Not all marriage fraud is obvious. The classic example is when the foreign national offers U.S. citizen money in exchange for getting married and filing immigration paperwork. But if the foreign national and U.S. citizen are best friends and they just want to help each other out? Or what if the couple is elderly, never intending to consummate the relationship, but marry for companionship? What if the couple lives in different states and can only see each other a few times a year?
The Immigration and Nationality Act says that marriage fraud is committed when the sole intent at the time of marriage was to gain an immigration benefit. So, in the situation with best friends, it is marriage fraud. The elderly couple who gets married is not committing marriage fraud.
Marriage looks very different for different people. Consummation is not a requirement for USCIS to consider the marriage valid. And certainly life circumstances can make it difficult for a couple to live together – someone may still be in school or may be taking care of a sick parent.
As an attorney, I have to make quick judgments about couples. If I’m going to represent them in a marriage-based case, I need to be confident that they are in a legitimate marriage. It’s not always easy, and I’m sure I’m not always right in my assessments.
My general rule is that if something makes me question the relationship, then certainly USCIS would see it and question it, too. Common red flags are large age differences, language barriers, differences in educational backgrounds, and differences in religious beliefs. I have met plenty of couples, though, who are exceptions to these rules, so every case has to be looked at individually – going beyond the stereotypes and looking at how the couple really feels about each other.
When taking a marriage case, I want to meet both partners. How can I effectively represent the couple when I only meet one? Seeing how the couple interacts and seeing how well they know each other is key to determining whether I’ll be comfortable representing them.
One way to determine how well a couple knows each other is to separate them and ask them the same set of ten or so questions independently of each other. What color is the carpet in their home? How many TVs do they have? Where was their last overnight trip together? If their answers are the same, they most likely live together. But, if one says the carpet is blue and the other says Brown, then that will cause me to dig deeper into how well they truly know each other.
Potential clients may be turned off by my seeming suspicion, but if I’m having trouble believing in the relationship, how can I effectively represent them, and how and why would USCIS believe in their relationship?
My job is to believe my clients until they give me a reason not to. I want to believe that everyone who comes to Klinke Immigration is telling me the truth. But I can’t have a blind eye to a suspicious pattern of behavior or odd facts.
Don’t be offended if I ask you questions about your relationship and your day-to-day routine. If you truly have a legitimate marriage, you have nothing to worry about. Even if you’re not living together and you’ve never met your in-laws, so long as you married for reasons other than immigration, you have nothing to hide. There may be extra explaining to be done, but that’s okay.
However, if you married for the green card and want to try and trick me and USCIS, please take your case elsewhere.