Beware – Fake marriages are a one-way ticket to Green Card heaven or deportation hell!

Most immigrants know at least one person that got their permanent residency (Green Card) through a fake marriage to a U.S. Citizen or Cuban national. What most do not know is that for every person who is successful, ten or more are not, but end up getting deported. The most important thing to understand about obtaining a Green Card through marriage is that it is all or nothing! The Immigrant either receives conditional and then permanent residency or they don’t and are put in removal proceedings. There are no other options.

No escape from the process

Once an Immigrant files for adjustment of status through marriage and attends the interview, there is no escape from the process. If the couple does not do well at the interview, does not have many marital documents, lives with relatives, no joint bank accounts which show movement, etc., a follow-up interview is scheduled many months down the road. At this second interview, often the U.S. Citizen or Cuban national is taken in with the officer alone and requested to sign a paper that the marriage is fake, withdraw the petition and not to tell the Immigrant. The Immigrant later receives a denial in the mail and referral to Immigration court for removal from the U.S. There are no options to marry another U.S. Citizen and obtain residency or to be sponsored by a relative or even employer – NOTHING.

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Two-year conditional residency

If the couple passes the marriage interview and the Immigrant spouse is issued two-year conditional residency, this is only the beginning. Ninety days before the two-year residency mark, the couple must file a petition to remove the conditions on residency (form I-751) to make it permanent and for that, the couple must provide EXTENSIVE documentation to prove that they continue to live together in a “bona fide” (real) marriage.

In recent years, the USCIS has become very strict about marital documentation, requiring hundreds of documents showing joint tax returns, bank statements, car insurance, utilities, etc. Those who live with relatives, don’t have joint bank accounts and utilities and are unable to provide the required documents are scheduled for a second interview, sometimes referred to as a “fraud” interview.  At this interview, an immigration will interrogate the couple to determine whether the marriage is real.

If the officer determines the couple is genuinely in a continuing marital relationship, permanent residency is approved and as long as the couple continues as such, the Immigrant spouse can apply for early naturalization, once he or she has held residency status for two years and nine months. Additional marital documents proving the couple continues to reside together are required at the naturalization interview as well.

Should couple break up

What happens if the couple breaks up before the marriage interview? In most recent cases, if the Immigrant spouse attends the interview alone the officer will deny the case and the Immigrant will be referred to Immigration court for removal from the U.S.

If the couple breaks up after the Immigrant spouse receives two years conditional residency, the Immigrant can file the removal of conditions application requesting a waiver of the joint filing requirement and submit EXTENSIVE documentation to prove the marriage was real, even though the couple is no longer together.

Referred for deportation

In fake marriages, the couple never has much if any documents, so most of these cases are denied. Once the case is denied, the Immigrant is referred to Immigration court for removal from the U.S. There are no options to marry another U.S. Citizen and obtain residency or to be sponsored by a relative or even employer. Once the USCIS denies a residency case based upon fraud, the door closes and there is no way to receive any legal status in the U.S. ever again.

But of course, removal proceedings take time, years in fact, so many Immigrants in the process go on with their lives, fall in love, get married and have kids, believing that they will be able to avoid deportation because they are now in a real relationship. However, immigration regulations specifically say otherwise and will not reward an Immigrant who engaged in a fake marriage previously, but who now has a genuine relationship and wants to use it to obtain residency again. It is very sad and tragic that families are broken up every day as part of this process. I would liken filing for residency based upon a fake marriage to taking heroin, once you do it, you can never go back.

So, don’t listen to well-meaning friends and family who say fake marriage is the best way to get a Green Card. Instead, just imagine that you will be taking your whole potential lifetime here in the U.S. full of hopes, dreams and possibilities, walking into a casino and betting it all on one number. Feeling that lucky?

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