Written by attorney Thomas Esparza Jr.

Facebook & Immigration The case of fraudulent & sham marriages

In a recent green card interview, a U.S. Immigration and Nationality Services (USCIS) officer was performing his routine due diligence by asking several questions to a young couple in which the husband (a US citizen) sponsored his wife (a foreign national) through a family petition. The interview appeared to be ending and the young couple believed that they were on the verge of an approval for a permanent resident status for the wife. However, the USCIS officer suddenly asked about the identity of another woman who constantly appeared on the U.S. citizen's Facebook profile. After a more intense and inquisitive line of questioning, the USCIS officer realized that the woman who appeared in compromising pictures with the U.S. citizen on Facebook was the actual girlfriend of the U.S. citizen. USCIS conclusion: the marriage presented to the authorities for a lawful permanent resident status was, in fact, fraudulent.

Cases such as this sham marriage are submitted to USCIS in which a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen only to obtain a permanent residence in the United States. Facing limited resources, USCIS officers have discovered a very efficient and creative manner to investigate people's profiles by accessing social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and My Space in order to detect sham marriages. By accessing Facebook, USCIS officers are able to check for relationships, pictures, statements, and other information that may be vital in their investigation. Even though a compromising picture may not be irrebuttable evidence and determinative of a lack of "good faith" marriage, it will certainly raise justified suspicions within a USICS officer's mind. Other facts and indicators that may create suspicion in the minds of USCIS officers are the following:

1.The applicant and the petitioner have different addresses;

2.The applicant and the petitioner are of different race or national origin and do not speak the same language;

3.A wide gap in age between the applicant and the petitioner;

4.A difference in the cultural and religious backgrounds;

5.A wide disparity in educational levels between the petitioner and the applicant;

6.The application and support evidence / information does not indicate by a "preponderance of the evidence" a "good faith" marriage;

7.The statements and evidence in the application contain inconsistencies; and

8.Federal tax returns indicating "single status" by either the applicant or the petitioner after registering a marriage.

Needless to say, a fraudulent and sham marriage to obtain a lawful permanent residence is not a picture perfect scenario but illegal, improper and fraught with ugly consequences. "Good faith" is always the key in a marriage petition and USCIS officers may be able to detect a sham with ease by applying the fraud indicators listed above. Moreover, a determination of fraud is a serious offense that may lead to criminal charges and ultimately to removal of the foreign national from the United States. If you have questions about marriage and family petitions with USCIS, consult with an experienced immigration attorney before submitting an application in order to make sure that your case complies with all legal requirements.

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