Immigration Fraud is a federal offense that can result in incarceration up to 5 to 25 years, fines up to $250,000 or double the gains from the criminal offense as well as removal from the United States as well as denial of naturalization. Federal Immigration Fraud is investigated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of State. Immigration Fraud is a general term that applies to several different schemes, including:

  • Immigration Marriage Fraud;
  • Immigration Identity Fraud;
  • Immigration Benefit Fraud.

All of these charges can result in a criminal record, jail time, and your deportation from the United States. If you are charged with any of these charges, you need experienced immigration fraud criminal defense counsel with understands not only the criminal aspect of your case, but also collateral consequences on your immigration status. We work with a top rated immigration attorney to ensure that our clients get solid guidance on all aspects of their case.

Immigration Marriage Fraud

Immigration Marriage is a type of federal immigration fraud. Typically, it involves a U.S. Citizen and marrying an alien, or a non-U.S. Citizen. The couple fulfills all the wedding requirements, such as obtaining a marriage license and having a ceremony. However, the couple has no intention of living together as husband and wife. Rather, the U.S. citizen received money or something else of value for going through with the marriage ceremony with intent to confer legal resident status to the alien. Immigration marriage fraud cases are prosecuted under Section 1325 of Title 8 of United States Code and Section 1546(a) of Title 18.

Immigration Fraud cases are investigated by USCIS, which focuses on marriages that:

  • Are less than 2 years old at the time Green Card is granted (if Green Card application was made in the United States),
  • Those involving alien spouses who enter the United States on an immigrant visa.

The marriages are scrutinized at the time of Green Card application as well as at the time of U.S. Citizenship application. If the couple gets divorced prior to the alien spouse obtaining U.S. Citizenship, USCIS may conduct an investigation to ensure that the marriage was legitimate.

Criminal Charges for Immigration Marriage Fraud

Under Section 1325(c), as amended by the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986, an individual is guilty of Marriage Fraud when “individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws.” This charge is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000.

Can I Be Charged with Immigration Marriage Fraud if My Marriage Was Legitimate in the Beginning?

You cannot be charged with immigration marriage fraud if your marriage was legitimate at the time of the ceremony, but did not work out. The Courts have held that the viability of the marriage is not a proper concert for Immigration Courts, so long as the marriage was legitimate in the beginning.

Immigration Identity Fraud

The second type of Immigration Fraud charges is Immigration Identity Fraud. Immigration Identity Fraud involves using, forging, altering or falsely making immigration documents. The main statutes used to prosecute Immigration Identity Fraud charges are 18 U.S.C. Section 1546, titled Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits and Other Documents and 18 U.S.C. Section

18 U.S. Code § 1546 – Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits, and Other Documents

18 U.S. Code Section 1546 applies to a wide range of conduct. Under this immigration fraud charge, a person is guilty of Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits and Other Documents when s/he:

  1. Knowingly forges, counterfeits, alters or falsely makes immigration documents or uses possesses or receives these documents, OR
  2. Knowingly possesses any blank permit, or engraves, sells, brings into the United States a plate designed for the printing of permits, OR
  3. Makes any print, photograph, or impression in the likeness of any immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, permit or other document required for entry into the United States, OR
  4. Possesses a distinctive paper adopted for the printing of such visas, permits, or documents, OR
  5. Personates another when applying for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, permit or other document, OR
  6. Falsely appears in the name of a deceased individual, OR
  7. Evades or attempts to evade the immigration laws by appearing under an assumed or fictitious name without disclosing his true identity, OR
  8. Sells or otherwise disposes of, or offers to sell or otherwise dispose of, or utters, such visa, permit, or other document, to any person not authorized by law to receive such document, OR
  9. Knowingly making a false statement under oath with respect to a material fact in any affidavit, application, or other document required by immigration law, or knowingly presenting such document.

What Documents Does this Immigration Fraud Charge Apply to?

18 U.S.C. Section 1546 applies to the following immigration documents:

  • Nonimmigrant visa,
  • Permit,
  • Border crossing card,
  • Alien registration receipt card,
  • Passport
  • Any other document prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States.

