Being married to a U.S. citizen has many immigration benefits for noncitizens. One of the benefits is that a noncitizen married to a U.S. citizen is eligible to obtain an immigrant visa (Green Card) based on the marriage. Another benefit is the noncitizen does not have to wait a long time to get a marriage-based Green Card. Unfortunately, many of these marriages that are genuine are often suspected of being fraudulent.
At J. Sparks Law, we have experienced immigration lawyers who guide clients in the Austin area to make sure their cases are not wrongly denied on marriage fraud grounds.
Under U.S. immigration law, marriage fraud occurs when one enters into a marriage for the sole purpose of circumventing immigration law to obtain a green card. Typically, the person engaged in marriage fraud has no intention of marrying a U.S. citizen other than to show on paper that they are married to apply for a Green Card.
Although marriage fraud can occur only when one of the partners knows they are engaged in the fraud, it is also common for marriage fraud to occur when both parties know and collude to engage in the fraud.
Committing marriage fraud is both a criminal act for which one found guilty can be sentenced to five years imprisonment and a statutory violation which is a basis to deny a Green Card for anyone found to have committed marriage fraud. One who is found guilty of committing marriage fraud can also be subject to a $250,000 fine.
Because of the prevalence of marriage fraud in the immigration process, the law was changed to impose a two-year conditional residency status. This means that a noncitizen who obtains a marriage-based Green Card is only given that status for two years, known as “conditional residency” status (CR). This two-year period starts counting from the date the Green Card is approved.
Having CR status has the same benefits as being a Green Card holder without conditions, with the only difference being the CR must apply to remove conditions on their status after 2 years. The application to remove the CR condition can be submitted within 90 days of the expiration of the 2-year period.
To have conditions removed on Green Card status, the CR and his or her spouse must both jointly file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. If the I-751 application is jointly submitted, the law requires that the couple must establish the following:
There’s a presumption the marriage is fraudulent when a noncitizen marries a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder and seeks a green card based on the marriage. To overcome this presumption, the couple must provide evidence to show that the marriage is, in fact, for real and not for purposes of circumventing immigration law.
Evidence that can demonstrate that the marriage is not fraudulent includes documents showing joint ownership of the property; a lease showing the couple lives in common residence; documents to show a commingling of financial resources; letters or affidavits from family or friends attesting to the legitimacy of the marital relationship and so on.
If you seek a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or Green Card holder, contact our office today to schedule an appointment to learn how we can help you. J. Sparks Law, PLLC has helped many couples meet their immigration goals.
Julie Sparks is Board-certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Immigration and Nationality Law, one of a few such attorneys in Texas. After 15 years of practice in this field, she has represented immigrants from more than 70 countries.
Ms. Sparks is a member of the Texas Bar Association and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Julie has also been a featured speaker at Southwestern Law School and at the national 2015 AILA Fundamentals Conference.