For some immigrants, the idea of marrying an American citizen to gain legal status within the U.S. is a tempting idea – some will even go so far as to commit marriage fraud. Marriage fraud is the act of engaging in a fraudulent marriage, usually by bribing an individual with money to get them to agree to the marriage, for the purpose of gaining U.S. lawful permanent residence. The following reviews what constitutes an authentic marriage in the U.S., and what the penalties for committing marriage fraud are. If you’re facing penalties for marriage fraud in Boston, the immigration attorneys at Goldstein Immigration Lawyers can help.
What is a valid marriage under U.S. immigration law?
According to a Policy Manual on U.S. citizenship and naturalization published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a valid marriage under federal immigration law is typically a marriage that is considered to be valid in the jurisdiction in which the marriage takes place. In other words, the federal government defers to state law when determining the constitutionality of a marriage. In Massachusetts, then, a marriage is typically considered valid if it is not bigamous, does not involve a minor, and was not coerced.
What’s more, federal law also stipulates that a marriage ceremony is not enough for a marriage to be considered lawful, and therefore grounds for obtaining lawful permanent residence. Instead, a person who is applying for naturalization on the basis of marriage must “live in marital union” with their citizen spouse. Traditionally, a union between an immigrant and a U.S. citizen will be recognized as legitimate unless proven otherwise. However, the USCIS is very skilled when it comes to detecting false marriages, and those who are applying for legal status based on marriage will have to answer a number of questions, and a thorough investigation will ensue.
Penalties for Fraudulent Marriage in the U.S.
In the event that a fraudulent marriage is committed and discovered by the USCIS, the penalties are steep. The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act details that anyone who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any immigration law will be subject to a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. And, both the foreign nationals and the U.S. citizens who participate in marriage fraud can be held culpable for the crime. According to a November 2014 article published by WBTW News 13, which quotes Supervisor Special Agent Adam Parks, the reason for the steep penalties for committing marriage fraud may be in place as a deterrent for terrorists who are attempting to enter the U.S.
Talk to an Attorney Now if You’re Facing Marriage Fraud Charges
Marriage fraud is an extremely serious charge. If you have fears about facing charges for marriage fraud, contact the Boston immigration attorneys at Goldstein Immigration Lawyers now. We can provide you with the legal backing and defense you need to understand your rights and options as an immigrant to the U.S. To learn more, call us today at 617-722-0005.