Marriage Fraud for Green Card Purposes and Federal Immigration Law Protections – When There Are Children In the Marriage

Marriage Fraud for Green Card Purposes and Federal Immigration Law Protections – When There Are Children In the Marriage

Marriage fraud for Green Card purposes is a significant issue that challenges the integrity of the U.S. immigration system and can profoundly affect U.S. citizen spouses. This issue becomes even more complex when children are involved, as the presence of children can obscure the fraudulent nature of the marriage. This analysis explores how federal immigration laws are designed to protect U.S. citizen spouses from immigrants who may enter into marriages not for love but for immigration benefits, even when there are children from the marriage.

Understanding Marriage Fraud

Marriage Fraud Defined: Marriage fraud occurs when an individual enters a marriage to obtain immigration benefits. This can include:

  • Sham Marriages:  Marriages contracted solely to secure a Green Card without intending to establish a life together.
  • Deceptive Marriages: One spouse deceives the other about their intentions, marrying primarily for immigration benefits while pretending to enter the marriage for genuine reasons.

Federal Immigration Law Measures

Federal immigration laws employ various strategies to prevent and address marriage fraud, even in cases involving children:

  1. Conditional Resident Status

Two-Year Conditional Green Card: Immigrants who obtain a Green Card through marriage are initially granted conditional resident status for two years. This conditional status is designed to provide a probationary period during which the legitimacy of the marriage can be evaluated.

Petition to Remove Conditions: To transition from conditional to permanent resident status, the couple must jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This petition requires substantial evidence of a bona fide marriage, such as:

  • Joint financial accounts
  • Lease or mortgage documents with both names
  • Birth certificates of children born to the couple
  • Photographs and correspondence showing a genuine relationship
  1. Interviews and Investigations

In-Depth Interviews: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts interviews with both spouses to assess the legitimacy of the marriage. These interviews can be extensive, probing for inconsistencies in the couple’s story and relationship.

Site Visits and Investigations: USCIS officers may visit the couple’s home unannounced or investigate further if they suspect fraud. This can include interviewing neighbors, colleagues, and family members.

Protections for U.S. Citizen Spouses

Federal immigration laws offer several protections for U.S. citizens who may unknowingly marry someone committing marriage fraud:

  1. Legal Remedies and Support

Annulment and Divorce: If a U.S. citizen spouse discovers the marriage was fraudulent, they have the right to seek an annulment or divorce. Annulment, in particular, declares the marriage void from the beginning, which can have significant legal implications for the immigrant spouse’s status.

Protective Orders: In cases where the immigrant spouse engages in coercive or abusive behavior, U.S. citizens can seek protective orders and other legal remedies to ensure their safety and well-being.

  1. Awareness and Education

Public Awareness Campaigns: USCIS and other federal agencies provide educational resources and public awareness campaigns to inform U.S. citizens about the risks and signs of marriage fraud. These resources help citizens recognize potential red flags and protect themselves from exploitation.

Counseling Services: Support services, including counseling and legal advice, are available for U.S. citizens in fraudulent marriages. These services can guide legal options and emotional support during difficult times.

Impact of Children on Fraud Detection

The presence of children in a marriage can complicate the detection of fraud, but federal immigration laws have provisions to address these complexities:

  1. Increased Scrutiny of Evidence – Detailed Evidence Requirements

When children are involved, USCIS requires even more detailed evidence to establish the bona fide nature of the marriage. This can include:

  • Evidence of joint parenting responsibilities
  • School records showing both parents’ involvement
  • Medical records indicating joint decision-making for the child’s health
  1. Interviews and Family Dynamics

Family Interviews: USCIS may conduct interviews with not just the spouses but also older children, if applicable, to understand the family dynamics and verify the authenticity of the relationship.

Behavioral Indicators: USCIS officers are trained to look for behavioral indicators that suggest a genuine family unit, such as the nature of interactions between the parents and the children and the involvement of both parents in the child’s life.

Consequences of Marriage Fraud

The consequences of marriage fraud are severe for both the immigrant and the U.S. citizen involved, even when children are present:

  1. Immigrant Consequences
  • Deportation and Removal: Immigrants found guilty of marriage fraud face deportation and removal from the United States. They may also be barred from re-entering the country for a significant period or permanently.
  • Criminal Charges: Marriage fraud is a federal crime. Immigrants convicted of marriage fraud can face criminal charges, including fines and imprisonment.
  1. U.S. Citizen Consequences
  • Legal Repercussions: U.S. citizens knowingly participating in marriage fraud can also face legal consequences, including criminal charges, fines, and imprisonment.
  • Emotional and Financial Impact: The emotional toll and financial impact on U.S. citizens can be significant, particularly if they were deceived and manipulated into a fraudulent marriage. They may face legal costs, emotional distress, and personal and professional reputation damage.

Legal Framework and Enforcement

Several vital laws and regulations form the backbone of the U.S. approach to preventing and addressing marriage fraud:

  • Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Sections 216 and 216A: These sections of the INA outline the conditions for conditional permanent residence and the procedures for removing those conditions, emphasizing the need for a bona fide marriage.
  • Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 – Strengthening Penalties: The Marriage Fraud Amendments introduced stricter penalties for marriage fraud, including criminal sanctions and enhanced investigative measures.
  • Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments (IMFA) – Preventive Measures: The IMFA introduced measures such as the two-year conditional residency period and the requirement for joint petitions to remove conditions, focusing on deterring fraudulent marriages.


Marriage fraud for Green Card purposes poses a significant threat to the integrity of the U.S. immigration system and the well-being of U.S. citizen spouses, even when children are involved. Federal immigration laws are designed to detect, deter, and penalize such fraud through measures like conditional resident status, comprehensive evidence requirements, and thorough interviews and investigations. U.S. citizen spouses are protected through legal remedies, public awareness campaigns, and support services. The consequences for those involved in marriage fraud are severe, including deportation, criminal charges, and significant emotional and financial impact. By maintaining robust legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms, the U.S. continues to safeguard the immigration process and protect its citizens from exploitation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.