Fiance visa fraud is more common than marriage-based green card fraud for a number of reasons — because fiancé(e) visas are processed more quickly, because it is easier to establish a legitimate engagement relationship than a legitimate marriage relationship, and because it is easier to simply fail to marry a fiancé(e) than to divorce a spouse. Regardless of the reasons, however, the USCIS has been scrutinizing fiancé(e) visa relationships more closely in recent years.
In light of this increased scrutiny, it is a good idea to prepare your fiancé(e) visa petition more carefully than you would have had to a few years ago, so as to avoid a false accusation of fraud. An accusation like this can not only result in a visa refusal, it could also result in the denial of future immigration benefits that you may otherwise be entitled to.
Red Flags for Fraud
The determination of fraud is largely subjective, and therefore a matter calling for the use of discretion by the USCIS. In many cases, fraud is suspected due to a combination of the following factors:
- The non-citizen partner comes from a country with high rates of immigration fraud.
- The US citizen partner is in a difficult financial situation (thereby tempting him to make money through immigration fraud)
- A large age difference between the partners
- Lack of a common language
- Religious differences, especially if both partners are devout followers of their respective religions
- Large differences in educational attainment, especially if the non-citizen partner is the one with low educational attainment or if the male partner is far less educated than the female partner
- One or both partners hasn’t told their family about the relationship
- The US partner has sponsored other partners for a fiancé(e) or marriage visas before
- The evidence for the relationship (correspondence, photos, etc.) appears slapdash and hastily put together
Countries High on the USCIS Fraud List
Unfortunately, which country your fiancé(e) is from matters when you sponsor a fiancé(e) visa because immigration fraud is disproportionately prevalent among the citizens of certain countries. Of course, there is no country in the world for which most visa applications are fraudulent. Nevertheless, the countries on the USCIS watch list include (in alphabetical order):
Citizens of countries such as Syria and Venezuela might also experience increased scrutiny because difficult conditions in those countries might motivate some to commit immigration fraud.
Possible Penalties if the Accusation Sticks
No Entry Sign
If the USCIS suspects fraud before your fiancé(e) enters the US, the most likely penalty is a simple refusal of your visa petition. You might not even be told directly that fraud is suspected. If fraud is established (rather than merely suspected) after your fiancé(e) enters the US, the following penalties could be imposed:
- Ban from re-entering the US
- Ineligibility for naturalization to US citizenship
- Revocation of permanent residence (green card)
- Criminal penalties (for a US citizen who participates in immigration fraud)
Keep in mind that in order to pursue penalties beyond the mere rejection of a visa petition, immigration authorities must prove their case against you. It is considerably more difficult to convict someone of a criminal offense than it is to impose a civil penalty such as deportation.
Professional Assistance Could be Critical to Your Chances for Success
Back in the days when 99 percent of all fiancé(e) visa petitions were approved, it was not really necessary to seek legal assistance for the preparation of a fiancé(e) visa petition unless special circumstances applied — one partner had a criminal record, for example. These days, with approval rates at about 66 percent and perhaps set to fall further, professional legal assistance might very well make the difference between success and failure.