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Articles of Interest

Jun 30, 2014

The Red Flags of Marriage Fraud

Category: Immigration Articles

I am often asked by my clients what triggers additional scrutiny by the USCIS when an application for lawful permanent residence based on marriage is made.  As many of you may know, for a marriage to be a basis for U.S. immigrant benefits, it must be legally valid, not against public policy, and have been entered into out of a bona fide desire to join two lives together.  The marriage cannot have been entered into for the sole motive of obtaining immigration benefits.

The following is an unofficial list of factors utilized by USCIS officers when determining the validity of a marriage.  It was compiled based on my own experience of representing international couples throughout the United States as well as discussions with USCIS officers and colleagues in offices throughout the country.  While meeting one or more of these “red flags” does not mean your application will be denied, it is important to realize that you and your spouse may be subject to additional scrutiny and investigation.At a minimum, voluminous evidence to document the marriage’s good faith should be gathered and presented at your green card interview.

  • Sloppy dress or appearance: One wonders why the way you dress should have any bearing on the validity of your marriage.  It is recommended however that you and your spouse dress neatly and professionally when attending your USCIS interview.
  • Either spouse is past marriage age: While most of us would agree that there is no age limit on love, the USCIS seems to look with a jaded eye when the U.S. citizen or foreign spouse is in their 50s or older.
  • Arrest records of theU.S. citizen or foreign spouse: Although it is the foreign spouse applying for lawful permanent residence, it is important to realize that the U.S. citizen spouse is also getting evaluated.  There have been reports of U.S. citizen spouses arrested at USCIS interviews because of outstanding arrest warrants.Please keep this in mind and always consult an attorney should you or your spouse have a criminal history of any kind.
  • Age differential: A large age difference of 10+ years between you and your spouse will trigger this “red flag”.
  • Inability of the couple to communicate with each other.
  • Different addresses on your drivers licenses: I have had USCIS officers request to see the couple’s drivers licenses during the interview itself in order to verify that the addresses were the same.
  • Phone tips or letters from concerned citizens: I am told that a surprising number of cases are placed under investigation because neighbors or other concerned citizens write to the USCIS denouncing a marriage as fraudulent.
  • Incorrect answers to questions at the interview: It is important that you and your spouse go over all the information submitted to the USCIS, with particular attention to the responses given on the G-325 biographical forms.
  • Previous immigration petitions filed by the U.S. citizen spouse on behalf of former spouse
  • Interracial marriages and foreign spouses from the country of Nigeria: Believe it or not, this is the #1 red flag for marriage fraud relied upon by USCIS officers.  Other countries with a high incidence of immigration fraud are theDominican Republic and Pakistan

Other factors that may trigger heightened scrutiny and investigation by USCIS officers include:

  • Marriage contracted where the parties have known each other for only a short time
  • Vast class or economic differences between the couple
  • Marriage which was NOT arranged by the parties’ families, where the couple comes from a country where arranged marriages are the norm
  • Any marriage performed before a justice of the peace, without even a small wedding or reception
  • Marriages where one spouse works the night shift, and the other works the day shift
  • Marriages in which the couple does not live together
  • Family or friends unaware of the marriage
  • Marriage arranged by a third party
  • Marriage entered into while the foreign spouse is “in proceedings” or after receipt of “bag and baggage” letter
  • Foreign spouse is a friend of the family