Investigating Marriage Fraud
Entering into marriage for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration benefits is fraudulent and is a basis for removal.
Under US immigration laws, an alien is removable if he was inadmissible “at the time of entry or adjustment of status”. An alien is inadmissible by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, if he sought to procure or has procured a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other immigration benefit. This includes fraudulently entering into a marriage for the sole purpose of getting immigration benefits.
This was underscored in a recent case involving a citizen of Kenya who came to the United States after being admitted as a nonimmigrant student. He later married a US citizen and dropped out of school after. He then applied for Adjustment of Status that year but was later on placed on removal proceedings because of the fraudulent marriage.
In cases like this, it is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that has the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that an alien who was admitted to the US is removable. DHS had to prove that said Kenyan citizen and his US citizen spouse did not intend to establish a life together at the time they were married.
In this particular case, the immigration officers and fraud detection officers were able to present evidence that the couple did not intend to establish a life together. During visits by the fraud detection officers to the supposed residence of the couple, the Kenyan citizen was there with several other males but without the US citizen wife or any signs of her belongings. When asked about her whereabouts, the Kenyan citizen said that she left a week ago and did not leave any of her things behind. The fraud detection officer was also able to obtain documentary evidence showing that the US citizen still claim to be single and living with her mother and children in a different address. In her applications with the Social and Rehabilitative Services and several other organizations, she did not state being married and there was no indication of her living with her supposed husband for the said timeframe.
The DHS also investigated the school where the US citizen’s daughter was enrolled and the principal attested that the Kenyan citizen was not listed on the child’s school records nor did said child live at his supposed address.
During his removal hearing, the Kenyan citizen was unclear as to when he started living with his US citizen wife. He also stated that he did not know that she applied for state benefits. He clarified that he divorced his US citizen wife in December 2012.
It must be noted that marriages that end up in divorce are not automatically deemed as fraudulent. If a couple have initially entered into marriage in good faith but subsequently ended up in divorce, it does not mean it is fraudulent. Fraudulent marriages mean that from the onset, the couple had no intention of establishing a life together.
In this case, it was proven by clear and convincing evidence that the two did not intend to have a good faith marriage. What was clear was that their marriage was entered into to obtain immigration benefit for the Kenyan citizen after the expiration of his student visa.
Fraudulent marriages have serious consequences not just for the foreign national but also for the US citizen involved. In this case, the Kenyan citizen was placed on removal proceedings and was held to be removable. Both the foreign national and the US citizen could face imprisonment and a fine.