In a marriage, fraud can encompass many things. However, when it comes to immigration, you could be accused of marriage fraud if you or your spouse entered the marriage to obtain a green card or permission to live in the United States.
Although many marriages are valid between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Department are continuously on the lookout for sham marriages. Anytime the purpose of the marriage is to obtain U.S. citizenship or a green card, the marriage could be considered fraudulent, and criminal charges may be filed.
Understanding the Different Types of Marriage Fraud
USCIS has identified multiple types of marriage fraud. You could be charged criminally with marriage fraud if:
- You enter a mail-order marriage, where the foreign national or United States citizen is aware the marriage is solely to obtain a green card
- You are a United States citizen paid to marry an immigrant
- You are a United States citizen who agrees to marry a foreign national as a favor
- You are a foreign national intentionally defrauding a United States citizen under the impression your marriage is valid
- Visa lottery fraudulent marriages
Avoid Marriage Fraud Accusations
If you hope to avoid being found guilty of marriage fraud, there are some steps you must take to prove to USCIS, ICE, and the United States government that your marriage is valid. You may be required to sit down in an interview with immigration officers and answer questions so the officials can determine whether your marriage is legitimate.
Suppose immigration officers determine after your initial interview that the marriage was likely entered under false or fraudulent pretenses. In that case, you may have to attend a marriage-based interview, also commonly referred to as a “Stokes interview.”
Here, you and your spouse will be interviewed separately about the details of your marriage. USCIS and immigration officials will be comparing your answers for discrepancies and analyzing the personal details of your relationship. If you hope to erase your interviews, here are some tips:
Dress to Impress
Although you do not need to go out and buy a three-piece suit or other expensive clothing, dressing conservatively may be in your best interests if you hope for the immigration officer to find you credible.
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Answer Questions Honestly
Determining whether a marriage is fraudulent is one of the immigration officers’ most important responsibilities. They are highly trained to look for signs that you may be lying, including evaluating your body language throughout your interview.
For this reason, it is important to always answer immigration officers’ questions as honestly as possible or admit you do not know as opposed to guessing and ultimately answering differently than your spouse would.
Bring Supporting Evidence
If you are required to sit down for an interview with immigration officials due to potential marriage fraud, bringing evidence to support the validity of your marriage will be essential.
You can bring:
- Bills from the residence you share with your spouse
- A copy of your marriage certificate
- A copy of your passport
- A copy of your green card
- Copies of your joint bank account statements
- Letters from witnesses who can attest to the validity of your marriage
You might also want to bring photos from your wedding and other evidence that can show your relationship was valid before the marriage.
Contact An Immigration Lawyer
Due to the extreme complexity of United States immigration laws, it may be in your best interest to obtain a marriage fraud or immigration attorney to help you when facing such severe allegations.
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Review Sample Questions
Make sure to go over potential questions that could be asked during your interview with immigration officials when you discuss your marriage fraud defense with an attorney.
What Are the Penalties of Marriage Fraud?
If you are facing charges of marriage fraud, under U.S. law, you could be facing harsh penalties. Potential consequences if you are convicted include:
- Deportation if you are a non-U.S. citizen
- Rejection of the immigration application
- Fines up to $250,000
- A maximum of five years in prison
Get Help From a Marriage Fraud Lawyer
If you have concerns you will be or have been charged with marriage fraud, or if you are worried your spouse may have entered your marriage fraudulently, do not hesitate to contact a marriage fraud attorney at the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg.
Call for your confidential case evaluation today to learn more about how you can defend yourself against marriage fraud accusations and protect your citizenship status. Our attorneys are ready to go to work for you.