Immigration laws—especially those that allow spouses of citizens or residents to immigrate to the country—are aggressively enforced in the United States. While marriage is a common basis for lawful immigration, some relationships are fraudulent. Fraudulent marriages could result in criminal charges.
If you have been contacted regarding a marriage fraud investigation, it is crucial to seek legal counsel immediately. The consequences for marriage fraud are significant, and a conviction could upend your life or the life of your loved ones. So, talk to a Lewisville marriage fraud lawyer right away.
What Is Marriage Fraud?
Marriage fraud is formally defined according to federal law. Sham marriages designed to evade federal immigration law are governed by I.N.A. Section 204(c). In general, marriage fraud involves a couple marrying strictly for immigration purposes.
It is a common misconception that someone who marries a U.S. citizen automatically receives a green card. That is not the case under federal law. Instead, USCIS will carefully evaluate the circumstances of the marriage for signs that it is a sham. This can result in requesting copies of wedding invitations, interviewing friends, or searching through social media.
At the end of the day, the purpose of the marriage determines if it is fraudulent. While there are many factors that investigators rely on to suggest impropriety, the reality is that there are no clear-cut answers on when fraud is present. However, because there are no fast answers, this increases the likelihood of mistakes or false accusations on behalf of USCIS.
If you are accused of marriage fraud, it is vital that you seek legal counsel. Even if you believe you have done nothing wrong, it is important for you to protect your rights and immigration status.
What Do Federal Authorities Look For In Marriage Fraud?
There are different factors that the USCIS will consider when investigating a potentially fraudulent marriage. No case is alike, so the authorities will review each marriage for a number of factors that could be signs of fraud. On their own, each factor does not necessarily prove that a marriage is fraudulent. However, the more factors present, the more likely USCIS could push for criminal charges.
First, the USCIS will search for significant differences between spouses. This often starts with language barriers, as fraud is more likely in cases where two spouses do not speak the same language. Other differences that investigators consider include different religious beliefs or a significant age gap.
Next, investigators will consider whether the married couple takes the steps most valid couples take. This can include living in the same residence and advertising their marital status to friends and family. Investigators will also consider how quickly a couple marries after meeting or whether either family has a criminal record.
What Is A Stokes Interview With USCIS?
Every couple seeking to immigrate to the United States must go through an interview process. However, when investigators suspect a marriage is fraudulent, they can require additional interviews. These are known as Stokes interviews.
The purpose of a Stokes interview is to determine if spouses are being untruthful. USCIS conducts these interviews by separating the spouses and interviewing them individually. In some cases, this interview could occur immediately after the initial interview.
During the Stokes interviews, each spouse is asked the same series of questions. The interviews occur simultaneously but in different rooms, ensuring that one spouse cannot influence the answers of another. Following the interview, investigators will compare the answers of each spouse to identify discrepancies. If there are major discrepancies between the stories, USCIS could reject the application. In some situations, this could also lead to criminal charges.
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Penalties For Marriage Fraud Convictions In The U.S.
Numerous consequences can come with marriage fraud. Following a criminal conviction, standard penalties can include jail time or fines. However, other consequences can also occur if USCIS determines that marriage fraud has occurred. Our firm could help you avoid these consequences.
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Marriage fraud is a federal crime in the United States. When a couple pursues a fraudulent marriage for immigration purposes, both parties are at risk of serious criminal consequences. This is true for both parties whether they are U.S. citizens, lawful residents, or foreign citizens. Any effort to evade immigration laws through a sham marriage could lead to criminal consequences.
The maximum penalties for a marriage fraud conviction are steep. A federal judge could sentence both parties to up to five years in prison. What’s more, the offense carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
It is important to understand that an attempt at marriage fraud could result in other criminal charges—and the consequences that come with those convictions. For example, couples facing marriage fraud charges are also often implicated in other types of visa fraud. Multiple charges could result in additional penalties.
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In addition to criminal penalties, there are also significant consequences for a person’s immigration status following an act of marriage fraud. Marriage fraud could derail the immigration process entirely for the non-citizen spouse. For example, USCIS could deny an application for the adjustment of status (AOS) for a non-citizen who is already living in the United States. In some cases, this could result in deportation.
There are long term immigration consequences as well. USCIS could not only deny an application or refuse to adjust the status of a non-citizen. In some cases, USCIS could also deny subsequent visa petitions due to marriage fraud.
Discuss Allegations Of Marriage Fraud With An Attorney In Texas
Allegations of marriage fraud are serious. USCIS aggressively investigates these allegations, and the result of that investigation could lead to criminal charges. A conviction for marriage fraud can lead to as much as five years in prison, large fines, and the denial of a visa application.
Do not take the risk of facing these allegations alone. If you are under investigation for marriage fraud, now is the time to act. A Lewisville marriage fraud lawyer could assist you with protecting your rights. Call the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg today for your initial consultation.