Many immigrants in Dallas find themselves in challenging circumstances in which they seek asylee status or wish to apply for a visa to remain in the United States. If you are an immigrant, you may be concerned about your ability to stay in the U.S. and are dealing with matters such as obtaining citizenship, preventing deportation, or locating an advocate to assist with removal defense.
However, regardless of your immigrant status or that of a family member, you must understand that marriage fraud is a crime that can result in steep penalties and severe consequences. At the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg, our Dallas marriage fraud lawyers can help defend you against marriage fraud charges and work to achieve the most favourable outcome possible.
What Is Marriage Fraud?
Entering into a fraudulent or “sham” marriage is primarily intended to circumvent U.S. immigration laws. A marriage under U.S. law requires more than a wedding ceremony and a signed certificate. The couple must plan to have an authentic marital relationship and build a life together.
Another way a marriage can be found invalid is if it is not legally legitimate. For example, this might occur if one partner is already married to another individual and does not get a lawful divorce. In addition, applying for permanent residence in the U.S. (green card) based on a sham marriage is considered fraudulent.
Potential Consequences Of Marriage Fraud Charges
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), marriage fraud comes with penalties of up to 5 years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and a loss of benefits.
Federal law considers marriage fraud a grave offense, as detailed in the Immigration and Nationality Act § 275 and 8 U.S. Code § 1325. The penalties noted above are derived from these federal regulations, which govern the unlawful entry of an individual into the U.S. and the concealment or misrepresentation of facts concerning it. As the ICE report highlights, a U.S. citizen who enters a fraudulent marriage with a non-citizen assumes “great personal liability.” Forms of marriage fraud include the following:
- A U.S. citizen is paid or asked to perform a favor to marry a foreign national already residing in the United States
- “Mail-order” marriage where either the U.S. citizen or alien knows it is a fraud
- A foreign national cons a U.S. citizen to believe their marriage is legitimate.
The following would be an example of marriage fraud: A non-U.S. citizen enters the U.S. on a tourist visa. She proceeds to bribe a U.S. citizen into marrying her so that she can apply for legal permanent resident status.
Facing Additional Criminal Charges And Consequences In Dallas
U.S. citizens and foreign nationals can both be convicted of marriage fraud. In some cases, you may face additional criminal charges while also facing a marriage fraud conviction. For example, as a U.S. citizen, you could be charged with harboring an alien or conspiracy. If you are a non-U.S. citizen, federal agents could charge you with visa fraud. Additional charges mean you may face other penalties, such as greater fines and possible jail time.
A conviction of marriage fraud can make further interactions with immigration services difficult. As a non-U.S. citizen, you could face deportation, and it may be difficult to enter the U.S. again. As a U.S. citizen, it may be more challenging for you to help other relatives obtain a green card.
People who assist in marriage fraud may also face criminal charges. They can be charged with conspiracy or with aiding and abetting marriage fraud.
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What The Government Expects Of An Authentic Marriage And How it Detects Fraud
Unfortunately, U.S. law does not describe what the government considers a genuine marriage. However, common sense would suggest that a relatively normal married couple would have key characteristics in common, such as language and a belief system. In addition, they likely live together, enjoy shared activities, engage in sexual relations, and often have children. They also typically combine finances, such as bank accounts, and take out joint loans and mortgages.
U.S. immigration requires that applicants provide several documents, such as leases and bank statements, to prove their marriage is authentic. They also subject applicants and their spouses to a more extended and detailed personal interview than other applicants. The U.S. government has set up a reasonably effective system that provides information about whether a marriage is genuine or fraudulent. They are experts at cross-checking dates and facts within and between application forms and an immigrant’s testimony.
Additionally, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has an online tip form where people can report potentially fraudulent activity. If you are facing marriage fraud charges, it could be because someone reported you on this tip form.
