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What is a Fraudulent Marriage?

In April 2017, federal prosecutors charged 27 Florida residents with participation in a marriage fraud ring. Allegedly, these individuals were charging immigrants large sums of money to travel to the United States to marry citizens and gain a quicker path to citizenship.

It is not illegal for an individual from another country to marry American citizens and apply for citizenship. Many happy marriages begin this way. But it is illegal to marry an American citizen strictly for the privilege of applying for citizenship sooner than one would otherwise be able to. This is known as marriage fraud. If you suspect your spouse only married you for the citizenship benefits, speak with an experienced divorce lawyer to determine your right to an annulment or a divorce.

Characteristics of Fraudulent Marriages

When an individual applies for a visa or green card through his or her marriage, the application is processed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A marriage may be flagged as potentially being fraudulent if it appears that the couple is not building a genuine relationship and rather, the marriage is strictly one of convenience or benefit. A few characteristics of fraudulent marriages include:

  • A history of fraud in one or both parties;
  • The couple residing at different addresses;
  • No common language between the spouses;
  • A significant age, education, or socioeconomic gap;
  • A history of marrying immigrants and applying for their citizenship on the part of the American spouse; and
  • A very short period of time between meeting and getting married.

What Happens to an Immigrant Found Guilty of Marriage Fraud?

At the very least, the immigrant’s visa is most likely revoked and he or she is generally deported from the United States. Being found guilty of marriage fraud makes it impossible for a deported individual to enter the United States again or be approved for another visa. Attempting to reenter the country after being deported is a criminal offense.

What Happens to an American Spouse Complicit in Marriage Fraud?

There are criminal penalties for American spouses complicit in fraudulent marriages, as well. Any individual who enters a fraudulent marriage in an attempt to circumvent United States immigration law, whether he or she is a citizen, a permanent resident of the country, or in the country on a visa can face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

If the American spouse is not a citizen, but a lawful permanent resident, he or she may be removed from the country.

Work with an Experienced La Crosse Divorce Lawyer

You have the right to file for divorce if you feel your marriage is somehow fraudulent. To learn more about your rights as a marriage fraud victim and what you can do if you are accused of committing marriage fraud, contact our team of experienced divorce lawyers at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. today to set up your initial consultation in our office.

Published June 28, 2017
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