November 23, 2009: Criminal and Civil Consequences of a Convenience Marriage

Criminal and Civil Consequences of a Convenience Marriage

What are the consequences for a U.S. citizen who marries an immigrant so that he/she could stay in the states?
— Anonymous

There are severe consequences, both criminal and civil. Under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 275(c) and 8 U.S.C. section 1325(c), a person convicted of marriage fraud may be imprisoned for up to five years and fined $250,000.00. Generally, to convict a person under this statute, the burden is on the government to prove that the person knowingly entered into a marriage, that the marriage was entered into for the purpose of evading a provision of the immigration laws, and that the person knew or had reason to know of the immigration laws. Often, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Field Officer conducting the marriage interview will have both the petitioner and beneficiary sign a form stating that they understand the abovementioned criminal and civil consequences.

As for the immigrant, there are additional consequences. If the USCIS determines that the marriage was entered into to evade immigration laws, INA section 204(c) bars the approval of any subsequent petitions filed on the immigrant’s behalf. That includes visa petitions by employers, future spouses, and other relatives.

As you can see, there are severe consequences to both United States citizens and immigrants who get married with the purpose of evading the U.S. immigration laws.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys

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