Marriage fraud occurs when an immigrant marries a U.S. citizen solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card. Though marriage fraud may seem innocent enough, the truth is that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services views it as a federal crime that carries harsh penalties for both the immigrant and the citizen.
If you recently married an immigrant or vice versa — if you are an immigrant who recently married a U.S. citizen — know that the USCIS will keep an eye on your union for years. It will work internally and with other agencies to examine your marriage for potential fraud and, if necessary, take corrective actions. Stilt details the top ways that the USCIS and other agencies identify marriage fraud.
Astringent application process
Before the USCIS will approve your marriage it will put you through the astringent application process. The process requires you to show extensive proof of the legitimacy of your marriage. It will also ask that you and your spouse attend several interviews, both separately and together. If the USCIS decides to approve the marriage, it will issue the non-resident spouse a conditional green card, which lasts for two years. If, during the two-year period, you and your spouse divorce, it will likely revoke the non-resident’s green card status.
Divorce within two years is not the only sign the USCIS looks for to determine the fraudulent nature of your marriage. The agency will likely monitor your relationship for suspicious signs and activity. Among other things, some common red flags are as follows:
- The lack of a shared language between you and your spouse
- Financial records that indicate the lack of shared finances
- Separate living quarters, or separate homes
- No shared assets
- The existence of children, or your plans to have any
- The existence of arguments and marital problems
To ensure it conducts a thorough investigation, the USCIS will likely talk to your employers, friends, neighbors and other people who may come into contact with you and/or your spouse on a frequent basis.
Assessment of important documents
Very few aspects of your life will be safe from the prying eyes of the USCIS during the investigative period. In addition to interviewing friends, families and employers, the agency may keep tabs on your bank records, rental agreements, mortgage loans and social profiles.
The discovery of a fraudulent marriage can result in harsh and life-changing consequences for you and your spouse. If the USCIS suspects you of a sham marriage, consult with an attorney right away.