Marriage Green Card: Marriage Fraud Interview

In order to obtain immigration benefits available to a spouse, there must be a valid marriage between the parties. In most situations, a marriage is valid for immigration purpose if it is recognized by the law of the state where it occurs. However, a marriage that is legally valid may still be disregarded if it is found to be a sham marriage, entered into by the parties to obtain immigration benefits and without any intention to live together as husband and wife.

The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate the bona fides of the marriage.  During the marriage green card process, the USCIS will interview both the husband and the wife.  In some cases, exceptions can be made and no interview takes place.  However, this is extremely rare.  If the USCIS has reason to suspect that the marriage is a sham marriage, then they will conduct a special fraud interview.  This will include separation of the parties and conducting a question and answer session under oath.  If the interviewing officer believes the marriage is a sham, the USCIS may

1) Deny the application and subsequent applications pursuant to INA 204(c);

2) Institute removal proceedings;

3) Refer for visa fraud prosecution pursuant to 18 USC Section 1546;

4) Refer to perjury prosecution pursuant to 18 USC Section 1001;

5) Refer for conspiracy prosecution pursuant to 18 USC Section 371; and

6) Refer for marriage fraud prosecution pursuant to INA Section 275(c).

Prior to the interview, the USCIS will conduct an investigation of the parties.  Specifically, they will run a criminal background check, a credit check and will search the internet for any postings the parties may have made.  This includes popular social sites like Myspace and Facebook.  The USCIS will be looking for any evidence that the parties do not intend to live as husband and wife.  When questioned at the interview, any inconsistent statements may be used as a basis to deny the application.

The focus of the interview will be to determine if the parties intend to establish a married life together.  The parties will be asked to present evidence that they have been living as a married couple.  This is normally shown by producing evidence of insurance policies, property, leases, income tax statement and bank accounts that are jointly held.  Photos and birth certificates of children born to the parties are helpful as well.

There are many factors the USCIS will look at to determine the existence of a sham marriage.  A sham marriage is a marriage that was fraudulent at its inception.  A marriage is not a sham or fraudulent marriage if the couple intended to live as husband and wife but later grew apart.

Because USCIS may use any inconsitency against the applicant to deny the green card application, it is vitally important for the parties to be properly represented and prepared.