Investigating Marriage Fraud
A marriage entered into solely for the purpose of procuring an immigration benefit, often referred to as a “sham marriage,” is not valid under the law, and United States immigration officials have far-reaching authority to intrude upon the applicant’s personal lives and investigate.
For the most part, the investigation that a U.S. immigration official might conduct is largely superficial. Officials will generally rely on the applicants to provide supporting documentation that proves the couple’s relationship is bona fide. Along with an in-person interview, most approvals and denials do not extend beyond that level of investigation. The investigatory power these immigration officials possess, however, reaches well beyond simply reviewing documents and interviewing the applicants. USCIS is permitted to conduct a background check; interview the applicant’s employer, family, and friends; or even visit the couple at their home.
In cases where fraud is suspected, U.S. immigration authorities have been known to use a tactic referred to as “bed checks.” This involves an officer showing up at the applicant’s front door, usually in the early hours of the morning, to see if the couple is actually cohabitating. From a legal standpoint, the applicants can refuse to allow immigration officials access to their home, but such a refusal would likely lead to further types of investigation.
For more information about how to prove that marriage is bona fide, please check out our blog.
Penalties for Committing Marriage Fraud
If a couple is caught committing marriage fraud, the penalties are severe. If either partner is a U.S. citizen, that person could face up to five years in prison and/or a fine not exceeding $250,000. If either partner is a foreign national, or even a green card holder, they would be subject to deportation and a lifetime ban from the U.S. On top of that, individuals guilty of marriage fraud can also be charged with visa fraud, harboring an alien, conspiracy and/or making false statements; each charge carries additional prison sentences and fines. So, why risk it?
There are numerous benefits associated with a green card, and obtaining one through your spouse can be easier, faster and cheaper than other available methods. A legal permanent resident is allowed to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis, and green cards based on a spousal relationship are one of the few avenues to permanent residency that do not require job skills or a preexisting family relationship.
For more information on marriage-based green cards, or if you would like to apply for a marriage-based green card, please visit our website and schedule a consultation.