Marriage Scams – Where Scammers Come Home!
Marriage Fraud: Stories From Victims
While many residents marry people from other countries, sometimes marriage is a scam to jump the immigration line. Learn about the consequences of marriage fraud and hear the stories of victims in this 5-minute video.
What Is Marriage Fraud Under U.S. Immigration Law?
A sham marriage is one that is entered into in order to get around (“evade”) immigration laws.
For a marriage to be valid under the law, it is not enough that the couple had a real marriage ceremony and have all the right governmental stamps on their marriage certificate. They have to intend to live in a real marital relationship, namely to establish a life together, following the marriage ceremony—and prove their intention through their actions. If the couple doesn’t intend to establish a life together, their marriage is a fake – a scam.
Another way in which an immigration application based on marriage can be found fraudulent is if it isn’t legally valid. Say, for example, that you are already married to another person, and were never able to get a legal divorce. Even if you truly love your new spouse, this current marriage is invalid. Applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card) on the basis of an invalid marriage is, indeed, considered fraudulent.
How U.S. Government Detects Marriage Fraud
Detecting marriage frauds is a top priority for U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and its affiliated agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The government believes that up to 30% of marriages between aliens and U.S. citizens are suspect – this is true of other countries too.
To detect frauds, U.S. immigration authorities require a lot of proof that a marriage is real, including more documentation than for other family-based immigration applicants. They subject marriage-based immigrants to a longer and more detailed personal interview than other applicants go through, as well as a two-year testing period for couples who have been married less than two years when their green card is approved or when they enter the U.S. on their immigrant visa.
The U.S. government will not normally follow a couple around or investigate their life beyond the required paperwork and the interviews it always conducts. But it has the power to do so if it sees grounds for suspicion. Inspectors can visit your home, talk to your friends, interview your employers, and so on.
By requiring more of married couples than of others, the U.S. government has set up a system that gives it a lot of information about whether a marriage is real or not.
What is the U.S. government’s view of a typical marriage?
The “normal” married couple has a fair amount in common. They share a language and possibly even a religion. They live together and do things together, like take vacations, celebrate important events, birthdays, and holidays, join clubs or gyms, and have sex and children. Typical couples also combine financial and other aspects of their lives after marriage. They demonstrate their trust in one another by sharing bank and credit card accounts and ownership of property, such as cars and houses. They celebrate each others’ birthdays and meet each others’ families.
And they may even have arguments and marital problems, but ideally will visit a counselor or other trusted adviser to help work these out.
U.S. immigration authorities usually expect applicants to prove that they share their lives in a way similar to what is described above. Applicants do this by providing copies of documents like rental agreements, bank account statements, and children’s birth certificates. The government further tests the validity of the marriage by talking to the applicant and usually to his or her spouse at their visa interview (at a U.S. consulate) or green card interview (at a USCIS office).
U.S. immigration officials have developed amazing talents for discovering fraud by examining what look like insignificant details of people’s lives. To ferret out lies, they have learned to cross-check dates and facts within the application forms and between the application forms and people’s testimony.
Have You Met Someone From Another Country On The Internet Or While Travelling?
Some people think marriage to a U.S. or Canadian citizen (for example) will be their ticket to Canada or the U.S.. You should think carefully before marrying someone and sponsoring them to come to your country, especially if:
- you’ve just met,
- they want to get married quickly,
- they’ve been married or in a common-law relationship many times before,
- they haven’t shared very much information about their background or family.
If you sponsor your spouse, you must give them financial support for three years even if the marriage or relationship fails. Sponsorship is a legal contract with the Government of Canada or the United States. You must meet its terms.
It is also a crime for a foreign national to marry a Canadian or American citizen or permanent resident only to gain entry to Canada.