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What is “Immigration Fraud”?

Immigration fraud refers to any efforts to avoid or circumvent immigration requirements through the use of deceit, lying, or false representations.  The fraud may occur through a positive misrepresentation of information, or through the failure to disclose required information (such as the existence of a criminal record). 

This type of fraud typically involves aliens who are applying for U.S. citizenship.  However, it can also involve persons who are already citizens, such as U.S. citizens who are petitioning loved ones.

Immigration fraud can be classified into two basic categories:  Document Fraud and Benefit Application fraud.  All forms of immigration fraud are prohibited and can lead to serious consequences such as deportation. 

What is Immigration Document Fraud?

Document fraud in an immigration context occurs when a person alters, forges, or illegally produces an immigration document in order to satisfy application requirements.  This may include the fraudulent production of government immigration forms, as well as other related materials such as medical reports, histories of previous residences, and financial information. 

Immigration document fraud also includes any efforts to obtain or produce identification documents through illegal means.  For example, fake ID’s are often used in connection with immigration applications.  Some commonly forged immigration documents include passports, visas, social security cards, and employment applications.

Document fraud also frequently occurs when an illegal alien is seeking to obtain employment in the U.S.   

What is Immigration Benefits Fraud?

Benefit fraud occurs when an undocumented alien uses fraudulent means to obtain government benefits that are normally only available for U.S. citizens.  For example, a person may attempt to falsify documents in order to secure social security benefits.  Or, an alien may use fraud to secure employment or permanent residence in the U.S. 

Perhaps the most widespread form of immigration benefits fraud is a fraudulent marriage arrangement.  This is where a couple enters into a marriage solely for the purpose of satisfying immigration requirements. Fraudulent marriages often occur with persons seeking to be petitioned under a fiancé or spouse category.   

What are the Consequences of Immigration Fraud?

If a person is found guilty of immigration document fraud, the legal consequences can include heavy monetary fines and possibly even a sentence in a state or federal prison.  Depending on the circumstances, document fraud may be considered a felony. 

Also, certain crimes may make a person “immediately deportable” if they are a crime of moral turpitude.  Document fraud may be classified as a crime of moral turpitude since it involves the use of lying or deceit.  Thus, a person who commits document fraud may also be subject to immediate deportation and loss of their residency status.

Immigration benefit fraud can also result in immediate deportation.  Additionally, a person charged with benefit fraud may be denied later applications for citizenship, or they may be barred from re-entry into the U.S. for a period of time.  Criminal penalties may attach, such as fines or jail time.

Should I Contact a Lawyer if I have issues with Immigration Fraud?

Immigration laws and policies change very frequently, sometimes on a yearly basis.  An immigration lawyer can keep you updated with any changes in the law and help you avoid situations that might lead to a violation of the law.   

If you have been implicated in immigration fraud charges, it is to your benefit to speak with a lawyer.  Your attorney can assist you with your immigration claim and determine whether any defenses are possible, such as a lack of criminal intent. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 10-19-2012 12:21 PM PDT

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