permanent residency

How Marriage Fraud Allegations Can Destroy Your Green Card Claim

By Peek & Toland on June 8, 2016

Marriage fraud is taken very seriously by the U.S. authorities. Not only will both parties face serious immigration consequences but they may also face criminal charges. An allegation can wreck your green card claim.

Typically, marriage fraud describes a situation in which an individual who is born abroad marries a U.S. citizen or, in some cases, a lawful permanent resident, so as he or she can obtain a green card.

Every year hundreds of marriage frauds are exposed. It’s easy to see why this is an attractive option. While the process of obtaining a green card is never a simple one, the route of obtaining an I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, is comparatively straightforward.

marriage fraud allegations can ruin your green card application

Immigration Welcome Letter and Green Card

As many as one on three weddings between U.S. citizens and immigrants may be fraudulent, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. However, this figure was based on a survey from the 1980s that has since been called into question. It, nevertheless, highlights the suspicion that USCIS harbors toward these applications and the fact that officials are looking out for irregularities. If you are suspected of this kind of fraud, you could face an uphill task in obtaining a green card. Our experienced Texas immigration attorneys can help you and anticipate potential issues with green card applications.

Penalties for Fraudulent Marriage

Immigrants who commit marriage fraud face deportation from the United States. If they are in the country on a visa, it would likely be revoked.

The sham marriage would also mean the immigrant would be unlikely to be eligible to qualify for a green card or a U.S. visa in future.

There are also criminal penalties for engaging in marriage fraud set out in the Immigration and Nationality Act section 275(c). People who are found guilty can face a custodial sentence, a fine or both. It states:

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 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.

A U.S. spouse can face prosecution as well as an immigrant. A spouse who is a permanent resident, as opposed to a citizen, may face deportation. The highest sentences are given to people who engage in conspiracy schemes, arranging fraudulent marriages in a systematic way.

Marriage fraud can be uncovered at any phase in the immigration process. As part of the initial application for a green card, the immigration authorities will demand proof that the marriage is a valid one.

Another juncture when the authorities frequently uncover marriage fraud is two years later when immigrants must apply to remove the conditions on their residency and switch to permanent resident status.

The authorities may also look again at the validity of the union when the immigrant applies for U.S. citizenship at a later stage. Although these are the times when the discovery of a fraudulent wedding is most likely, there is no point in the process when an immigrant who commits marriage fraud is totally safe from discovery and eventual deportation.

The authorities that investigate marriage fraud have very wide investigative powers. They can ask for submission of documents and force the immigrant and his or her spouse to be interrogated during the application process. They can talk to friend and employers and even visit the couple in their home.

The 1975 case of Bark v. INS, defined the idea of marriage as a union which the parties enter with the idea of establishing a life together.

USCIS will look particularly closely at unions that were not even two years old at the time a green card is approved or when an immigrant from abroad enters the United States with an immigrant visa. Read our resources about adjustment of status through marriage here.

Given that allegations of marriage fraud can destroy your application for a green card as well as lead to criminal charges, it’s vital to contact an experienced Texas green card attorneys, if you fall under suspicion. We would be happy to help you and answer any questions you may have relating to green cards, permanent residency and charges of marriage fraud. To learn more about how we can assist you, contact us at (512) 474-4445.


Posted in Cancellation of Removal

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Green Cards Are Being Sent to the Wrong Addresses

By Peek & Toland on May 17, 2016

Green cards are granted to permanent residents. You have to meet strict criteria to obtain a card which allows you to live and work in the United States, and they are highly valued.

It was, therefore, disturbing to read a recent report that detailed how large numbers of cards are being sent to the wrong addresses. Although new electronic systems were put in place in 2012, the problem appears to be getting worse.

Findings from the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security revealed the number of green cards that are going to the wrong places increased since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) installed its Electronic Immigration System four years ago.

Green cards are being sent to the wrong addresses

Green cards are still being sent to incorrect locations

Alarmingly, the report said there is “no accurate means” of identifying exactly how many cards were sent to incorrect addresses after they were processed through the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). Limitations in the system meant operators were unable to update addresses, even when green card holders requested an address change.

Applying for a green card can be a tortuous and nerve-wracking process. Automation was meant to improve the system but the audit published on March 9 this year found the new system “remains ineffective.” The notion that your permanent resident card may be sent to the wrong address, adds another layer of uncertainty.

How to Apply for Green Cards

The four main ways of applying to obtain a green card are set out by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They are:

1 Family Based

Immediate relatives who include parents of a U.S. citizen, spouses and unmarried children of a U.S. citizen under 21-years-old do not have to wait for a visa to become available. There are also categories of “qualified relatives” who have to wait for a visa to become available.

2 Employment or Job Based

If you are seeking permanent residency based on a job offer you have received, you can apply for a green card or an immigrant visa abroad, when an immigrant visa number is available. It’s based on a preference system.

3 Refugee or Asylum Status

A refugee or the qualifying spouse or child of a refugee is required to apply for a green card, a year after entering the United States. If you were granted asylum or are a qualified child or spouse of someone who was granted asylum, you are not required to apply for a green card after a year but have the ability to do so, and it may be in your best interests to do so.

Although these are the three main routes to obtaining a green card, CIS sets out other ways. If you have entered the USA without documentation, we highlight here how consular process could be available for you.

If you are considering applying for a green card or are experiencing difficulties with the process, our experienced Austin family immigration attorneys can advise and help you. Contact us at (512) 474-4445 or view our immigration resources here.

Posted in Fiance Visas, Immigration

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