Question: I am a U.S. citizen. My friend does not have legal immigration status and is worried about getting deported. We do not have a romantic relationship, but she suggested we get married so that she can obtain a green card. Can I get married to her just to help her get a green card?
Answer: If USCIS discovers that you have entered into a marriage for the purpose of evading immigration laws, you may face numerous consequences, including imprisonment and monetary fines. You will also be barred from submitting other immigration applications in the future.
Types of marriage immigration fraud
There are several types of immigration marriage fraud. Examples of immigration marriage fraud include:
- A non-citizen pays a U.S. citizen to marry him or her.
- A U.S. citizen offers to marry a non-citizen friend as a favor even though the two are not actually in a relationship.
- A non-citizen defrauds a U.S. citizen who thinks the marriage is legitimate, while the immigrant knows that it is not.
Criminal consequences of immigration marriage fraud
Immigration fraud is a federal crime. There are several potential criminal penalties for committing immigration marriage fraud. Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act, those who commit fraud to obtain a marriage green card face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Further, a person who commits marriage fraud can be federally charged with harboring an alien, visa fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements. Each of these charges carries additional prison sentences and financial penalties.
Administrative consequences of immigration marriage fraud
In addition to criminal penalties, there are administrative consequences for committing immigration marriage fraud. A non-citizen who commits immigration marriage fraud will have restrictions imposed on his or her further eligibility for obtaining a U.S. green card. And if evidence of fraud surfaces after a person obtains citizenship, then the authorities will likely revoke his or her citizenship.
Identifying marriage fraud
USCIS is very good at detecting immigration fraud. When reviewing a marriage green card application, USCIS officials conduct background checks on the applicants. They also observe the applicants’ behavior at an in-person interview. Some of the things that immigration officials review when determining whether a marriage is legitimate are:
- Whether the couple has lived together and for how long;
- Whether the couple has gone on a vacation or celebrated important events together;
- The couple’s financial records;
- Whether the couple have a shared language;
- Whether the couple has children or plans to have them;
- Whether the couple shares any assets; and
- Whether the couple has any marital problems.
If USCIS suspects a marriage may be fraudulent, USCIS officers may visit the applicants’ residence to confirm whether the spouses are actually living together.
Can a lawyer help me with a fake green card marriage?
If a lawyer knowingly assists a person in preparing a fake marriage green card application, then the lawyer risks disbarment, jail time, and fines. If USCIS suspects that a lawyer is helping clients with fake marriage green card applications, USCIS will monitor that lawyer’s filings and can reopen previous cases that the lawyer has submitted. Moreover, if a lawyer is willing to cheat the government and risk losing his or her law license, then the lawyer is probably more than willing to cheat his or her clients as well. Therefore, if an attorney recommends you to commit fraud to obtain a green card, then you need a new attorney.
ImmiFree.Law is The Harrison Law Firm P.C.’s online platform to make the family immigration and naturalization process more efficient, accurate, and affordable. Baya Harrison, Esq. is an attorney licensed in New York, Florida, and California. Attorney Harrison has helped numerous individuals and families navigate the U.S. immigration process, specifically family-based petitions and naturalization.