The American Dream is a concept widely known around the globe, as it represents freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Since the United States’ inception, people from all over the world clamored to start a new life in the States and make their dreams come true. But for many, this dream feels far out of reach and calls for desperate measures.
The Lure to Marry
Numerous temptations arise within the U.S. immigration system. The visa paperwork, fees, and hoops to jump through seem to never end and can crush the spirit of many who aspire to achieve their American Dream. Some people take the often life-threatening journey to enter the country illegally and live as ghost once here. Others choose a safer route and enter on temporary visas while they figure out the best way to remain indefinitely. Many want to obtain their goal of permanent residency in the quickest and least confusing way as possible, and the answer for them is to marry a U.S. citizen.
Getting married to a U.S. citizen is an extremely enticing route to take. As a matter of policy, immigration law strives to keep the family unit together. Thus, the law allows for immediate relatives – such as a spouse – to have special immigration priority that allows them to essentially cut the line to get a visa and immigrate much more quickly. From that point, they can begin their process of establishing permanent resident status.
Marriage fraud typically happens in three ways. First, immigrants pay citizens to go through the marriage process with them as a ruse. Second, a marriage may have been genuinely based on love but rapidly deteriorates and the U.S. citizen is persuaded to stay married until their spouse receives permanent status. Third, U.S. citizens offer to marry their foreign friends out of sympathy.
Sometimes, the fraud happens as a large operation. For example, earlier this year, 27 Florida residents were charged with marriage fraud when the immigrants involved paid a fee to have fraudulent marriages arranged.
The Law and Penalties for Marriage Fraud
Marriage fraud is a serious federal crime in the United States. If any person – citizen and illegal immigrant alike – gets married with the intention of evading immigration laws, the conviction can result in fines for up to $250,000 U.S. dollars or imprisonment for up to five years, or both. Illegal immigrants can face removal from the U.S., and a permanent barred status from future immigration benefits.
Even if the marriage is legal according to state marriage requirements, the validity of the marriage is irrelevant in deciding whether the couple committed fraud. Additionally, if the marriage was initially genuine, immigration law will only grant permanent resident status if the couple preserves the family unit for at least two years.
Federal Crime Defense Attorneys
The consequences for marriage fraud can be devastating. Our federal criminal defense attorneys empathize with immigrants seeking to achieve their American Dream, but get tangled in the system. Immigrating to the United States can be an intimidating endeavor for those who are unfamiliar with the language, the people, and most frightening of all, the law. Our experienced lawyers provide knowledgeable and zealous defense to ensure that your rights are protected. If you are facing charges for marriage fraud, contact our Orlando office today.