What if My Spouse Used Our Marriage to Get a Green Card?


What if My Spouse Used Our Marriage to Get a Green Card?

Your spouse could be removed, or deported, from the United States, and could also face criminal prosecution. You should be aware that you too could be prosecuted, if you knew or participated in your spouse’s fraud.

Those who use a fraudulent or “sham marriage” to get around immigration laws and obtain a “green card” can be removed, or deported, from the United States, likely with no ability to return or obtain a US Visa in the future. Additionally, it is a federal crime, punishable by up to five (5) years in prison and a fine up to $25,000, to engage in such a sham marriage, and that punishment can be applied to both parties to the marriage.  

The Department of Homeland Security takes any attempt to circumvent immigration laws very seriously, and marriage-based green cards are issued initially on a conditional basis for only two (2) years. Before or even after that two (2) year mark, the Department may conduct an investigation, through the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE), when a report of a sham marriage is submitted. Those investigations generally begin with the parties to the marriage, and requests for documentation and information from the parties, but they can also include interviews with numerous sources, including friends, neighbors, family members, and others. 

The Bureau recognizes, and the system that judges these cases accepts, that people marry for many reasons and that legitimate marriages do fail. “Bad” marriages are necessarily fraudulent. The essence of the inquiry is if the parties married with the intention of entering into a lasting and committed relationship. If it can be demonstrated that one party had no such intention at the time of the marriage, but merely wanted to use the marriage as a means to obtaining a green card, the perpetrator of the sham may face the severe consequences noted above. Moreover, that investigation may be conducted at any time after the green card application has been made, even after a permanent green card has been issued. 

If you have questions about your marriage and the immigration consequences that may be involved, please contact LaMonaca Law, where we can help you to work through these issues.

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About the author

About Lawrence Welsh

Lawrence C. (Larry) Welsh joined the firm in 2003 after five years of practice with the Delaware County Public Defender’s Office. Native to Lansdowne in Delaware County where he attended public schools, Larry graduated from St. Joseph’s College (in its pre-University days) and taught school briefly before entering the hospitality industry and working his way through hotels, restaurants and resorts in four states and the District of Columbia. As a graduate of Villanova University School of Law, Larry now focuses primarily on the firm’s family law practice along with other areas of the Law. Larry handles a full range of domestic relations matters throughout the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania area and looks forward to expanding the firm’s practice, especially in the family-law field, into New Jersey where he is one of three members of the firm (along with Gregory P. LaMonaca and Christopher R. Mattox) admitted to practice.