They Call It Immigration Fraud, But Haven't Arranged Marriages Been Around for Years?

I don’t know how or why the entire text of my original post is gone. But here it is again:

Here’s the premise. Somebody from another country wants to become a U.S. citizen. So they marry a bona fide U.S. citizen. They both know going into the marriage that it is simply a marriage of convenience. In fact they don’t even live together. Then along comes the immigration official. “No way,” he says. Immigration fraud is the charge, and now-illegal alien is promptly deported.

My question is this. Haven’t arranged marriages been around for centuries? The above marriage I described may not have been based on love, but do marriages today even necessarily have to be based on that–love? Surely there is more than one reason to get married to begin with. Plus once the above hypothetical couple got legally married, they gave up their rights to marry anyone else. So what’s the problem with that? Sure they don’t live together. But alot of other married people might spend very little time together. So what’s the difference? And is there really any difference between the above hypothetical marriage, and say, the marriage Bill and Hillary now have?

Just wondering. And still confused.


You know, I wasn’t sure where exactly to put this question at first. I could have put it under great debates. But please realize that it is more of a legal question, in my opionion at least.

The difference is that an arranged marriage is intended to take advantage of the long term benefits of marriage (kids, support, etc), while a marriage of convenience is intended only for a short term benefit.

Smack’s got it exactly right. An arranged marriage per se isn’t illegal. An arranged marriage for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws is.

How does the immigration official/government know/determine what is and what isn’t a “real” marriage?

Gaining citizenship from marriage happens all the time. Look at servicemen overseas, especially (it seems) in Asian/Pacific Island countries.


First off, in the United States of America, nobody gains citizenship from marriage. OTOH, being an immediate family member of a US citizen does exempt one from the immigration quotas. I know this is a widespread belief, but it’s incorrect.

Second, just as many people stationed in Europe get married to locals as those stationed in Asia. Yes, I realize this is from my personal observations, but I did work in the military personnel field whilst stationed on both continents.

Third, the INS does periodic checks of the purported marriage to ensure the couple is actually living together as a couple.

All of the above doesn’t factor in the Expeditious Naturalization Program. That’s the program by which a foreign family member of a US citizen government employee (to include military member as government employee) who is posted overseas may be naturalized immediately without regard to length of residency in the US.

To clarify: the widespread belief I spoke of above is the belief that marrying a US citizen automatically makes one a US citizen. It’s a myth.

My cousin married a Mexican man out of love, but they had to get married quickly because of some problems with the INS. Just getting married was only a very tiny part of him becomming a citizen. I think it’s going to take a few years (and a lot of money) until he is an “American.” INS is very tight with letting people claim marriage for citizenship. My family and I had to write a lot of letters to the INS proving that the two were in love, actually married, and he needed to stay in the US to take care of her (she has some health problems).

Arranged marriages are NOT the same thing. They are still widely practiced and even though there is no initial feeling of love, the people still present themselves as man and wife, live together, and do all the things that a married couple is “supposed” to do.

Some Indian women I know have had arranged marriages, and immigration is the last thing on their mind. It’s purely a cultural thing. In fact, I believe the couples applied for dual citizenship.

This is true.

I know a guy in NZ who married an American. She moved over there, but they’re about to ship her back here. The state of Colorado won’t let him in because upteen years ago when he was 18 in NZ he got caught with pot.

So basically they’re screwed.

It’s not just in the US that they check out marriages between citizens and non-citizens.

My mum (who’s Canadian) married my (Australian) Dad in Australia 26 years ago. When they went on a trip to Canada about 4 or 5 years ago, they gave my dad a hard time in immigration, making sure he wasn’t trying to slip into the country with a marriage of convenience. As he pointed out, 20 years and 4 children isn’t very convenient, and there are better ways to enter Canada if that’s what you’re trying to do.

The typical reason for immigration fraud marriages is to remain legally married just long enough to get citizenship, or at least a green card. Once citizenship is established, divorce promply ensues.

There are many, many ways of checking the validity of a marriage. And as many have mentioned, arranged marriage per se isn’t illegal, but marriage strictly for the purpose of getting around the immigration laws is illegal.

I used to interpret in immigration court for these cases, among others, and you’d be amazed how boneheaded people can be. I saw cases where the couple didn’t speak a language in common, cases where there was an age difference in excess of 60 years (Anna Nicole Smith nonwithstanding, a little iffy, dontcha think? The judge’s comment during a recess: “I wish I could believe that this guy just got really lucky, but I’m having a really hard time with it!”), cases where one spouse didn’t know how many children then other one had, and numerous cases where one spouse’s immediate family and co-workers had no idea he/she was married.

OK, maybe these were just the ones who were dumb enough to get caught: myself, if I were to choose to do so, I’d have a pretty good idea of how to fool INS.

