Every year in America more than 300,000 green cards are granted to foreign nationals who wish to become American citizens. Among many authentic petitions there are a number of scams played to get the same green card illegally.
The scams work because the process of investigating which petitions are real and which are scams fails to catch the cheaters. Some of the scams are well-known, but no less difficult to catch and prosecute successfully.
Green card scams and how they work:
- Mail Order Brides: This is a familiar scam that became popular after WWI, but increased after the advent of the internet. The marriages are usually arranged through advertisement and the American pays a fee for the bride.
- American Paid to Marry Foreign National: Some Americans are willing to sell their good name at any price. The family will make the arrangements for payment and send the bride-to-be. After she satisfies the rules to get her green card, her family members can petition for a green card through her citizenship.
- “I do, I don’t, I do”: This is a game that is full of shenanigans. What happens is the Foreigner divorces her “home” spouse and then marries an American. After a couple years to clear the petition time period requirement to get the green card, she divorces her American husband and remarries her first husband back home. Then she sends for him to come to America so he can get his green card through her citizenship.
- Heartbreaker: This one is a painful lesson for any American who marries for love, only to find out that they were married only for the green card. Sometimes, when a case like this is actually investigated, which is rare, the investigator has a hard time distinguishing real heartbreak from bad acting; which is why it is so hard to prosecute these kinds of scams.
- Exploitation: An American marries a foreign national so that he can sell her into slavery or into prostitution.
What happens after getting caught?
These scams are all challenging to prove, but if they are proven and successfully prosecuted, the American’s punishment under the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act (1986) is 5 years imprisonment and or a $250,000 fine. That is a high price to pay for a card that only costs $475 (form I-140) and $1,010 form I-485, plus an $85 biometric fee and $100 -$300 administration fees. Less than $2000 to play by immigration rules seems like a much better deal than playing a much larger game that can take away one’s freedom and wipe out life savings in one fell-swoop.
The scams are unfortunately beneficial for foreign nationals who live in poverty stricken countries for whom $2,000 would be impossible to obtain. The Americans who play along may do it for altruistic beliefs, but nobody really wins if everyone gets caught. So long as Americans are willing to play, the players to play green card marriage scams.