The trope of marriage fraud is a common staple in movies, especially comedies. However, sham marriages do still take place today, and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (USCIS) does not find these types of marriages funny in the least.
Since marrying a U.S. citizen is a relatively painless way to obtain permanent resident status, USCIS does its best to ensure that marriages between citizens and foreign nationals are bona fide, with stern consequences if a marriage is found to be bogus.
Marriages Are Strictly Vetted
In the mid-1980s, a survey was conducted which later discovered that as many as 30 percent of marriages between foreign nationals and U.S. citizens were false. The data collection methodology was later found to be grossly inaccurate. Yet at the same time, that survey’s legacy has lived on. USCIS officers remember the figures, wrong or not, and as such, international marriages are often subject to a degree of scrutiny that some may find unreasonable.
U.S. citizens may agree to marriage fraud because they are promised financial remuneration, but in reality, very few are ever paid. Marriage fraud is often seen as a victimless crime; however, it has been used as a vehicle for crimes like money laundering, where the newly married person takes “gifts” or “personal items” back to his or her home country. Additionally, marriage fraud is used as a way to potentially permit foreign governments or other hostile entities to establish roots in the U.S., providing a jumping-off point for future illegal acts.
The possible consequences of marriage fraud are severe, for both the U.S. citizen and the intended immigrant. Unless you can prove that you were duped by the other party by clear and convincing evidence, you will both face penalties. If caught entering into a sham marriage, immigrants will not be able to receive any kind of immigration benefits. Also, they will almost certainly be removed from the U.S. and/or permanently barred from returning. They may additionally face criminal penalties including up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine, depending on the circumstances.
United States citizens who collude in marriage fraud may be subject to the same jail time and fines, but they may also face additional charges such as harboring an alien, visa fraud, or even conspiracy, depending on the situation and the record of the intended immigrant. If, for example, a U.S. citizen enters into a sham marriage with a foreign national who is later convicted of terrorism, then he or she might conceivably be charged with conspiracy or even aiding and abetting a more serious crime, such as treason.
Ask an Immigration Attorney
If you have questions or concerns regarding your immigration status and/or consequences you may face, please contact the knowledgeable Chicago criminal law and immigration attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC. Call us today via telephone at 630-932-9100 or visit our website to schedule your free consultation.
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