Love, Marriage and Immigration FraudPosted on Friday, February 22, 2019
Many people know it’s illegal for a foreign national to marry a U.S. citizen for the sole purpose of remaining in the country. This is called “marriage fraud” and the Immigration Service is always on the lookout for it.
But what if a foreign national in the U.S. on a tourist visa falls madly in love with a U.S. citizen three days after his or her arrival in the country? What if it’s “love at first sight?” It may be romantic to run off and get married immediately, but unfortunately the government is not known for its sense of romance. So, any time a non-resident foreigner contemplates marriage with a citizen he or she should bear certain practicalities in mind.
The first point to consider is that relevant authorities include not just the Federal government, but also the rules of the state in which the lightening struck. In Illinois, for example, if the foreigner also happened to be your first cousin visiting from abroad, there would be barriers to your marriage. Other states have residency requirements or waiting periods. In general, you should understand your state’s rules about who is eligible to marry and what documentation you must present.
From a Federal immigration standpoint, when it comes time for the foreign partner to adjust status an immigration officer will examine the circumstances of the marriage as a regular part of the process. If the time elapsed between entry and marriage is 90 days or less, the government will suspect fraud – either that the marriage itself is fraudulent, or that the foreign partner came with the intent to get married and remain, thus fraudulently securing the tourist visa (which requires temporary intent). In a true case of “love at first sight,” then, it’s best to wait until after 90 days have elapsed to get married. An alternative safe way to proceed is for the non-citizen to depart the U.S., and for the citizen to file a “fiancé(e)” petition on his or her behalf. (In addition, there are options for marrying overseas.)
Not every foreigner who falls in love in the U.S. is in the country on a temporary intent visa. In these cases, it’s important for the couple to consider other repercussions. For example, if a foreign national enters as a dependent on a parent’s visa and then gets married, he or she may lose status as a dependent (and possibly the basis of a pending adjustment of status application). If the marriage doesn’t work out, or the U.S.-based partner is not a citizen, this may cause serious immigration complications.
If you are thinking of getting married and would like to discuss your options with an experienced immigration attorney, do not hesitate to contact our office. We can help your love conquer all.