Approximately 250 thousand foreign nationals gain their legal status annually through marriage. According to Homeland Security Investigations, roughly 5-15 percent of these marriages are considered to be fraudulent. A large number of these fraudulent marriages are often undiscovered.
Many of these fraudulent marriages end in divorce soon after full legal status is obtained. But where does that leave the sponsor? Especially when the marriage was entered in good faith.
Although prenuptial agreements are a good choice for the sponsor with wealth, there are no guaranteed solutions to protect those that enter into a marriage with good faith. In fact, there are many pitfalls sponsors should be aware of before saying their vows.
First off, before full legal status can be obtained the foreign party is granted a conditional green card. After 2 years of marriage, a representative from immigration will review the marriage. They will first ensure the couple is still living together, then they will gain satisfaction that the couple are truly in love and have entered into matrimony in good faith. If satisfaction is not met, the foreign party is then deported. If satisfaction has been met, the foreign party is granted legal status. Full citizenship can then be applied for after 3 years of residency.
Sound simple? Not quite. The sponsor must also submit an affidavit of support. This is a document that imposes a 10-year liability on the sponsor for specific government financial assistance that the spouse or the spouse’s children may obtain in the future. This essentially means that you would be liable to cover the costs of any financial assistance received by your spouse or their children for the next 10 years – even if the marriage ended after 3 years, you are still liable for the next 7 years.
There are still many steps that need to be taken in order to gain citizenship, aside from the ongoing case that you must always be ready to prove that the marriage is legitimate. In spite of all the demands and mountains of paperwork, legitimate marriages do endure. But even in these cases, the financial liability involved should be well known – and understood – before entering into marriage with someone who is not a legal US citizen.
Family Law Attorney