Wednesday , August 12 2020

Sham Marriage


WRITTEN BY: Narisara P. Jongjarearn -Tasanont, Attorney at Law

Today I will discuss what the immigration commonly calls a sham marriage or a marriage by convenience and tell you what it is and what the consequences of becoming involved in one are.

A sham marriage is a marriage entered into for the benefit of one or both parties to the marriage.  One party may exchange money in exchange for a chance at obtaining legal permanent residency here, also known as a “green card”.  It doesn’t matter that the couple actually have a bona fide marriage license.  What matters is the intent behind getting that marriage license.  So if the intent of getting the marriage license is not because of love, but for another reason, such as receiving money or getting a green card, then that is considered a sham marriage.  In a sham marriage the marriage is not entered into in good faith, rather it is entered into for the purpose of evading the provisions of the immigration laws.  As such, these types of marriages are not bona fide.

Even where there is no exchange of money, a sham marriage has occurred if both parties have agreed that they will marry, not out of love but for the purpose that the U.S. citizen spouse will help the other spouse obtain a green card.  Any documentation prepared as supporting evidence for the petition will also be considered fraudulent.  For instance, where parties only marry so that the foreign national can obtain a green card and submit a petition to the immigration along with jointly filed tax returns or joint utility bills, that evidence with the petition that was filed is fraudulent, because the underlying marriage was not a legitimate one but one based on convenience.

Most documents submitted to evidence a shared life usually include tax returns, joint utility bills, insurance policies, and photos.  If photographs were taken for the purpose of creating evidence of a shared life then it is fraudulent.  Similarly, if other documents were created for the purpose of showing a shared life together, then those are also fraudulent.  Remember, if the marriage was only entered into to help a foreign national obtain a green card and not entered into because of genuine love for one another, then it is a marriage of convenience and considered a sham marriage.

There are stiff penalties that are handed out when it is discovered that a marriage is a sham.  The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 provides a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment or fine of $250,000, or both for anyone who files a fraudulent marriage or fiancé petition.  In addition, there may be a fine up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to five years, or both, for knowingly and willfully falsifying or concealing a material fact or using any false document (such as the evidence of a shared life) in submitting the petition for the alien spouse.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) states that it investigates claimed relationships and verifies the validity of documents submitted to them. They further state that they seek criminal prosecution when family relationships are falsified to obtain visas.  In addition, the petition requires that the U.S. citizen spouse certify, under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America, that everything on the petition is true and correct.  Furthermore, the petitioner also authorizes the release of any information from his/her records that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services needs to determine eligibility for the benefit that is sought.

While most marriages between Americans and foreign nationals are legitimate, the prevalence of sham marriages can make legitimate couples face longer wait times due to the need to investigate further before a decision can be made. Sham marriages can also cast a shadow of doubt over real marriages, and many real couples will surely be forced to endure invasive, insensitive, and unpleasant lines of questioning by immigration personnel who are trying to determine who entered into a marriage for convenience.

U.S. citizenship

Anyone interested in applying for citizenship should call me at 323-664-7131 or 323-704-6355 for more information.  We accept applications every weekday at our office in Los Angeles.  Special arrangements can be made for weekend appointments.  We also offer a Citizenship CD Tutorial, which is in the Thai and English language.  I recommend this CD to everyone who is applying to become a U.S. citizen because it is full of helpful tips and can help you successfully pass the exam.  The CD is only $40, including shipping costs.  Call us to order your CD today.  The CD is free if you apply for U.S. citizenship with the Thai American Citizens Alliance.  Call 323-664-7131 for more information.

Narisara P. Jongjarearn-Tasanont works out of her law office in Los Angeles. She also the Executive Director of the Thai American Citizens Alliance. She is an active member of the State Bar of California and the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association. You can contact her at 323-664-7131 or 323-704-6355 with your immigration questions. The contents of this article are not intended as individualized legal advice.


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