Thursday, April 23, 2015

Love or Consequences: The Value and Costs of the US Spouse Visa

US Spouse Visa | Love or Consequences: The Value and Costs of the US Spouse Visa

He writes

A United States citizen may not fully understand the premium behind her or his citizenship status until she or he reads the dozens of articles on the web about marriage fraud.

News stories occasionally cover incidents of US citizens who become grooms or brides for hire in order for a non-US resident to gain entry into the country and become a citizen in a few years.  This is usually a business deal where a non-resident either pays a US citizen, or the latter is paid to “assist” someone else, to gain entry into the US by exploiting the immigration system.

The occurrence of such incidents begs the question, “how dumb and desperate do you have to be” to try to game a system that takes months to complete, that has an investigative force of multiple governmental agencies behind it, and that carries penalties of jail time in federal prison? As was quoted once in a movie, one must ask oneself, “is the juice worth the squeeze?"

Apparently, some do think the money is worth the risk such as Nerene Erica Harrison of Tampa, Florida. After her temporary work visa expired, she paid US citizen Robert Kenneth Scott Cruz $6,000 to marry her so that she could continue to stay in the US. Both were sentenced last November 2014 and are facing prison time and heavy fines.

In April 2014, Cassandra Hamilton, also from Tampa, Florida, was sentenced to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to marriage fraud conspiracy. Hamilton was paid to arrange marriages between US and Jamaican citizens, orchestrating at least 10 marriages across several years.

Like any form of fraud (insurance, workers compensation, embezzlement, investment and so forth), immigration fraud enforcement is swift and penalties are severe. The allure of money and entry into the US may often be intense enough to motivate even a generally law-abiding citizen into breaking the law.

What’s worse, however, is that immigration fraud has a unique feature of making unsuspecting victims appear to be perpetrators, and hence become punished as such. As in the Hamilton case, her Jamaican “clients” were permanently barred from ever entering the United States because of their involvement with her. Unlike the victims of a Ponzi scheme, or the global victims of a chief administrative officer’s plundering of $8 million of his cancer research organization’s coffers, victims don’t typically become part of the punitive process.

Perhaps one of the assumptions of scofflaws like Hamilton is that of the hundreds of thousands of cases and petitions across dozens of visa types that the US Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the National Visa Center (NVC) manage every year, a small fraction crosses the desks of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and Homeland Security Investigators (HSI).

The assumption is very dangerous, given the criteria built into the document scanners and application examiners and assessors. As much of a heightened emphasis there is nowadays on the balance between Homeland Security and the social and economic stimuli behind a sound immigration system, it’s no wonder that enforcement is rigorous, and penalties severe. One simply cannot bank on the odds without expecting some type of severe punishment when exploiting a system whose constituents primarily comprise those with good, honest intentions of creating a different or better life for themselves.

A shift in morality can only be hoped for, but never relied upon, when shaping the penal structure of the immigration system. It may be unrealistic to expect the selfish exploiters of the immigration system to consider that they are not only risking deportation and imprisonment for themselves, but also depleting US ICE, HSI, and other enforcement resources from investigating and preventing risky individuals from entering the United States, not to mention creating unnecessary delays for couples and families from being with each other as quickly as possible. Like the embezzler, the crime is the lowest form of greed deserving of the highest form of punishment.

Assuming that the Cruz-Harrison petition took 10 months to process, Cruz could have made more than twice as much applying minimal effort at a minimum wage job, and he would have been able to keep his freedom in the end. Instead, he’s probably sharing a cell right now with an unlucky chap who got pinched for trying to record and sell a pre-release version of “Furious 7” from his smartphone.

But for the rest of us, the majority who are willing to follow the rules and process it themselves, here’s a basic breakdown of the fees to apply for an Immigrant Visa for one’s spouse (IR-1/CR-1):

Spouse petition cost in the US | Love or Consequences: The Value and Costs of the US Spouse Visa
The cost of petitioning a spouse to the United States

Minus other fees such as courier fees and fees for a consultant or a lawyer, the total amount of the spouse visa ranges from $900 to $1,400. (See links below for visa processing tips)

The fine print is abundantly clear on Form I-130 regarding the penalty for entering into marriage arrangements to evade immigration laws, and on Form I-864 regarding the consequences for not fulfilling the contractual requirements as a sponsor of an immigrant. The USCIS promises a fine of $250,000 and/or up to five years imprisonment for criminal offenders of immigration laws. A sponsor who fails to fulfill the contractual obligations of the I-864 Affidavit of Support can be sued directly by the immigrant for support, as well as the means-tested public benefit agency for the costs (administrative, legal, and actual) of support for the immigrant.

I speak for myself and the rest who underwent the spouse immigration process to be with their loved ones that there is a sense of peace and achievement when you have followed the law to the letter.  Mostly, being able to share the rest of your life together in the US with the comfort that you followed the directions of all forms, abided by all the rules, and shunned any and all temptation to make the process easier by hiring a lawyer, a specialist, or other “alternative” services: priceless. #

Related Entries:

CLARIFY your case: Tips on completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

1 comment:

  1. I just passed this into a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that. see here