.e., a fiancé visa). Both green card and/or marriage fraud are considered standard forms of immigration fraud and will often require a thorough investigation to be conducted by immigration officials. Again, fraud crimes carry heavy penalties. 

Some other examples of how a person may commit green card fraud include by:

  • Providing false information on their application for a green card (e.g., lying about one’s name, age, employment history, or the address of their prior residence);
  • Submitting falsified documents to immigration officials that are necessary to support a green card application (e.g., medical exams, biometrics results, photos, etc.);
  • Forging, possessing a forged, or making a counterfeit green card;
  • Concealing information about a past conviction or criminal record; 
  • Using an immigration form that has been illegally duplicated or altered; and/or
  • Attempting to deceive immigration officials, border patrol agents, or immigration law judges during entry into the country.

Aside from the green card applicant themselves, there may be other parties who can be held legally responsible for green card fraud. For instance, if the party sponsoring the green card applicant knowingly engages in fraudulent activities like marriage fraud, then they can be charged with committing fraud and thus may face serious legal consequences as well.  

What Is a Fraud Interview?

As previously mentioned, immigration marriage fraud is one of the most frequently committed types of green card fraud. If immigration officials believe that an immigrant and their alleged fiancé or spouse are pretending to be engaged or married to each other simply for the purposes of obtaining a visa or green card benefits, then the immigration authorities may conduct a fraud interview and an investigation into the parties and their marital situation. 

Specifically, an immigration official or agent may request to perform two separate interviews, one for each individual that makes up the full couple. Once the interview is scheduled, the immigration agent will then be allowed to ask questions and can attempt to gain information about the relationship that might imply that it is fraudulent or fake.

Oftentimes, parties who are required to sit through these types of fraud interviews can feel quite intimidated since they are being placed under an immense amount of pressure and will need to answer very personal questions. For example, an immigration official may be allowed to ask each party things like which Internet service provider they use, or which one of them is responsible for cleaning the bathroom.  

Immigration agents may also inquire about recent events or activities that the couple attended or participated in, such as if their spouse went to work yesterday, what time their partner went to sleep, and what they did before they went to bed. 

There are no restrictions on the types of questions they may ask. While not part of their usual course of conduct, immigration officials may also lie and say that the other person already confessed to the marriage being fake to get the information they need. In asking these questions, the immigration officials are trying to glean information that might suggest the couple (or at least one of the partners to the couple) is lying. 

For instance, if the immigration agents notice any discrepancies or conflicts with the information that was provided to them during the separate interviews, then these discrepancies or conflicts may be used as evidence against the parties that there is a likelihood that they committed green card fraud. 

In some situations, if the immigration agent cannot tell whether the couple is lying or not, or if the initial fraud interview did not go very well, then they may follow-up and conduct a second interview of the parties. Though this is usually only done in rare situations.

Again, committing green card or immigration marriage fraud can result in serious legal consequences, such as being deported, having to pay hefty criminal fines, or needing to serve a jail sentence. In extreme cases, a non-U.S. resident may also be banned from entering the United States for a certain period of years.

Therefore, if a couple or individual is being investigated and interviewed for green card fraud, then it is strongly recommended that they retain legal counsel, so that they can understand all of their legal rights and options that they have under the applicable laws.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Green Card Fraud Issues?

As is evident from the above discussion, green card fraud is considered a serious criminal violation and can result in severe, long-term legal consequences if a person is convicted. Thus, you may want to hire a local immigration law attorney if you or a loved one requires assistance for any sort of immigration fraud issues; especially, when it comes to green card fraud issues.

An experienced immigration law attorney will be able to provide legal guidance and can perform legal research to find ways that can help you to resolve your issue. Your lawyer will also be able to attend and represent you during an immigration panel hearing. Alternatively, your lawyer can also help you to prepare, discuss the process, and provide representation at a green card fraud interview if necessary. 

Additionally, if you are facing charges for green card fraud, your lawyer can find out whether there are any defenses available that you might be able to raise and can submit a request on your behalf to have your criminal penalties reduced or dismissed, or to receive an alternative sentence.

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