February 2, 2009: Consequences of Immigration Fraud

Consequences of Immigration Fraud

In terms of fraud in the immigration process, do most people get away with it?
— Anonymous

Unfortunately, people commit fraud in the immigration process all of the time. Some get caught, while others go undetected, calling into the question the integrity of the entire immigration process. To combat fraud in the immigration process, the United States government has stepped up both its fraud detection and enforcement efforts with the REAL ID act, E-Verify, various types of background checks, and the issuance of Notices to Appear (NTA’s) before an immigration judge when USCIS denies a case, amongst others. While the government’s efforts to combat immigration fraud are to be lauded, the up tick in enforcement has caused “real” immigration cases to be more closely scrutinized, sometimes without proper justification.

As an attorney who has practiced only immigration law for the past 30 years, it seems as if the government assumes that every case is fraudulent because it is making it very difficult to get even the most well documented cases approved. There are severe consequences for people who commit fraud during the immigration process. For example, a United States citizen who marries a foreign national to help him or her get their ¿immigration papers¿ is committing marriage fraud because the marriage was entered into to evade immigration laws. The United States citizen faces up to five years imprisonment and a $250,000.00 fine, in addition to Federal charges of visa fraud, false statement, and conspiracy. The foreign national will be barred under INA section 204(c) from ever having a subsequent immigrant visa petition approved.

It is important to note that the foreign national does not have to be prosecuted for marriage fraud for INA section 204(c) to apply; mere documentary evidence of marriage fraud in the foreign national’s file is sufficient to uphold such a finding. In the instance of a foreign national who enters the United States illegally with a photo-switch passport, s/he may be eligible for a fraud waiver. Even if eligible for such a waiver, the “extreme hardship” burden of proof is very difficult to overcome. A fraudulent entry should never be attempted, nor should a fraudulent application or petition be filed with DHS, under any circumstances. It would be wise to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys