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Beware of Marriage Fraud
by Cyrus D. Mehta

Many people are in the United States in an undocumented capacity. They may have filed applications years ago, which have long since been denied. Some may have also received deportation orders and have stayed on. Many of these people are desperate because they have paid taxes and developed economic and personal ties with the U.S. They find it impossible to leave.

Such people look to marriage to a United States citizen as a solution to their immigration problem. Although marriage to a United States citizen could often be the only option, they must be aware that a sham or a convenience marriage should never be entertained. Entering into a marriage solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits not only results in a permanent bar to future immigration but also to criminal prosecution of both parties.

The INS is also very strict during the marriage interview and its officers are trained to ferret out cases that appear to be fraudulent. If such a suspicion exists, the couple is called for another interview where they are separated and asked about 200 questions of a deeply intimate and personal nature. If the marriage happens to be a sham it would be impossible for both the husband and wife to answer all the questions in the same manner.

Therefore, if one wishes to get married to a United States citizen, it must be a bonafide marriage and not a fraudulent marriage. Also make sure that all previous marriages, if any, on either side have been terminated through divorce or annulment. Several applicants, including preparers of fraudulent applications, have been criminally prosecuted and sentenced to jail terms.

Even if a marriage is bona fide, the parties must consult a qualified immigration attorney, especially where previous unrelated immigration applications were filed and denied.

Many people may have already received deportation orders by an immigration judge or are in deportation proceedings. Filing a marriage application, even if bonafide, cannot simply dissolve the prior deportation order. Reopening an old deportation case is very complex, but it needs to be done. Many applicants with prior deportation orders have gone to the interview only to have been handcuffed and sent back to their country on the first available flight. Therefore, if there is an outstanding deportation order and you are planning to file a bonafide marriage application, please seek proper legal advice from an attorney who is knowledgeable about immigration law, and there are lots of them in New York and New Jersey. Do not seek the advice of a person who is not licensed to practice law in such complex matters unless they belong to a non-profit voluntary agency.

About The Author

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, practices immigration law in New York City. He is the Chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, trustee of the American Immigration Law Foundation and recipient of the 1997 Joseph Minsky Young Lawyers Award. He frequently lectures on various immigration subjects at legal seminars, workshops and universities and may be contacted at 212-686-1581 or