The U.S. has strict immigration laws to protect our country’s citizens, residents, and visitors. As a result, many people apply for visas and permanent resident status to attend school, work and build a life here. But those not granted permission to legally live in the U.S. may find other ways to bypass the system.
You deserve representation if you are being investigated for or charged with marriage fraud for immigration purposes. A Southlake marriage fraud lawyer from the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg can help.
What Is Marriage Fraud?
Marriage fraud occurs when a citizen and a foreign national marries so the foreign national can get a green card. Getting a permanent resident status is simplified and expedited when a foreign national marries a citizen, and the government considers marriage fraud to be taking advantage of that privilege.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) take marriage fraud seriously. Also known as a “sham marriage,” a fraudulent marriage is considered a felony offense because of the physical and fiscal danger of these situations. In addition, it is a matter of national security and threatens a citizen’s and a foreign national’s financial and physical safety.
Marriage fraud occurs when:
- Both parties know the marriage is for immigration purposes
- Only the U.S. citizen knows the marriage is for immigration purposes
- Only the foreign national knows the marriage is for immigration purposes
- A third party arranges the marriage for the foreign national’s immigration status.
Examples Of Marriage Fraud
According to ICE, there are three common types of marriage fraud:
- “Mail-order” marriages are where one party knows the marriage is illegitimate. They are called “mail-order” marriages because there is usually an online service that “matchmakes” citizens to marry and move to the U.S., often under false or illegal pretenses.
- A U.S. citizen is paid or offered a favor to marry a foreign national. A third party can often be involved in “matchmaking” or facilitating marriage documents.
- A foreign national marries a citizen who believes the marriage to be legitimate for adjusting their immigration status.
Some other examples of marriage fraud include:
- A spouse who lies about still being legally married to another
- A spouse who did not know they were still legally married to another when they married again
- A couple who believes their marriage to be legitimate, but the legal documentation is fake
An attorney can investigate the circumstances, gather evidence, and build a defense on your behalf.
Marriage Fraud Investigations
USCIS and ICE may call your marriage into question at any point during your green card application process, during your two-year trial period, and when applying for the 10-year green card. Some reasons why these government agencies might investigate your marriage for fraud, include:
- You got married to help someone get their green card. Federal courts maintain that permanent resident status can be a partial reason for a citizen and alien to marry, but cannot be the primary reason.
- Your spouse knew the marriage was fraudulent. Even if you entered your marriage with love and intent to build a life with this person, your marriage could still be fraudulent if the other person did it for immigration reasons.
- You or your partner were still legally married to someone else. Maybe your spouse’s divorce was not finalized or granted. This can happen to either party.
- The circumstances of your marriage seem suspect. Even if you and your spouse married to build a life together, USCIS or ICE may see discrepancies between your interview, application, and information from friends and family.
- You are getting divorced. Ending your marriage can be a challenging and painful decision. However, USCIS or ICE may see divorce as a sign of marriage fraud because you never intended to stay together after the resident status was granted.
Evidence Of A Legitimate Marriage
The USCIS and ICE typically look for proof of the following characteristics to ensure a marriage is legitimate:
- A history of a romantic relationship
- Shared language and religion
- Shared children
- Shared finances, accounts, and property
- A history of living together
Both agencies recognize that not all marriages meet all these criteria. For instance, you and your spouse may have never lived together because they were not granted a visa to live in the U.S., or you do not have children with your spouse. However, because you do not meet their criteria does not mean your marriage is fraudulent, and we will work hard to gather evidence proving your case.
Penalties Of A Marriage Fraud Conviction
Marriage fraud is a felony charge. That means anyone convicted of this crime can face prison time and fines.
U.S. citizens convicted could get:
- Up to 5 years in prison
- Up to $250,000 in fines
Foreign nationals convicted face:
- Up to 5 years in prison
- Up to $250,000 in fines
- Deportation (if currently residing in the U.S.)
- Denial for permanent resident status
- Denials for future immigration petitions
A lawyer can build a case in your defense and fight for a just sentence.
What To Do If You Are Being Investigated For Or Charged With Marriage Fraud In Texas
If at any point in your immigration process, you or your spouse are investigated or charged with marriage fraud, you should speak with a marriage fraud lawyer.
An immigration lawyer can help you navigate the immigration process, including your petition, gathering evidence, and preparing for interviews. But a defense lawyer is better equipped to:
- Gather evidence that proves your marriage is legitimate or that you were wronged
- Review your interviews and petitions to identify opportunities to dispute claims
- Help you collect more evidence and document your valid relationship
- Represent you in hearings and preserve your right to a fair trial
- Fight for a just sentence in a conviction
What If I Am The Victim Of Marriage Fraud?
If you believe your spouse entered your marriage for immigration purposes, consult with a marriage fraud lawyer immediately. We can review claims, gather evidence, help you report this to USCIS, and work on building a defense case for you.
Speak To A Southlake Marriage Fraud Attorney About Your Case Today
At the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of the accused. We work hard to provide a thorough, effective, compassionate legal representation. Our founding attorney, Randy Isenberg, has 30 years of legal experience and has served on both sides of the bench, including prior appointments as a State District Trial Judge and Senior Chief Felony Prosecutor.
Contact a Southlake marriage fraud lawyer from our office today about your case.