Marriage-based visas may seem as if they would provide an easy way for a foreign national to gain permanent residency in the United States. However, for those who do not even know a U.S. citizen, attempting to enter into a marriage just to get a green card can have devastating consequences. The Associated Press reports that unethical people set up a business to charge people high fees in exchange for fraudulent marriage licenses.
The people who perpetrated this federal offense recruited citizens who would marry for a fee. Then they marketed the availability of the service to those from their home country who were in the United States with a tourist visa. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested the offenders and identified many of the couples who took advantage of the opportunity.
ICE states that its Homeland Security Investigations office works with the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces to uncover criminal organizations that assist in creating illegal documents and all who take advantage of their services.
There are a number of felony charges that anyone who engages in marriage fraud could face. For example, either partner in the phony relationship may owe a fine of $250,000 or less, and up to five years in prison. Related charges that may apply include the following:
- Harboring an alien
- Visa fraud
These criminal offenses include fees and time in prison that would be added to the existing penalties. Foreign nationals who are not in a legitimate relationship with a U.S. citizen should not be tempted to marry a stranger in order to get a green card, as the consequences can be both devastating and permanent.