United States Marriage Fraud Law
One of the quickest ways to adjust one’s status in the United States is through a lawful marriage to a U.S. citizen. As a result, the Immigration Service saw many sham or business marriages. To protect the agency and the country from fraudulent applications and marriages, Congress passed Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986.
Marriage now results in conditional residence status unless it is more than two years old at the time of granting the immigrant status. Two year period is measured from the time residency is granted. Conditional residence status may be terminated if before the second anniversary of the grant of conditional residence, the Immigration Service determines: 1) marriage was judicially terminated, such as a divorce, or 2) marriage was entered into to gain an immigration benefit, or 3) the couple failed to petition (Form I-751) the Immigration Service to remove conditions within 90 days prior to second anniversary of conditional residence or the couple failed to attend their interview, unless the non-citizen has filed Form I-751 seeking a waiver of the joint filing requirement. Conditional residence becomes permanent residence after second anniversary of status if it is not terminated for any of the above reasons.
Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act covers spouses, children of spouses, and K visa fiancés.
If the Immigration Service suspects that an alien has entered into a sham marriage, that alien is subject to removal from the United States. For that to happen, the marriage must be fraudulent at its inception or from the very beginning.
To determine whether the marriage was fraudulent at inception, the Immigration Service looks at several factors. The question that becomes relevant is: did the bride and groom intend to establish a life together? The government looks at the subjective state of mind. However objective factors are also considered. The conduct of parties before and after the marriage is relevant. To prove validity of the marriage, the couple must present evidence which may include, but is not limited to, insurance policies, property, leases, income tax, bank accounts, etc. Additionally, the couple must be consistent in its answers to the immigration officer.
If the Immigration Service makes a final determination that an alien entered into a marriage for the sole purpose of gaining an immigration benefit, then that becomes a permanent bar to approval of any subsequent immigrant visa petitions.
Marriage fraud is a serious crime that carries with it a severe monetary penalty and even possible jail time for the citizen spouse. For the alien spouse, a determination of a sham marriage means a possibility of never becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident in the United States and an imminent removal.