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Marriage Fraud

Marriage Fraud – 8 U.S. Code § 1325(c)

In the United States, immigration law is taken seriously, and immigration fraud is often penalized severely. One prevalent method by which people attempt to get around immigration rules is through false or fraudulent marriage, which is considered a type of immigration crime.

Immigration officials believe a large percentage of marriages to non-U.S. citizens are suspect, and they scrutinize the circumstances of these marriages.

Marriage Fraud – 8 U.S. Code § 1325(c)
It's a federal crime to knowingly enter into a marriage to evade U.S. immigration laws.

Marriage fraud is often prosecuted under 8 U.S.C. 1325(c) and 18 U.S.C. 1546(a). The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 amended 1325 by adding section 1325(c), imposing a penalty of five years in federal prison for a conviction.

18 U.S.C. 1325(c) marriage fraud law says, “Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than five years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.

Under 8 U.S.C. 1151(b), "immediate relatives" of United States citizens, including spouses, who are otherwise qualified for being admitted as an immigrant, must be admitted without regard to other ordinary limitations. 

Typically, a United States citizen will marry an alien in marriage fraud cases. They will complete all the state law requirements, such as medical tests, licensing, and a ceremony. 

However, the U.S. citizen is often paid to marry the alien to entitle them to obtain status as a permanent resident of the United States. They have no intention of living together in the same house as a man and wife. 

Thus, a legal issue arises when they tell the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) they are married while under the opinion they are “technically” telling the truth because they complied with all state marriage requirements.

If officials believe you have committed false marriage or some other type of immigration fraud, you could be charged with a federal crime, punishable by significant fines, prison time, deportation, and other penalties.

What is a False Marriage Under Federal Law?

A false marriage, also known as a sham or fraudulent marriage, is entered into with the primary intention of evading immigration laws, most commonly to obtain a green card without going through the usual channels. 

It is a federal crime in the United States under 8 U.S.C. 1325(c), punishable by severe penalties. Immigration officials look for sure signs and other indicators to identify false marriages, such as the following: 

  • Lack of Shared Residence: Couples in a genuine marriage typically live together. If the couple does not share a residence, it may raise suspicion.
  • Minimal Joint Financial Assets: Married couples usually share financial responsibilities and assets. A lack of joint bank accounts, shared property, or other economic ties may be a red flag.
  • Significant Age Differences: While age differences alone are not indicative of a false marriage, a significant age gap, especially when combined with other suspicious factors, can draw attention.
  • Differing Cultural or Religious Backgrounds: While many genuine couples come from different cultural or religious backgrounds, immigration officials may scrutinize these marriages more closely.
  • Short Time Between Meeting and Marriage: A quick marriage following a brief courtship period can raise eyebrows. This is particularly true if the marriage occurs soon after one party receives a deportation order.
  • Inconsistent Stories: During interviews, immigration officials look for inconsistencies in the couple's stories about their relationship, courtship, and daily life.

Remember, these factors alone do not constitute proof of a false marriage. They are merely indicators that immigration officials may consider during their investigation. It's always important to consult with a legal professional if you are involved in such an investigation.

What Are the Related Statutes?

8 U.S. Code Part VIII general penalty provisions list several statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1325(c), including the following: 

  • 8 U.S.C. 1321 - Prevention of unauthorized landing of aliens,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1322 - Bringing in aliens subject to denial of admission on a health-related ground; persons liable; clearance papers; exceptions; “person” defined,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1323 - Unlawful bringing of aliens into the United States,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324 - Bringing in and harboring certain aliens,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324a - Unlawful employment of aliens,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324b - Unfair immigration-related employment practices,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324c - Penalties for document fraud,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1324d - Civil penalties for failure to depart,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1325 - Improper entry by the alien,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1326 - Reentry of removed aliens,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1327 - Aiding or assisting certain aliens to enter,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1328 - Importation of alien for immoral purpose,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1329 - Jurisdiction of district courts,
  • 8 U.S.C. 1330 - Collection of penalties and expenses.

What Are Other Types of Immigration Fraud?

Immigration fraud extends beyond false marriages and includes a variety of deceptive practices that undermine the integrity of U.S. immigration laws. These may include:

  • Visa Fraud: This occurs when individuals provide false information or conceal relevant facts to obtain a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa. Examples include falsifying relationships or employment status.
  • Passport Fraud: Involves the misuse, alteration, or forgery of U.S. passports. It's a serious offense as it can facilitate other crimes like identity theft or terrorism.
  • Benefit Fraud: Refers to making false statements or hiding information to receive immigration benefits, such as asylum, citizenship, or work permits.
  • Employment Fraud: Pertains to unauthorized work by non-citizens or employers knowingly hiring non-citizens who lack proper work authorization.
  • Document Fraud: Involves creating or using counterfeit documents, like birth certificates or Social Security cards, for immigration purposes.

What Are the Legal Consequences of False Marriage and Immigration Fraud?

Being involved in false marriage or other forms of immigration fraud can carry severe legal and personal consequences if you are convicted. Potential outcomes include:

  • Criminal Penalties: Individuals can face substantial fines and imprisonment if convicted. For instance, a false marriage can lead to up to five years in prison and significant fines.
  • Deportation and Inadmissibility: Conviction often results in deportation and a ban on re-entering the United States. This can be particularly distressing for those with family ties or long-term residency in the U.S.
  • Impact on Future Immigration Applications: A fraud conviction can permanently tarnish one's immigration record, complicating or outright barring future immigration attempts, even for legitimate reasons.

What Are the Possible Defense Strategies?

While being accused of engaging in false marriage or other immigration fraud can be scary, to say the least, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney may implement numerous strategies to counter the allegations. These approaches may include the following:

  • Validating the Marriage with Thorough Documentation: When immigrants marry citizens, the best defense against suspicion of a false marriage is to document everything. Presenting relevant paperwork such as a marriage certificate, rental agreements, joint bank account statements, and other provable documentation can go a long way toward alleviating suspicion.
  • Witness Testimony: Credible witnesses can be crucial in proving the genuineness of a relationship. Witnesses may include friends, family members, or colleagues who can attest to the authenticity of the relationship.
  • Addressing Investigation Errors: In some cases, errors or misunderstandings in the investigation process can lead to false accusations. An experienced attorney can review the case thoroughly to identify potential errors that may have led to the charges.
  • Cultural Differences or Language Issues: Miscommunications due to cultural differences or language barriers can often lead to misunderstandings. It is crucial to highlight these factors, as they can play a significant role in the perceived legitimacy of a marriage.
  • Mitigating Circumstances: Circumstances like coercion, misinformation from legal advisors, or other extenuating situations can be presented to mitigate the severity of the offense.

If you need more information, contact our law firm. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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