Marriage Fraud To Get Green Card In Exchange For Money
Entering a sham marriage to get a green card is a bad Idea. I’m sure you already know this but so many people continue to do it thinking that they can outsmart the USCIS. So, to my surprise I found an ad on Craigslist claiming to offer marriage to a US citizen in exchange for money. This is blatant immigration fraud being committed by a US citizen for their own benefit.
Since Trump came into office many immigrants in the US are desperate to gain legal status in this country to avoid being deported and separated from their families. This fear is understandable especially since our immigration system doesn’t make it easy for those who didn’t enter the country legally.
The sad fact is that scammers know this and take advantage of this fear for financial gain Often times, after the undocumented immigrant pays the ransom, they ultimately get denied the green card. Sometimes this can be due to the scammer backing out of the deal or because of other inadmissibility issues that come up during the application process.
Think it’ll be easy scam an immigration officer? Think again! They have been trained to spot immigration fraud and do it for a living. Getting caught can mean a lifetime bar from the United States and possibly criminal conviction.
So, what can an immigrant do to protect themselves from falling victim to these types of scams? Know your legal rights when it comes to US immigration. That’s it. If you’re found to have knowingly entered a sham marriage you can kiss your future legal status goodbye. It’s just not worth the risk, especially with the amount of hate and fear in the US towards undocumented immigrants.
USCIS doesn’t take kindly to anyone, whether citizen or not, who misrepresents their true intentions.
In 2004, USCIS charged and convicted four Kenyan nationals living in Houston for marriage fraud, visa fraud and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. They were all sentences to between 6 months and 16 months of prison time as well as stripping them of their fraudulently acquired US citizenship through naturalization.
What these four scammers did was pay US citizens to enter a fake marriage so that they could apply for a green card. Initially, they entered the US on a student visa and then adjusted their status through marriage. One of the defendants was denied the student visa and flew an American to Kenya for a fake wedding ceremony to apply for the CR1 visa.
Now, the American women that married these men in exchange for money were not innocent. They knew what they were doing and were willing to lie to immigration officials so they could get paid.
Exactly how much did these women get paid to get married? $5,000 each. Not bad for a trip to the courthouse, right?
So, how exactly did USCIS uncover this fraud? Two women were detained and questioned at a US passport office because their answers were inconsistent with what they told officials. One woman claimed she was “going to Africa to see the animals” yet didn’t know which country she was headed to.
After further questions, they both admitted they had been paid to travel to Kenya to marry foreigners in exchange for money.
Read more about this case here.
USCIS Red Flags Of Marriage Fraud
- You and your spouse have no shared language.
When I say no shared language, I mean that you have no way to communicate with each other without someone being an interpreter. Relationships are usually built on communication, shared thoughts, and experiences. If this is lacking, USCIS will wonder what the reason for your relationship is.
Now, it’s another thing all together if the immigrant knows some English to be able to communicate with the American. You may be able to prove that you both are overcoming the language barrier by showing that you are learning each other language to better communicate with each other.
- There is a big age difference between you.
Age is nothing but a number, right? Wrong. When it comes to immigration, USCIS is quick to question your true intentions if there is a large age gap of over 20 years between the two of you. Sometimes if the woman is much older and can no longer have children and the man is in his 20s and from a country where having children is the norm, this is unusual and will be an issue.
You can certainly try to explain to USCIS that it really doesn’t matter to either of you and that you just want to be together, but it’ll be difficult.
- You worship different gods.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal unless the religions clash a lot. For example: you are a christian man marrying a Muslim woman. In Islam, the woman cannot marry a “non believer” and the man would need to convert. Remember, the US consulates are located in the foreign country and understand these rules and customs.
How did you get married? Was it a religious ceremony? Did the immigrants family approve of the marriage? These are some questions that may come up so make sure you have a good answer (of course you should always tell the truth).
- You are from two different racial groups.
Again, in most western countries this isn’t a problem at all. But if you don’t share basic characteristics in some foreign countries, this is looked down on.
