If you married a U.S. citizen and filed a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), specifically a marriage-based green card application, the agency had you attend an interview where an officer asked you various questions to determine whether your marriage is legitimate or not. Essentially, the officer is looking to ensure that your marriage is “bona fide,” meaning that it is real, and you and your spouse entered into it because you love each other rather than to help your spouse get a green card.
As offensive as it may be for an officer to question the legitimacy of your marriage, it is a process USCIS must undergo to ensure immigrants and U.S. citizens are not abusing the immigration system. During the course of the interview, the officer probably asked you questions about your relationship, the activities you both enjoy partaking in, what your future holds, etc. The answers you both provided to the questions asked were then used to determine whether your application should be approved or if USCIS needed to open an investigation for marriage fraud.
If your application was not approved immediately, that does not necessarily mean the USCIS officer believes your marriage is a sham. However, if any red flags led the officer to believe your marriage was not legitimate, then you may have received or will receive in the future correspondence from USCIS indicating that an investigation has been initiated or a Notice of Intent to Deny. If you have received such a notice from USCIS asking you to attend a second interview or an NOID, you need to contact Morristown, NJ immigration attorney Eric M. Mark before doing anything else.
Penalties for Committing Marriage Fraud
USCIS views marriage fraud as a threat to U.S. national security, financial institutions and the integrity of the immigration system which is why the agency is adamant about catching those who violate the law and bringing them to justice. This means if there is even a small chance USCIS may suspect your marriage may not be the real thing, you need to retain an immigration attorney in Morristown, NJ right away. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) considers the following as forms of marriage fraud:
- A U.S. citizen was paid, or asked to perform a favor, to marry a foreign national who is already residing in the United States.
- “Mail-order” marriage where either the U.S. citizen or alien knows it is a fraud.
- A foreign national defrauds a U.S. citizen who believes the marriage is legitimate.
Some of the consequences a couple or individual could face for entering into a marriage “for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration law” include:
- Charged criminally with marriage fraud, which is a felony offense that carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
- Charged under immigration law with marriage fraud, which is sustained by an immigration judge means you will never be able to legalize your status.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime, you could also be charged with:
- Visa fraud
- Harboring an alien
- Conspiracy and making false statements
Each of these charges carries additional prison sentences and financial penalties.
What are some red flags USCIS uses to detect marriage fraud?
USCIS has many tactics it utilizes to detect marriage fraud. In 2019, the agency announced that 96 people were charged in a massive marriage fraud scheme. It took several agencies and a year-long investigation before charges could be filed. So how did the agency find out?
USCIS reported that the marriages between the various individuals involved were a sham because “the spouses did not live together and did not intend to do so, contrary to documents and statements they submitted to USCIS.” The indictment stated that the spouses had only met briefly which typically occurred before they obtained their marriage license, or not at all. “The spouses allegedly entered into the marriage pursuant to a financial arrangement for the primary purpose of circumventing U.S. immigration laws.”
According to the charges, each of the beneficiary spouses that entered into the agreement would pay between $50,000 to $70,000 to obtain full (non-conditional) lawful permanent resident status. The agreements were allegedly prorated meaning each would pay an additional amount for each benefit they obtained (i.e. admission into the U.S., conditional permanent resident status, and full lawful permanent resident status.”
If you live in Morristown, NJ and have been accused of marriage fraud or received a concerning notice from USCIS after attending a marriage-based green card interview, the Law Office of Eric M. Mark, a Morristown, NJ immigration law firm, is here to answer your questions, address your concerns, and provide you with legal help. Our reputable immigration law firm can assist with an array of legal matters including denied green card applications, marriage fraud accusations, and more. To learn more about how we can help you and your family, contact us at one of our office locations listed below.
The Law Office of Eric M. Mark is located at:
201 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Jersey City Office – BY APPOINTMENT ONLY
121 Newark Avenue, Suite 515
Jersey City, NJ 07302