My wife is Mexican, and by that I mean a Mexican. There’s no such thing as automatic citizenship, nor did we expect that. Is that really a common myth? The (factual) “myth” is that marriage makes it simpler to get into the country, in that a lot of things that are normally looked at aren’t looked at, and quotas are ignored. My wife could become an American citizen after seven years of residency, just like any other immigrant (through proper procedures, of course).

INS makes sure we’re a “real” couple so: in Cd. Juarez, we were interviewed. I think the pivitol question was did my then-fiancee know my USA telephone number by heart :). That earned the K1 visa. In Detroit, I don’t recall the details of the interview – it was simple. That earned the temporary permanent visa and green card. After two years have elapsed, we’ll have to go to Detroit INS again, but this time armed with new paperwork, including personal references and letters that attribute our living as a bona fide couple. I imagine that if anything is fishy, they could do interviews with our friends and family, but immigration is so routine (some may say too routine) that this isn’t bound to happen.


Another common myth is that an illegal alien (or even a tourist) in the US can automatically get a green card just by marrying a US citizen. 'Tain’t so.

La même chose au Canada. There’s a specific procedure that can allow spouses to immigrate, but there are a number of very narrow hoops to jump through - you can’t just immigrate just like that.

Marriages of convenience (for immigration reasons) usually involve some sort of financial arrangement where the immigrant pays a fee to the citizen. After the immigrant achieves citizenship the parties then divorce and go their separate ways.

As an aside, a friend told me a story of another friend (female) who undertook to marry a foreign man for $1000. They lived together nominally, in order to fool the INS. After he was granted citizenship they had planned to divorce but discovered that they loved each other after all. So they reaffirmed their wedding vows and are still together many years later. No word on if she had to give the $1000 back.

Sorry about the bump, but I just wanted to add a question or two to this thread:

A couple people have mentioned that the INS checks up on marriages to see that they are not intended just to get a green card. I’m wondering just what they do to check things out.

In another thread, someone mentioned that a temporary 2-year visa is issued while the INS checks out the marriage with random visits, checking to see if there is one bed or two, and so on. Just wondering how much validity there is to that. Would that be for all marriages that involve a visa, or just potentiatlly shady ones?

If someone were to marry just to stay in the US, just what factors do the INS use to determine whether or not it’s a sham marriage? Does anyone have details on this stuff?

(Note: I should ask my mother about this, as I strongly suspect she married for a visa… and she was only married about 2 years. Hmm…)

It’s really a two year temporary “permanent” residency permit. Leave it to the US government to define permanent as temporary!

The INS is supposed to make unannounced visits to the happy couple to ensure they’re a couple. After two years, the citizen member of the couple has to apply to make the temporary permanent actually permanent.

I married Mrs. Mojo in India in 1986. That was before they made the immigration laws more restrictive, so I guess not everything in my story will apply today.

We took the train to Madras, to go to the American consulate on Mount Road to apply for her immigration. The American official we saw after waiting all day was really rude. She said, “You people are notorious for doing fake marriages just to immigrate.” That hurt because we honest-to-God married for love. I was at a loss what to do next. But Mrs. M is sharp. She whipped out our wedding picture. She was all dressed up in a fancy red wedding sari, and we were both draped with huge flower garlands and all that (have you seen Monsoon Wedding? Good, you got the idea). The official suddenly relented and she was like, “OK, I guess you’re for real after all.” Didn’t I tell you my wife was sharp?

After immigrating (there was no mention of quotas since we were married), she got her green card instantly, nobody came around to check up on us, and she got her citizenship in 5 years instead of having to wait 10 years.

Monty, I think you corrected yourself, but just to clarify: marrying a U.S. citizen can get you a green card and citizenship but it’s not automatic. Immediate relatives (including spouses) are not subject to quotas.

For the first two years a spouse receives a green card on a conditional basis. At the end if the two year period, the couple has to file to have the conditional status removed. The couple may submit evidence of the validity of their marriage, such as documents showing joint ownership of property, joint tenancy, and affidavits of third parties. At that time, the INS officer can call them in for an interview, which is generally waived unless there’s some reason for suspicion. The INS can’t just spy on them to gather evidence. By the way, the procedure was more lax prior to 1986.

The general rule is that a marriage is a sham if the couple did not intend to establish a life together. There is no rule about how they have to behave as a couple, or how much time they have to spend together, but their behavior after marriage can be used as evidence that the marriage was a sham. Even in arranged marriages, couples generally do share a life (live together, share property, have children, etc.), even if there’s no romantic love.

“Proxy marriages” (akin to some arranged marriages) are not allowed. They’re defined as marriages “where the contracting parties thereto are not physically present in the presence of each other, unless the marriage shall have been consummated.” (Hmm… “present in the presence” - gotta love Congress.)