Importantly, this immigration fraud charge applies to not only documents issued by the United States, but also those issued by other countries.

Penalties and Sentencing for 18 U.S.C. Section 1546

This immigration fraud charge has the following sentencing penalties:

  • Imprisonment up to 25 years – if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international act of terrorism;
  • Imprisonment up to 20 years – if the offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime;
  • Imprisonment up to 10 years – for first and second-time offenders if this immigration fraud charge did not involve an international act of terrorism or a drug trafficking crime;
  • Imprisonment up to 15 years – in case of any other offense.
  • Imprisonment up to 5 years – for knowingly using a false immigration document, or an identification document with knowledge that the document was not lawfully issued, or a false attestation.

18 U.S. Code 1543 – Making or Using a Forged Passport

Making or Using a Forged Passport is the second immigration fraud charge that falls under Immigration Identity Theft. This charge is codified in Section 1542 of Title 18 of United States Code.

Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1542, a person is guilty of Making or Using a Forged Passport when s/he:

  1. Willfully and knowingly
  2. Makes any false statement in an application for passport
  3. With intent to induce or secure the issuance of a passport under the authority of the United States,
  4. Either for his own use or the use of another,
  5. Contrary to the laws regulating the issuance of passports or the rules prescribed pursuant to such laws.

It is also a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1542 to willfully use, attempt to use or furnish to another for any any passport which was secured by a false statement.

Penalties and Sentencing for Making or Using a Forged Passport

Similarly to Fraud and Misuse of Visas and Other Documents, this immigration charge provides for enhanced penalties for crimes involving international terrorism or drug trafficking. Specifically, Making or Using a Forged Passport is punishable by:

  • Imprisonment up to 25 years – if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international act of terrorism;
  • Imprisonment up to 20 years – if the offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime;
  • Imprisonment up to 10 years – for first and second-time offenders if this immigration fraud charge did not involve an international act of terrorism or a drug trafficking crime;
  • Imprisonment up to 15 years – in case of any other offense.

Immigration Benefit Fraud

Third type of Immigration Fraud is Immigration Benefit Fraud. This charge involves making a knowing and intentional misrepresentation regarding a material fact on an immigration petition with intent to wrongfully obtain an immigration benefit. The federal criminal charge that applies to these types of cases is 18 U.S. Code Section 1546, titled Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits and Related Documents and False Personation. This immigration fraud charge and its’ penalties and sentencing ranges is discussed in the Immigration Identity Fraud Section.

Immigrant Assistance Services Fraud

New York State Penal Law has two charges prohibiting fraud associated with providing immigration assistance services. These charges are codified in New York Penal Law Section PL 190.87 and PL 190.89. Specifically, they apply to providing for a fee services associated with immigration services or naturalization. These charges can result in a criminal record as well a jail time.

Defenses to Immigration Fraud Charges

Each case is unique and requires a detailed assessment the evidence, however, these are some common defenses to Immigration Fraud charges:

  1. Lack of Knowledge – in order to convict someone of immigration fraud, the Government has to prove that the individual “knowingly” engaged in fraudulent conduct. If the prosecutor cannot establish that someone knowingly engaged in bad conduct beyond a reasonable doubt, the case will be dismissed.
  2. Relying on Someone Else to Obtain Papers – you may have a viable defense to immigration fraud charges if you hired another individual to assist you with obtaining your paperwork. If the papers weren’t legitimately obtained, you may be a victim of immigration fraud, rather than a co-conspirator of such conduct.
  3. Proper Documents Exist – if you are charged with immigration fraud based on false documents, you may have a defense to these charges if there are authentic documents that exist

Contact Top Rated Immigration Fraud Attorneys

If you or your loved one has been arrested and charged with immigration fraud, you need to retain an experienced immigration fraud defense attorney. We have handled numerous criminal investigations involving Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Read our client testimonials to see what our clients say about our services and contact us to schedule your appointment today.