What is marriage fraud?
Marriage fraud includes the payment to a United States citizen to marry a foreign national, a mail order marriage where the United States citizen or alien knowingly commits fraud, a visa lottery fraudulent marriage or a foreign national marriage to a U.S. citizen who believes the marriage is legitimate.
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) consider marriage fraud a threat to the national security of the United States, its financial institutions and the immigration system. Marriage fraud is not a small matter; in fact, committing marriage fraud is a crime. It can be a felony and perpetrators can face severe criminal penalties including fines and imprisonment.
Penalties for marriage fraud - If you have committed marriage fraud, which is the entering into of a marriage with the goal of evading immigration law, you may be charged with a felony which can include penalties of up to 5 years in prison and payment of a $250,000 fine. You may be charged whether you are a United States citizen or a foreign national. Additional charges may also be filed against you including harboring an alien, visa fraud, conspiracy and making false statements.
Why is marriage fraud such a serious crime?
Those who commit marriage fraud may simply be two people who are trying to get into the United States as quickly as possible. They may also be two friends trying to help each other. Unfortunately, other perpetrators are part of what Homeland Security has determined are "massive schemes that involve complex criminal organizations." It’s not unusual for some terroristic organizations to use United States citizens to help them enter the United States illegal.
Marriage fraud allows them easy access to the United States where they can more easily, according to the ICE, "hide their identity, gain unlawful employment, access government buildings, and open bank accounts and businesses to conduct further criminal activity." Because marriage fraud can be used to aid terrorists and other criminal organizations, it is considered a very serious offense.
What do I do if I have been charged with marriage fraud?
If you have been charged with marriage fraud it is time to contact a defense lawyer. Marriage fraud is a federal charge and is punishable under INA §204(c)(1) and the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986. As mentioned above, if you are convicted of marriage fraud you could face a fine of up to $250,000, up to five years in federal prison, a permanent bar against immigrating to the United States in the future and immediate deportation.
In some marriage fraud cases only one party may have committed the illegal action. In that case the innocent party may file a lawsuit and/or annulment of the marriage. If you decide to hire a defense lawyer they can help you compile documentation, gather witnesses, evaluate ethnic customs and traditions and educate the investigator or prosecutor.
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