What happens to immigrants who commit marriage fraud? Folks who enter into a sham marriage as a means of gaining U.S. permanent residence (to obtain green card). The relevant law states that perpetrators can face prison, a fine, or both, as follows:Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both (I.N.A. § 275(c); 8 U.S.C. § 1325(c)).
A U.S. citizen or resident spouse could also face criminal prosecution, including fines or imprisonment, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. They are can be prosecuted for either criminal conspiracy (conspiring with the immigrant is enough; see U.S. v. Vickerage, 921 F.2d 143 (8th Cir. 1990)), or, if the facts support is, for establishing a “commercial enterprise” to get people green cards (see I.N.A. § 275(d); 8 U.S.C. § 1325(d)).
How these penalties are applied depends on the specifics of each case. The government seeks the highest penalties for U.S. citizens or residents engaged in major conspiracy operations, such as systematically arranging fraudulent marriages. Even the faux husband & wife team who participates in marriage fraud can count on punishment generally but not always. Investigating sham marriages is a top enforcement priority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If the immigrants are not prosecuted criminally, they will in all likelihood simply be deported (removed) and never allowed to return to the United States — not even if they later enter into a real marriage with a U.S. citizen.
When U.S. immigration authorities have doubts about whether the marriage that you’re using as the basis to apply for a green card is a real one, they will call in the immigrant and his or her spouse for what’s called a fraud interview (or a Stokes interview). The purpose is to provide them an opportunity to ask questions about your marriage, to see if they can detect a sham arrangement to get you lawful permanent residence.
These interviews are usually held only in the United States. If the immigrant is overseas, your U.S. fiancé or spouse will have to attend the interview alone. If you are applying within the United States, however, USCIS will no doubt call both of you in for the fraud interview.
There are different times during the application process when USCIS may require a fraud interview. These include after the petitioning spouse files the initial visa petition (Form I-129F for fiancés or Form I-130 for spouses) and after your USCIS or consular interview for a green card or visa.
If you have not reached your second wedding anniversary by the time you are approved for a green card or enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa, you will receive what’s called conditional residency, which lasts for two years. A fraud interview can be scheduled during or at the expiration of that time.
Being called for a fraud interview is usually because the Government has some indication of fraud. It means that your application has been identified because it misses facts that would prove a real marriage, contains some inconsistencies, or presents grounds for suspicion. If your marriage real then prepare to show the government that.
The Fraud Interview
A USCIS officer puts you and your spouse in separate rooms and asks each of you an identical set of questions. Later, the officer compares your answers to see whether they match up. If you are called for a fraud interview in the United States, you can count on experiencing this type of format.
If you are applying from overseas, the USCIS officer in the United States will probably not be able to interview you — and will have to settle for speaking to your fiancé or spouse alone. In that case, the officer will want to hear your fiancé or spouse give a realistic account of the development of your relationship. The officer will also try to spot any inconsistencies within your U.S. fiancé or spouse’s story or between his or her story and the application forms and documents.
The person who attends the interview should be ready for any and all types of questions, from what you gave each other for recent holiday gifts to the form of contraceptive (birth control) you use, if any. The questions vary among different officers and different years.
Sec. 275. [8 U.S.C. 1325]
(a) Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
(b) 1/ Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to enter) the United States at a time or place other than as designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil penalty of-
(1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or attempted entry); or
(2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under this subsection.
Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be imposed.
(c) An individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.
18 U.S. Code § 1546 – Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents
(b) Whoever uses—
(1) an identification document, knowing (or having reason to know) that the document was not issued lawfully for the use of the possessor,
(2) an identification document knowing (or having reason to know) that the document is false, or
(3) a false attestation,
for the purpose of satisfying a requirement of section 274A(b) of the Immigration and
Nationality Act, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
Applicants often get advance notice of a fraud interview.
Before you and your spouse get called in for a interview you should consult and hire a attorney. You can consult with an attorney before interview so they can better advise as to what the Immigration officers may be looking for. At the interview the lawyer does not answer the questions for you, you are required to answer. If the interview does not go well, he or she will be better prepared to deal with any follow-up matters. If you need an attorney to consult with a lawyer before a Immigration Marriage Fraud interview, call or contact the law offices of Darren D. Shull, P.A. Darren Shull practices in both State & Federal Courts.
Spanish and French language services are available.