Many individuals want to enter the U.S. and eventually become citizens. After all, the country is branded as the land of opportunity. So people from several countries come to the U.S. in the hopes of changing their lives for the better.
But entering the country isn’t always easy. Many people enter illegally. Others do enter legally but end up overstaying their visas and becoming undocumented immigrants.
One way for a foreigner to get to stay in the U.S. legally and eventually apply for citizenship is by marrying a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. This marriage becomes the key for an immigrant to get a green card.
Unfortunately, some immigrants use marriage for the sole purpose of evading immigration laws. This scheme is otherwise known as marriage fraud. And it’s quite common that one might think. In 2019, 96 individuals in Houston were charged with marriage fraud, all of whom were involved in a large-scale marriage fraud scheme.
A married couple with one immigrant spouse must go through an adjustment of status review. An immigrant officer will interview the couple. And if they feel like the marriage is fraudulent, the couple will have to go through a fraud interview.
Penalties of Marriage Fraud
If both individuals in a sham marriage are proven to have conspired, both will be penalized.
The immigrant will likely have their visa revoked and then be deported. They will also risk their chance to reapply for a visa or a green card in the future. There are criminal penalties as well since marriage fraud is a federal crime. The immigrant can either go to prison for up to five years, pay a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Though in most cases, they’ll be eligible for U.S. immigration bail.
The U.S. citizen spouse will also face jail time if they’re proven to have actively participated in the fraud. Otherwise, they won’t be penalized. Meanwhile, if the other person in the marriage is a permanent resident and is proven guilty of marriage fraud, they can be deported.
Being accused of fraudulent marriage is very stressful. But there are ways for married couples to prove that their marriages are real and that they tied the knot for genuine reasons and not to scam the government.
What to Do in a Fraud Interview
A couple scheduled for a fraud interview should come prepared. They should dress appropriately for the interview. They can wear something a little more formal to exude credibility.
Also, before the interview day, the couple can go online to find a list of sample interview questions. There’s no assurance that any of the questions will be asked during the interview. And it’s not always a good idea to rehearse a script for the interview since it may be perceived as a pretense. But looking at the sample questions can help the couple get a grasp of the possible questions. The questions may also help them ease their nerves since they
As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. Couples who go to a fraud interview should be honest in answering the immigration officer’s questions. If they lie, the officer will know. Immigration officials are trained to detect deception. And when they catch lies, the suspicion of a sham marriage will intensify and will not benefit the married couples being interrogated.
Evidence is another thing that married couples must prepare before going to a fraud interview. These pieces of evidence may include the following: visa documents of the immigrant spouse, marriage certificates, birth certificates, and utility bills that reflect the couples’ addresses and names.
Immigration officials may be ticked off if an immigrant individual and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident got married even though they only knew each other for a short time. So to prove the legitimacy of their marriage, couples should consider presenting photo evidence. For example, if a couple went on trips before getting married, they can present photos. Wedding photos will also be helpful.
Testimonies from friends and family may also help in proving the legitimacy of a marriage.
Get Legal Help
An immigration attorney will be invaluable to a couple accused of marriage fraud. The legal counsel can guide them through the investigation and teach them what to do and what not to do.
A sham marriage is a crime. So being accused of it is a big deal. But as long as a couple knows that their marriage is genuine and lawful, they will be able to overcome the trouble.