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What Are the Criminal Penalties for Entering into a Fraudulent Marriage?

St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer

Getting married in the United States affords couples certain legal benefits that citizens have enjoyed for decades, from tax breaks from the federal government to family rates for health insurance. Another benefit is the conditional permanent residency that foreigners can obtain upon marrying American citizens. This benefit has led to exploitation, where some Americans have entered into marriages with non-citizens, solely to provide entry and residency in the United States.

What Does the Law Say?

Marriage fraud is both a criminal and immigration offense and designated a felony under federal law. The penalty is a maximum five years of imprisonment and a maximum $250,000 fine. Though the federal government tends to focus on systemic abuse, such as a marriage fraud ring, many individuals have been prosecuted under the law.  The United States Department of Justice states that marriage fraud has these common features:

  • An individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws.
  • A U.S. citizen who is paid to marry an alien in order to entitle the alien to obtain status as a permanent resident of the United States
  • The parties do not intend to live together as man and wife


The federal government has attempted to make it more difficult to engage in marriage fraud by creating a two-year “conditional status” for the foreign spouse seeking entry and requiring that any family unit remain intact at the end of the two-year period. Nevertheless, many Americans continue to enter into these marriage agreements without appreciating the criminal and broader legal implications. Marriage fraud is a serious offense.

Call a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

As more people seek permanent entry into the United States, marriage fraud will continue to be a proposition that some Americans face. Considering the broader diversity of Florida and St. Petersburg specifically, marriage fraud is uniquely relevant with significant ramifications. If you may have engaged in marriage fraud or know someone who has, seek legal advice from professionals who can help. To schedule a free evaluation with a St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer, call Khonsari Law Group today at 727-269-5300 or send us an email through our online contact form.

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