Federal Immigration Fraud
Immigration fraud is a serious offense that can lead to severe penalties under federal law. This article provides an overview of the major types of federal immigration fraud, the laws prohibiting it, defenses, and the potential consequences if convicted.
Defenses to Immigration Fraud Charges
If you are charged with immigration fraud, having an experienced defense attorney is critical. Here are some potential defenses that could apply:
- Lack of knowledge – The government must prove you knowingly committed fraud. If you did not know a document was fraudulent or statement was false, you may not have criminal intent.
- Proper documents exist – If authentic immigration documents actually exist, it weakens a charge of document fraud.
- Reliance on third party – You may have a defense if you reasonably relied on an immigration consultant or attorney who provided you with false information.
- Duress or coercion – If you were forced or coerced into committing immigration fraud under threat, it could provide a defense.
An attorney can evaluate the evidence against you and develop the best defense strategy for your specific situation.
Marriage fraud, also called immigration marriage fraud, is a common type of immigration scam. It involves a U.S. citizen marrying a non-citizen simply to allow them to gain legal status.
Under 8 U.S.C. § 1325, it is illegal to enter into a sham marriage to evade immigration laws. Penalties if convicted include up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Marriage fraud is investigated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They look for red flags like:
- Marriage less than 2 years old when green card applied for
- Spouses live at different addresses
- Little financial comingling
- No shared assets or liabilities
- Spouses don’t know basic details about each other
If USCIS suspects marriage fraud during the green card process, they can call couples in for an interview to probe the legitimacy of the marriage.
To avoid charges, marriages to obtain immigration benefits must be entered in good faith, even if the relationship later falls apart. An experienced immigration attorney can advise you on how to demonstrate a bona fide marriage.
Immigration document fraud involves using fake, forged, or unlawfully obtained documents like:
- Green cards
- Social security cards
- Birth certificates
The most commonly charged statute is 18 U.S.C. § 1546. It prohibits forging, counterfeiting, or using false immigration documents.
Penalties if convicted are:
- Up to 25 years imprisonment
- Fines up to $250,000
Prosecutors must prove you knew the documents were fraudulent. Defenses include showing you were unaware or reasonably relied on a third party.
Carefully inspect any immigration documents you submit. Immediately report lost or stolen documents to prevent identity theft and fraud.
Immigration benefits fraud involves lying on applications or petitions to obtain an immigration benefit you aren’t entitled to.
Common examples are:
- Falsely claiming U.S. citizenship on forms
- Lying about family relationships to get a green card
- Failing to disclose criminal history on visa applications
The main statute charged is 18 U.S.C. § 1546. Penalties if convicted are up to 25 years imprisonment, fines up to $250,000, and loss of immigration benefits.
To avoid charges, carefully review all immigration forms for accuracy. Do not withhold or misrepresent any requested information. Consult an immigration attorney if unsure what needs to be disclosed.
Consequences of an Immigration Fraud Conviction
The consequences of a federal conviction for immigration fraud are extremely serious. They include:
- Prison time: Defendants face up to 25 years imprisonment depending on the offense.
- Fines: Maximum fines up to $250,000 can be imposed.
- Deportation: Non-citizens convicted of immigration fraud face removal from the U.S.
- Visa/green card denial: An immigration fraud conviction leads to denial of visas, green cards, naturalization, and other benefits.
- Inadmissibility: Those convicted are barred from legally returning to the U.S. for a period of years or life.
- Employment loss: Many jobs prohibit hiring anyone with a federal fraud conviction.
The repercussions can be life-changing. Anyone facing immigration fraud charges or under investigation needs experienced legal counsel.