Some countries prefer to keep their race “pure” by not marrying outside the race so if that’s the case in the beneficiary’s country you’ll need to show that you marriage is real and not for immigration purposes.
- Not living together or living in two different locations.
This is common sense for most people but USCIS expects you to live together after marriage. If you decide to live apart, it’ll be hard to prove that you entered the marriage in good faith because you won’t have any shared expensive or finances.
At the immigration interview, you’ll be asked why you don’t live together as husband and wife and if you can’t come up with a good enough answer, you’ll likely be denied the green card.
- Your families don’t know that you’re married.
If your family and friends don’t know that you’re married, USCIS will suspect that it was entered into for immigration benefits only. In a real marriage, a couple wants to tell everyone about their wedding day and announce it to the world. Be prepared to show that the people closest to you knows about your marriage.
You can include documents such as wedding invitations and Facebook posts to show the announcements. In the case of marriage fraud, it’s easier to get out of a marriage that no one knew about, right?
- All-too-convenient timing of marriage.
A crazy amount of marriages happen after an undocumented immigrant in the US is caught and placed into removal proceedings. Those about be deported will find someone that is a US citizen that is willing to marry them to help them stay in the US.
I personally know a man that is in the US illegally and has recently married his US citizen girlfriend because he feared begin caught and deported. They are preparing to file for adjustment of status but they’ll need to file an I-601A waiver for his entry without inspection (i.e. crossing the US border illegally).
They’ll need to explain why they waited until it was urgent to get married because the timing will make the relationship look suspicious.
- Creating evidence of shared life right before the interview.
Some couples wonder if opening a joint bank account is considered manufactured evidence and in some ways it is. But when I said “creating evidence” what I mean is that you just did it for the purpose of proving your relationship only.
Of course, any bank account you open should have activity because if you open it just to show that your names are on it without any money to expenses going through the account, USCIS will see right through it. If you have enough other evidence such as joint taxes, joint utilities, joint auto loan, you may not need to have joint bank account.
But, the more evidence of a shared life that you can provide – the better!
- Getting married soon after meeting or soon after divorce.
Marriage within weeks of meeting can raise red flags and so can getting married quickly after your divorce is finalized. This desperation will make USCIS question why you married to quickly and whether it was truly for love or for immigration purposes.
Again, marrying before the ink has dried on your divorce decree will raise a lot of questions. This would also show that your new relationship started while you were still married. USCIS will definitely bring this up at the interview so be prepared to have an answer for them.
- Beneficiary comes from a high fraud country.
Not surprisingly, the US government keeps track of the numbers of foreigners committing immigration fraud from certain countries. For most honest immigrants, this is an unfortunate circumstance that they can’t control but will need to prove your innocence before a visa can be granted.
- Poor and unemployed U.S. citizen or resident petitioner.
Interestingly, if the US citizen or petitioner is broke and struggling to get by but petitions for a foreigner abroad, USCIS will look closer at the relationship. The first thing they will wonder is whether the American is looking to make a quick buck by having the immigrant pay to get them a green card.
Of course, not all petitioners that are unemployed or require a joint sponsor are committing marriage fraud but it still raises some red flags that need to be reviewed by the adjudicator or immigration officer.
Final Thoughts On Marriage Fraud
Marriage fraud will always be something that scammers will attempt to get a green card. USCIS tries to stay one step ahead of the different types of fraud that is committed each year but they certainly don’t catch them all.
If you suspect your spouse of immigration fraud, it’s best to gather the evidence you have and set up an info pass with USCIS. Unfortunately, most people don’t figure out what’s going on until it’s too late because they are blinded by love.
Fearing deportation also shouldn’t be a reason to enter into a sham marriage for the purpose of a green card. No matter how easy someone tells you it is, it’s not worth the risk of being banned from the US for life. The legal path to the US is hard and expensive but it’s the safest route if you truly want to live honestly in America.