Most family-based immigration relies on eligibility through marriage. Marrying a current citizen, in fact, is one of the simplest ways to immigrate to the United States. Thus, it is not uncommon that a hopeful immigrant marries or attempts to marry a citizen for the immigration benefits without intending to engage in a legitimate relationship.
Marriage fraud is a federal crime, which the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement treats very seriously. The frequency of marriage fraud may cause ICE to unjustly question your marriage, and you may find yourself needing to prove the legitimacy of your relationship to the state.
Marriage fraud types
US immigration courts can charge an individual with marriage fraud if they believe that he or she intentionally used marriage to avoid US immigration law. ICE investigates several types of marriage fraud. ICE may investigate your marriage over suspicions that one partner deceived the other to gain citizenship; likewise, they may investigate you over suspicions that one partner paid or otherwise coerced the other to wed in exchange for citizenship — whether the immigrant was living in the US or abroad at the time of marriage.
Marriage fraud charges
A marriage fraud conviction carries up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for both parties involved. Immigration courts may also charge couples with other serious crimes in conjunction with marriage fraud, such as harboring an alien, conspiracy, visa fraud or others.
A marriage fraud bar is another potential consequence, meaning that those suspected of past marriage fraud may not get a green card regardless of the legitimacy of a later marriage. If you are facing a current or discover a past marriage fraud accusation, you can usually pursue recourse if you are able to prove that the marriage was legitimate.