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What Is Marriage Fraud and How USCIS Prevents It?

March 15, 2013

What Is Marriage Fraud and How Does the USCIS Operate to Prevent It?

Author: Immigration Attorney Alena Shautsova

Marriage fraud is any deceitful attempt to pass off a false marriage as bona fide. Examples of marriage fraud include the following:

  • Fraud rings that broker U.S. citizens into marriages with immigrants
  • Private exchanges of money between individuals for marriage to an immigrant
  • Friends who marry to help immigrant friends gain legal status

The only marriages that are legal for immigration purposes are when couples marry to live as husband and wife in a committed relationship.

One reason that marriage fraud may seem appealing is that an immigrant who has overstayed a visa has a chance of obtaining legal status by having a spouse petition through the automatic waiver of the ground of inadmissibility. Otherwise, anyone overstaying a visa by 180 days must wait three years before re-entry to the United States is legal. If overstaying a visa by a year or more, the wait is 10 years.

To prevent marriage fraud and other types of immigration fraud, the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) formed the Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) office. The FDNS works in collaboration with ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) to investigate potential marriage fraud cases. Prosecuting marriage fraud rings is top priority.

Agents look at the following as possible indications of marriage fraud:

  • Inconsistencies in a couple’s information about each other
  • Lack of documentation that shows couples are co-habiting as a married couple
  • Immigrants originating from countries well-known for marriage fraud
  • Rapid development of a romantic relationship

Other factors that complicate immigration through marriage are criminal histories, prior immigration court proceedings and immigration violations such as re-entering the country after a previous 180-day visa overstay.

When petitioning for immigration through marriage, consult a New York immigration lawyer for legal advice and assistance.

Category: USCIS