What to do if Suspected of Marriage Fraud
If you and your current or future spouse are dealing with immigration issues as you start your new marriage, you may find yourself involved with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS. Even genuine marriages are sometimes investigated for “marriage fraud,” where a sham marriage is used to circumvent federal law. You should understand what will be involved in protecting your genuine marriage from being improperly termed as marriage fraud, which carries steep penalties.
Marriage Fraud is Prosecuted
Earlier this year in Miami, 27 South Floridians were accused of participating in a “marriage fraud ring” intended to legalize immigrants through fake marriages with United States citizens. Prosecutors claim that immigrants from a wide range of countries, including Argentina, the Ukraine, Colombia, Moldova, Israel, and Venezuela, paid thousands of dollars to two individuals for the service, participated in a “sham wedding,” and attempted to become residents and ultimately citizens, through fraud.
The ringleaders are accused of pretending to be lawyers, falsely notarizing documents, completing immigration paperwork, and preparing the paired immigrants and citizens for interviews with the USCIS. Both the immigrants and the citizens they married were criminally charged in federal court for conspiring with the ringleaders.
In their attempts to catch sham marriages, however, the USCIS can cast their nets too broadly. This time last year, charges were dropped against one couple accused of marriage fraud after they were arrested in their marital bed. Prosecutors tried to claim that they lied to immigration officials about their relationship, but were unable to prove any of the accusations. Charges were also dropped against another couple accused of marriage fraud because the individual was married the day his divorce was finalized. An experienced marriage fraud attorney can successfully help you defend your marriage.
What to Expect from the Marriage Fraud Investigation Process
At the initial stages of gaining citizenship by marriage, the USCIS demands more detailed documentation and more personal interviews than other means of gaining citizenship. Further, a two-year probationary period is required for couples with less than two years of marriage when a green card is approved. If you are called in for a “fraud interview,” it is a sign that your application has been identified as potentially fraudulent. At that point, you should retain an experienced immigration attorney to help you prepare for the interview and understand the process. The fraud interviewer will speak to you and your spouse in separate rooms and ask you the same list of questions. They will be examining your answers for inconsistencies with each other and with your application documentation.
The questions can include factors such as how often you text one another, minute details about your wedding, how you celebrate holidays, how you divide finances, and which family members you each have met. If you haven’t discussed these details with the assistance of an experienced marriage fraud attorney, it can be easy for misremembered details or mistakes to be taken as fraud. Beyond the initial approval process, the USCIS can investigate a couple’s marriage if it suspects it to be a fraud. They can perform home visits and even interview friends and employers. Typically, they look for factors such as a shared language, shared activities, shared living spaces, combined finances, and children.
If you and your spouse are charged with marriage fraud, seek the advice of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, contact Julia Kefalinos law office in Miami at (305) 856-2713 for a consultation and advice on this process.