Marriage fraud is a crime, regardless of the circumstances under which you sought to “help” an illegal immigrant circumvent legal immigration channels or if you took part in a sham marriage for money. What are the consequences of marriage fraud?
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Investigation
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have an important job to do. Immigrants that have been married for less than two years to a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident must prove that their marriage is genuine and valid and apply to remove the conditions of their residence. But if they cannot prove that their marriage is valid or they fail to file on time, and if there is any suspicion in the minds of USCIS employees that marriage fraud has taken place, USCIS can refer the case to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE will decide whether to pursue a criminal investigation.
If ICE decides to take things further, they will then conduct an investigation to see whether marriage fraud has indeed taken place. If fraudulent proceedings are uncovered, ICE will then pursue criminal prosecution by the District Attorney’s Office.
What Happens when ICE Does Not Conduct a Criminal Investigation?
If for whatever reason, ICE chooses not to pursue a criminal investigation against a suspected case of marriage fraud, the case will then be returned to USCIS, who will pursue their own administrative investigation against the suspects in question. This does not mean that the suspects have been exonerated.
Following the conclusion of the investigation, if there is strong evidence to suggest that marriage fraud has taken place, the immigration benefits that have been sought will be denied and USCIS will start removal proceedings (deportation) against the applicant.
Further Penalties for Marriage Fraud
In addition to a criminal investigation and deportation, those who are involved in marriage fraud and are later convicted for the crime may face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. An illegal immigrant who has been deported and/or faced further penalties will find it difficult to apply for future immigration benefits.
The consequences of marriage fraud are just not worth the stain on your reputation or criminal record. A marriage should be the lifelong union of a couple that is devoted and committed to one another, not a shifty, fraudulent union of those who are simply trying to bypass the legal requirements. Before you decide to take part in marriage fraud, think through the consequences of your actions and reconsider.