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Preventing Marriage Fraud Allegations
You can avert sham marriage allegations by properly completing and filing a petition with sufficient evidence at the onset of the immigration process. You should be as honest and thorough as possible with the information you provide.
Unfortunately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will sometimes make uninformed decisions and decide that a marriage is illegitimate when it is not. This can result from filing an incorrect or incomplete application, not providing satisfactory supporting evidence, or making errors during an immigration interview.
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Defending Against Allegations Of A Fraudulent Marriage
You may have had an application denied or are facing deportation or criminal charges because the USCIS erroneously determined your marriage is fraudulent. However, you still have an opportunity to prove that this is not the case. Moreover, the USCIS must have substantial and compelling evidence to allege a marriage is a sham.
For denials under immigration law, the USCIS must engage in a separate investigation and not base its decision solely on previous findings. The married couple must then provide evidence to prove that their marriage is more likely to be real than fraudulent. An attorney can help you build a solid defense against this accusation and present evidence to affirm that your marriage is authentic to the satisfaction of USCIS officials.
Presenting Evidence For Your Defense
It is important to understand that a marriage is not considered a sham when it is only partially and not entirely motivated by immigration reasons. A Dallas marriage fraud attorney can help you prove that you did intend to establish a life with your spouse when you were married.
The USCIS and the legal system will examine the available evidence to determine if a couple can prove their marriage is real. An attorney can help you definitively prove your marital connections in the U.S. using the following evidence:
- Housing or rental documents proving you shared a residence for an extended period
- Pictures and videos of your courtship, wedding, vacations, and family-related experiences
- Income statements demonstrating stable employment history
- Records showing ownership of joint properties or business ties
- Affidavits from third parties explaining why your marriage is authentic
- Children’s birth or adoption certificates
- School or medical records listing the stepparent as an emergency contact for the stepchildren
A marriage fraud lawyer can effectively and professionally present evidence supporting the legitimacy of your marriage to the USCIS on your behalf.
The Credentials Of Your Marriage Fraud Lawyer
It can be daunting to think about consulting with an attorney to help you with your marriage fraud case. However, having the right legal defense can increase the chances of the best possible outcome in your case.
You should work with a lawyer familiar with immigration law and the laws and regulations that apply to marriage fraud cases. This is a serious matter that can affect the rest of your life and your loved ones. We can discuss your unique case and go over your legal options during a free case evaluation. Our Dallas marriage fraud lawyer can protect your rights and fight on behalf of you and your family.
What If I’m The Victim Of Marriage Fraud?
If you believe that you have unwittingly entered into a fraudulent marriage, it is essential that you promptly notify the government that you did not do so knowingly. If you suspect your spouse of this crime, you are urged to consult with an attorney who will help you file for divorce and notify the proper government authorities to clear your name.
The Work Of Our Legal Team Serving Dallas
At the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg, we specialize in several areas of criminal defense and fight to protect our clients’ rights throughout all legal proceedings. Our firm proudly serves clients across Texas, including those in the Dallas area.
Attorney Isenberg has more than 30 years of legal experience, including as a former prosecutor and state district judge. He brings experience and knowledge from both sides of the bench to every case. Here are just a few testimonials from previous clients:
“Thanks Randall for getting my charges reduced. I went from facing decades in prison to probation. I can’t tell you how much that means to me, my wife, and kids. My world was destroyed, and the experience has humbled me to be the best driver I can possibly be. I’ll be happy to refer your law firm to anyone wanting an outstanding attorney.” ~ Erick
“Randall is a well-known and highly experienced lawyer in his field. His results represent themselves. I’d recommend him, and his office, to anyone near Dallas with a DWI or in need of criminal defense.” ~Jordan
Contact A Dallas Marriage Fraud Attorney To Get Started Today
If you are facing deportation or other legal issues based on marriage fraud in Dallas, you will need legal counsel working to protect your rights and best interests. Contact a Dallas marriage fraud lawyer from the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg for a confidential case review.
Call or text (214) 696-9253 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form