What is a sham or fraudulent marriage?
One of the most common ways to obtain a “green card” is through a marriage for permanent residency. In contrast, Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”) Section 204(c) defines a “sham marriage” as a marriage that is entered into in order to evade U.S. immigration laws. Additionally, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), the highest administrative agency for interpreting and applying immigration laws, defines a sham marriage as a marriage which may comply with all formal requirements of the law but which the parties entered into with no intent to live together and which is designed to circumvent the immigration laws. Sham marriages are not recognized for immigration purposes.
Immigration authorities, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), takes marriage fraud very seriously and impose harsh immigration as well as criminal consequences on violators. This felony offense applies to both noncitizens and U.S. citizens who perpetrate this crime and carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Because the USCIS has a zero-tolerance policy towards sham or fraudulent marriages and the penalties involved are so severe, it is wise to consult an immigration attorney before filing an application for a green card through marriage for permanent residency.
The noncitizen and his or her spouse are initially required to submit documents demonstrating that the two are actually married and sharing a life together. These documents generally are those that demonstrate evidence of cohabitation, of raising children together, of commingling of finances, and of intimacy. Afterwards, the noncitizen—and sometimes the U.S. citizen spouse—will be asked to participate in an interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) officer domestically or a consular officer overseas to assess whether or not their marriage is genuine.
Factors the USCIS considers to be warning signs of a possible sham marriage include:
- Large disparity of age
- Inability of petitioner and beneficiary to speak each other’s language
- Vast difference in cultural and ethnic background
- Family and/or friends unaware of the marriage
- Marriage arranged by a third party
- Marriage contracted immediately following the beneficiary’s apprehension or receipt of notification to depart the United States
- Discrepancies in statements on questions for which a husband and wife should have common knowledge
- No cohabitation since marriage
- Beneficiary is a friend of the family
- Petitioner has filed previous petitions in behalf of aliens, especially prior alien spouses
Our legal team understands that this interview can be intimidating for applicants, and we want to make sure you and your spouse feel prepared every step of the way. A proper marriage should be celebrated as one of the most joyous and memorable experiences of your life. Don’t let fear of immigration consequences loom large on your big day.
Why Having an Immigration Attorney is Crucial
The immigration process is complicated, and individuals who attempt to take on immigration law alone have the potential to harm their case. An experienced immigration attorney can guide you through the application process and help you gather the necessary evidence and documentation related to your case. Having an attorney on your side can increase the chances of getting your waiver application approved.
If you or a loved one needs assistance with immigration waivers, our team of experienced immigration lawyers can help. Contact Yekrangi & Associates at (949) 478-4963 for more information about how we can help you with all your immigration needs.