Posted On: February 14, 2012 by Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon

The Marriage Fraud Trap

It is not a new concept that people from all around the world want to come live and work in the United States. However, a person cannot simply come to our door, knock, and gain entry. Instead, the immigrant must have a sponsor, either an employer or family member, or he/she must fall within one of the other limited categories, like asylum.
Many non U.S. citizens have family members in the United States that are willing to sponsor them for admission. The problem is that unless that family member is a U.S. citizen immediate relative (parent, child, or spouse), it can take years, sometimes more than a decade, for a visa number to become available.
One of the most common ways for a non U.S. citizen to gain permanent residence to this country is through marriage to a U.S. citizen. It is not at all uncommon for a U.S. citizen to fall in love with someone from another country and for the happy new couple to want to spend the rest of their lives in the U.S. The good news is that U.S. law allows for this with relative ease. The bad news is that immigration officers are ever more vigilant in trying to root out fraud, which means more scrutiny for every one.
When a U.S. citizen petitions for their alien spouse (Form I-130) and the alien files for permanent residence (green card - Form I-485), a government agent is going to scrutinize the case to determine whether they believe the couple got married to circumvent the immigration laws. That means that any discrepancy between the I-130 and I-485 will raise red flags. Even innocent discrepancies can start the case off on the wrong foot.
After the forms have been submitted and reviewed by USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services), the U.S. citizen and the alien spouse will appear before USCIS for an interview. The USCIS agent will question each spouse separately and compare their answers. If the answers are inconsistent, the agent may call in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent to investigate the crime of marriage fraud. Now, I've been married for almost 7 years, but I don't remember specifics about my first year with my wife. My brain doesn't work that way. I suspect that if a USCIS agent interviewed my wife and I separately, there would be discrepancies (much to her chagrin).
If an ICE agent is called into the interview, chances are that the USCIS agent has already decided to deny the applications. The ICE agent will tell you that they are still investigating, but in reality ICE is simply trying to obtain statements to use against you in any potential federal criminal case for marriage fraud.
The moral of the story is two fold: 1) Do not commit marriage fraud. If you do, ICE will catch it. They will arrest the alien spouse, prosecute him/her in federal court and if convicted that alien spouse will have to serve a federal sentence and then face deportation. The U.S. citizen spouse can also be prosecuted and sentenced in federal court. 2) Hire a competent immigration attorney and tell them the truth about everything. That attorney should know how USCIS and ICE will treat your case and can warn you about potential consequences.