The U.S. Department of Naturalization and Immigration Service (INS) is cracking down on suspected fake immigrant marriages to help suppress the tide of fraudulent visas. Those seeking U.S. citizenship can reduce their wait time for a visa from about five years to just three months if they marry an American citizen, making phony immigrant marriages an attractive solution for aliens.
Couples can be charged with marriage fraud if they entered into a marriage for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws. Marriage fraud is a federal crime and can carry a prison sentence of as much as five years and fines as high as $250,000. The penalties can apply to both the foreign-born person and the U.S. citizen who participate in the crime.
Reasons ICE may initiate a marriage fraud investigation
A few red flags can draw the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to a marriage and increase the likelihood of a marriage fraud investigation.
- Married partners who do not reside at the same address will almost certainly cause ICE to question the legitimacy of their marriage.
- If the spouses do not share a common language, it could appear they do not actually have a strong relationship.
- If a U.S. citizen has multiple marriages to immigrants who later became citizens, this may raise a “red flag” with ICE and result in an investigation.
Other factors that may raise red flags with ICE are a significant difference in education, social class, career level, or two people who married after knowing one another for a very short time.
Types of marriage fraud
The department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement considers marriage fraud a threat to national security, government agencies, financial institutions, and an act that compromises the integrity of the U.S. immigration system. Some marriage fraud schemes involve criminal organizations that operate globally. Marriage fraud may occur if a U.S. citizen accepts money to marry a foreign national or marries as a favor to assist with the naturalization process. Other types of marriage fraud ICE investigates and prosecutes include mail order marriages where one or both parties know the marriage is a fraud, and when a foreign national defrauds a U.S. citizen into a fraudulent marriage they believe is legitimate. An experienced Chicago immigration attorney can advise people being investigated by ICE and help prove they are not married just to avoid U.S. immigration laws.