Obtaining a marriage visa is a popular method that non-citizens use to remain in the U.S. A U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) can sponsor a spouse to obtain a marriage visa. However, failure to meet specific requirements can result in allegations of marriage fraud under immigration law.
It’s crucial to understand that marriage fraud is a federal crime that can subject you to severe legal consequences. A Richardson marriage fraud lawyer at the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg can help defend you against marital fraud charges, appeal a denied claim for a green card, and work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible.
What Is Marriage Fraud?
Fraudulent or “sham” marriages are typically arranged to circumvent immigration laws in the U.S. Under 8 USC §1154, bona fide marriages involving one non-citizen require more than a ceremony and wedding certificate—the married couple must intend to live and build a life together in a genuine marital relationship.
A marriage may also be invalid if it isn’t legally binding. This might be the case if, for example, one partner is already married to another individual. For the marriage to be valid, they must file for and complete a lawful divorce from their previous spouse.
Furthermore, applying for a green card or permanent residence in the U.S. based on a sham marriage constitutes marriage fraud. Examples include the following:
- A foreign national non-citizen residing in the United States pays a fee or fulfills a favor for a U.S. citizen in exchange for marrying them.
- A “Mail-order” marriage (i.e., a marriage where a foreign national outside of the United States marries a U.S. citizen and one or both of them knows it is fraudulent)
- A foreign national scams a U.S. citizen, making them believe the marriage is legitimate when it isn’t.
Potential Consequences Of Marriage Fraud In Richardson
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) states that an individual found guilty of marriage fraud can expect penalties of up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. These penalties can apply to both the U.S. citizen and the foreign national involved in the fraud.
In addition to a marriage fraud charge, the involved individuals may also be charged with conspiracy, harboring an alien, and visa fraud—and each offense can add to total prison time and fines.
What Constitutes An Authentic Marriage, And How Does The Government Detect Marriage Fraud?
Numerous characteristics and circumstances can provide evidence that a marriage is valid. But because marital relationships can vary widely, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) doesn’t keep an exclusive description of what constitutes an “authentic” marriage. However, genuine marriages tend to share key features.
Married couples typically:
- Live together
- Engage in sexual relations
- Have or plan on having children
- Speak the same language
- Have compatible belief systems
- Enjoy similar activities
- Have mutual friends
- Share bank accounts
- Receive joint loans/mortgages
If U.S. immigration officials suspect marriage fraud, they may require applicants to produce relevant documentation, such as bank statements and leases, to prove their marriage is not a sham. Officials may also conduct thorough personal interviews and inspections. The current system for fraud detection is effective and run by experts who cross-check facts and dates given in an immigrant’s testimony and their application forms.
Most allegations and charges of marriage fraud can be prevented by accurately filling out the relevant forms at the start of the immigration process. Nonetheless, the USCIS is not perfect and may at times incorrectly deem a legitimate marriage to be fraudulent. This may result from erroneous or poorly filled-out paperwork or inconsistencies emerging during an interview with immigration officials.
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Defending Against Marriage Fraud Charges In Richardson
If the USCIS incorrectly determined that your marriage is fraudulent, you may face criminal charges and possible deportation. However, you can also defend yourself against these charges. To successfully prosecute the charges levied against you, the USCIS must provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that your marriage to your spouse is fraudulent.
In so doing, the USCIS must conduct a new investigation. You and your spouse must prove that your marriage is genuine. We encourage you to hire a Richardson marriage fraud attorney to assist you and your spouse in gathering and presenting evidence and building a solid defense.
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Presenting Evidence For Your Defense
If your marriage to your spouse was, in fact, partially, but not wholly, motivated by reasons related to immigration, it is not necessarily fraudulent. A Richardson marriage fraud lawyer can help you prove that although immigration was a factor, you and your spouse intended to establish an authentic married life together after the marriage was finalized.
Again, the USCIS must scrutinize many factors to adequately judge whether a marriage is legitimate. Your Richardson marriage fraud attorney can help you collect the following sources of evidence to prove your marriage is authentic:
- Joint bank statements
- Legal records demonstrating joint ownership of business assets and properties
- Documentation that proves that you and your spouse have shared a residence for an extended time
- Affidavits from friends, family, or third parties confirming that your marriage is genuine
- Photographic and video evidence of your courtship, wedding, family gatherings, shared experiences, vacations, etc.
- Birth or adoption certificates of your children
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Start Working With A Richardson Marriage Fraud Lawyer Today
If you and your spouse have been charged with marriage fraud and are facing serious legal ramifications and potential deportation, a Richardson marriage fraud attorney can help protect your rights and best interests. Contact the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg today for a free, confidential case review.