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Is It Love — Or Something Else? Establishing Sham Marriages to Obtain a Green Card

Those who are looking to get a green card quickly enter into a fake marriage in order to become a U.S. citizen. They will find a “partner,” go through the process (buying a wedding license, setting up the wedding date, etc.) and, once they are married and the green card is obtained, they immediately file for divorce.

Films such as Green Card and, most recently, The Proposal, make light of this. What some of the prospective green card recipients do is come to the U.S. and look to get married without disclosing a previous marriage from their home country or the fact that they have had children from that marriage. Now, there is a growing trend of more criminal prosecutions for those who commit these fraudulent acts in order to get a green card.

We previously published a blog on Gabriela Rosa, a former New York State Assemblywoman who pled guilty in 2014 for entering into a sham marriage with a man in order to gain U.S. citizenship. It was determined Ms. Rosa lied about the “bona fides” of her marriage when she was being investigated in a bankruptcy case. Under a plea deal, she was sentenced to 12 to 18 months. She was removed from her Assembly post and had her citizenship revoked.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the conviction of a Pakistani immigrant in United States v. Haroon. In the case, the defendant married an American citizen and filed a petition seeking to become a legal permanent resident. When the two-year probationary expired, he filed another petition asking the U.S. government to remove the condition from his permanent residence. While seeking approval for the latter petition, the couple divorced and the defendant soon became a U.S. citizen.

What the defendant failed to disclose was, before marrying the American woman, he was previously married — and divorced — with a child while living in Pakistan. On his forms and in interviews with immigration officials, he lied, stating he was never married and did not have any children. Yet, after filing for divorce in the U.S., he flew back to Pakistan, remarried his first wife and had a second child. He flew back to the U.S., where the government charged him with “knowingly” obtaining U.S. citizenship “contrary to law” and sentenced him to two years’ probation and revocation of citizenship. The Sixth Circuit upheld the sentence.

In addition to the criminal culpability, the immigration consequences are severe. There is a permanent bar to immigrant visa petitions by family or employers for life. Today, the risks of being caught are high, especially with the government’s ability to monitor social media, utility bills, use of credit cards etc. It just doesn’t pay.

Any attorney who is complicit in such acts is breaking the law. For those who wish to obtain a green card legally, call the experienced immigration attorneys at Bretz & Coven, LLP at (212) 267-2555.

Immigration Consequences of Criminal and Fraudulent Conduct
The immigration consequences of criminal or fraudulent conduct can be harsh and often illogical. Even a very minor offense could have a dramatic immigration consequence, including deportation, detention without bond, being denied naturalization, a visa or re-entry into the United States. Likewise, the use of fake or fraudulent documents, aliases, and other misrepresentations can have similar immigration consequences. Kerry Bretz and Bretz & Coven have been counseling non-citizen criminal defendants, as well as their lawyers, for over 20 years. We have a long history of strategizing deportation and removal defenses, as well as applications for waivers, in very complicated cases.

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"Was trying to get Green Card since about 7 years. Finally when I switched to this law firm I was able to get green card very fast with great confidence. Big thanks to Eileen, Kerry, Manjit and Olga." - Dinesh, Kansas

""With an extensive criminal history: over 14 arrests, 2 State prison bids and several felony convictions no lawyer wanted my case in 2010. Thanks to the experts at Bretz & Coven who worked diligently and with precision, today I am a United States citizen." - E.A. Brooklyn, NY

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