1. What is Marriage Fraud in Immigration Law?

One of the primary goals and underlying policy objectives of immigration law is to reunite families and keep families together. With familial relationships, based on blood ties (for example, parent/child, brother/sister), there is relatively little fraud. However, in the context of marriage-based immigration, there is greater room for, and risk of fraud.

Marriage Fraud is the idea that a couple would marry not for love, but to evade the immigration laws of the United States. In some marriage fraud cases, payment is exchanged, and the couple marries for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card for the foreign national spouse. Alternatively, one party may believe that the marriage is legitimate, but the other does not. Marriage fraud is also committed when the US citizen or lawful permanent resident marries someone as a favor. Marriage fraud is committed when one or both of the parties is marrying for a reason other than love.

The Immigration and Nationality Act contemplates marriage fraud and employs certain guardrails meant to prevent marriage fraud.

  1. Prevention of Marriage Fraud

Numerous checks are built into the marriage-based green card application process to check for marriage fraud. The couple must demonstrate, from the outset, that their marriage is ‘bona fide,’ or entered into in ‘good faith,’ essentially proving that their marriage is legitimate.

  1. Filing the I-130: In filing the I-130, which establishes the familial relationship, and forms the basis for the applicant’s green card application, the couple submits evidence to USCIS demonstrating that their marriage is bona fide. Common types of evidence include proof of cohabitation, the longevity of the relationship, joint children, joint property, proof of correspondence (if long distance is an issue), and co-mingling of property, to name a few.
  1. Attending the Green Card Interview: For adjustment of status cases, within the United States, both spouses must attend the green card interview. The officer will ask questions, review the I-130 evidence, and ‘size-up’ the relationship.
  1. Removal of Conditions (form I-751): The Immigration and Nationality Act outlines special procedures for applicants whose marriage is less than two years old. If your marriage is less than two years old on the day you become a lawful permanent resident, you will be given ‘conditional residency.’ This means that after two years of being a lawful permanent resident, you will have to file to ‘remove your conditions’ and prove to immigration, all over again, that your marriage is legitimate. The removal of conditions application must be jointly filed, by both spouses, unless an exception is present (death, divorce, abuse).

Please check out Marriage Fraud: Part II, for more information on ways to prevent and challenge an allegation of marriage fraud.

If you have been charged with marriage fraud, or are having trouble documenting your relationship, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in complex marriage-based green cards, including winning cases with allegations of fraud. Please feel free to call us at (510) 491-0291 to see how we can help!