The most popular way to become a permanent resident in the United States is through a marriage green card. This marriage can be to a lawful permanent resident, also known as green card holder, or a US citizen.

The difference is that the green card holder is not fully a US citizen, so there are certain limitations. Conversely, the spouse of a US citizen is called an immediate relative, meaning they can sponsor many people for a marriage-based green card.

The process involves the US citizen or LPR filing a form I-130 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If the spouse of the US citizen or permanent resident entered the country lawfully, they can file Form I-485.

Form I-485 is also known as Adjustment of Status;” it is filed with I-130. They can do this without leaving the country, while spouses that entered unlawfully may also apply, but after leaving the country.

What Is Sham Marriage and How Grievous Is It?

One of the processes involved in obtaining a marriage green card is the visa interview held at the US consulate abroad. Some couples, especially with a US citizen spouse, are exempted from this interview if the USCIS is convinced that the marriage is real. However, more often than not, this interview holds; its purpose is for the immigration officer to investigate the genuineness of the marriage.

Those who are discovered to have entered the marriage just for access to immigration benefits are said to be in a “sham marriage.” Couples involved in a sham marriage are considered to have committed marriage fraud and will face grievous consequences.

Worst case scenario, they can both face criminal charges; otherwise, the alien spouse gets deported and the citizen spouse reprimanded. Once deported, the alien spouse will be facing a ban from reentering the US for a few years.

The USCIS considers any marriage that occurs solely to enter the US and obtain a green card as fraudulent. This US agency considers sham marriage a federal crime, and everyone involved will be facing serious consequences if caught.

Types of Sham Marriages

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) are in charge of marriage fraud investigations. They have discovered different types of sham marriage. There are three common types of sham marriage or marriage fraud:

  • The alien spouse (or someone else) pays the US citizen to marry them so that they can get a green card.
  • An immigrant spouse is defrauding a US citizen; the latter believes the marriage is legitimate, but the former knows it is not. This case is known as marriage fraud rather than sham marriage, and the US citizen is innocent of law infringement charges.
  • The marriage is arranged through mail-order bride agencies, but both spouses know that the marriage is fake or fraudulent.

Marriage is also considered a sham if it is not legally recognized, especially in the country where it was held. For instance, you’re married to someone who is still married or same-sex marriages in a country that doesn’t legalize them. However, these two cases don’t attract jail sentences; only that the marriage is considered invalid and the application is denied.

What Every Marriage Green Card Applicant Should Know

Every marriage green card applicant should remember that entering the US unlawfully can affect their petition. Also, entering the country by hiding the intention to live permanently in the US with their citizen spouse has consequences.

One such is that the use of the visa waiver program to adjust your status could result in a denial of your case. Nevertheless, the spouse of the US citizen can visit the country as a visitor to spend time with their spouse.

Meanwhile, since 2020, some significant changes have occurred to the adjudication of public charge. The hurdle of public charge is important in these cases where the foreign spouse is reviewed as likely to depend on the government.

The US government can reject a marriage-based green card application if the alien spouse will become a public charge. This public charge issue is now a very important part of planning for a foreign national spouse’s immigration to the US.

Working with a Lawyer in Pittsburg to Help Your Case

If you are facing sham or fraud marriage charges, your best bet is to reach out to a lawyer. At Herman Legal Group, our lawyers know their way around US immigration laws and how to get you out of infringements.

Also, if you’re unsure if your marriage classifies as real or sham, they can help you understand your situation. Working with a lawyer is the best way to avoid being deported or worse if discovered to be in sham marriage.

We are based in Ohio, but we have dedicated offices across the country, including Pittsburg. You can reach out to us for a consultation by booking online or by calling us directly at +1-216-696-6170.


Getting married for the purpose of getting a green card is considered a serious offense by the US government. According to the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) Section 204(c), a marriage that occurs to evade US immigration laws is a sham marriage. While some go uncaught, it is advisable that you don’t do it at all.

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