Should I support the Greencard process?
April 23, 2006 6:05 PM   Subscribe

Greencard Filter: A friend wants me to write a letter supporting his green card process; are the potential legal ramifications for me?

My friend is married, but no longer with his wife. I have never met her. He wants me to write a letter to the INS vouching for them and their relationship.

The letter describes fictious dinner parties and a similiarly fictious relationship between her & I .

I think my friend will be a great green card holder and substantial contributor to the United States - he's has a job, works hard and his ambition is to start companies.

But I'm concerned about perjurying myself to the INS. Should I be?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (27 answers total)
Well, it's not perjury unless you're under oath, but there could be other legal ramifications. For example, if you lie to police you could be charged with obstruction of justice, even though you're not under oath.

I don't know about the spesifics with the ICE (formerly INS) but if you're nervious you shouldn't do it.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 PM on April 23, 2006

Bad idea. Of course, I'm of the opinion that lying to government officials--especially ones with the kind of power the INS seems to have--is always a bad idea. It will come back and bite you in the ass later.

If your friend can't get into the country on his own merits, I'm sorry to say, then maybe he shouldn't at all. Immigration authorities will check out the story, they will interview you--and if he's applying on the basis of his (ex?)wife's citizenship, they will interview the two of them, both alone and together. The recent thread covering immigration to Canada touched on many of the same issues.

Seriously. Bad idea. IANAL, and IA especially NA immigration L, but come on--have you looked into the penalties for aiding and abetting a fraudulent immigration claim? I have no idea what they are, but it seems to me that would be a Federal statute.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:37 PM on April 23, 2006

Oh please, do you seriously think someone's a moral danger to upstanding citizens because they don't want to lose their home and job and be deported? There may be plenty of legal ways to get a greencard (debatable), but your moralistic answer seems to assume that was why the original marriage happened. If someone came to the US a couple of years ago on a fiancee visa (which is how I read this) and has built a life here, wanting to stay even though their marriage didn't work, is a very different situation to the "OMFG GREENCARD FRAUD" conclusion you jumped to.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:45 PM on April 23, 2006

Bad idea. What happens when the wife is called (or called in) to provide support to their claim of marriage and disavows or doesn't know about this fiction? They've got it, on paper, with your name on it.
posted by aberrant at 6:47 PM on April 23, 2006

Can we get some clarification on whether the friend is already in the country or not? It makes a huge difference. I think it's very unlikely they will interview YOU whatever the situation, but if this is a K1 to greencard it's a much simpler process than if this is for his initial marriage based visa.

I would never tell anyone to lie to the US govt, but just saying "don't ever" doesn't seem very helpful. I don't think you can know whether you'll get caught, it depends a lot on the other eveidence your friend has. If he has a lot, and it's good, and there's nothing else weird about the situation, probably nothing will happen, but if your letter is the only evidence, and the INS notice something else fishy, you could have a huge problem.

This also makes me wonder about his ex wife. The situation with her is a big unknown - are they friendly enough that she's playing along? or does she hate him enough that she might contact the INS and tell them they're not married?

How good a friend is this guy? If you want to do it, you might think about plausible deniability (which would be illegal, etc, etc), do you really know for sure that they aren't togther anymore? Could you write a softer letter that doesn't describe events that didn't happen? That one sounds pretty hardcore, and it's a bad sign to me that he wrote it for you. That makes me think he's panicking and doesn't have much else.

I think this is one of those situations where there's a 99% chance nothing will happen, and a 1% chance something very very bad will happen. Good luck!
posted by crabintheocean at 6:56 PM on April 23, 2006

It would also have helped to know whether or not the wife-in-name-only is willing to help him stay in the country and get his green card this way, or whether she's totally unaware of the situation.
posted by evariste at 9:07 PM on April 23, 2006

What aberrant said. Since you've never met his "wife", have zero personal impressions of her, etc. I think you have good cause to be wary of any legal implications that could arise out of this, no matter how outrageous they may seem.
posted by invisible ink at 9:18 PM on April 23, 2006

your friend's request that you lie to the government doesn't make any senese to me.

The test for citizenship given to applicants, including those from China, asks "have you ever associated with anyone from the communist party?" Right after have you ever been convicted of a felony?

What person in their right mind would answer that honestly?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:18 PM on April 23, 2006

Do not lie to federal government officials. Ever.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:38 PM on April 23, 2006

Which part of the process is this?

Is this the get the green card part, or is this the remove the conditions part? If it's the removal of conditions part, they don't need to still be together, they only need to show that they entered the marriage in good faith and not just for the green card.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:54 PM on April 23, 2006

Bad idea. It's not perjury, but it's against the law to make false statements to Federal officials. It will come back to bite you on the ass.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:05 PM on April 23, 2006

What Saucy Intruder said. The people who check these things have very good bullshit detectors.
posted by holgate at 12:22 AM on April 24, 2006

18 USC 1001(a):
Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
Those are the potential legal ramifications. Yes, the CIS (the INS is no longer with us, guys) is known to investigate suspected sham marriages. Don't do it.
posted by grouse at 1:26 AM on April 24, 2006

very different situation to the "OMFG GREENCARD FRAUD"

Actually, this would pretty clearly be "green card fraud."
posted by grouse at 1:30 AM on April 24, 2006

I've never heard of USCIS pursuing people who wrote affidavits for fraudulent marriages-- they've usually got bigger fish to fry-- but you never know. And anyway, if your friend's marriage was legitimate to begin with, his case might still be good. He needs to consult an attorney.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:40 AM on April 24, 2006

The INS, or actually it's now called USCIS ( because of the tie in with Homeland Security)
depends on current status of applicant-- your question is strange anyway, because if this person has been living in the USA for a little while now and is a good friend of yours, then you could mention other, more truthful aspects of his life in the USA.
Besides, the USCIS lends more weight to other more official documents pertaining to someone's life in the USA than just a measly letter to determine permanent residency status.
posted by GoodJob! at 4:21 AM on April 24, 2006

If I were in your shoes, I would be asking myself "what kind of friend would want me to lie (to the government no less) on his behalf?" It sounds like no good and possibly some problems could come your way as a result of this so count me among the no votes.
posted by TedW at 5:35 AM on April 24, 2006

There were a whole bunch of letters of support in my other half's case, and none were ever followed up on, the writers never heard anything from INS. But they didn't involve claiming a relationship with somebody (the wife, in your case) who could prove you're not telling the truth. If she's around and also supporting her ex's case, I can't imagine anything would result. But it's unclear if she is, and you're obviously uncomfortable anyway, so I'll vote another "no." You could ask if any other sort of letter of support would help his case, but presumably it's the marriage he needs to provide documentary evidence for?

And for what it's worth, I would have no problem with a friend asking this of me.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:23 AM on April 24, 2006

Bad idea. What happens when the wife is called (or called in) to provide support to their claim of marriage and disavows or doesn't know about this fiction? They've got it, on paper, with your name on it.

exactly. they'll unmask you pretty easily.

also, if this friend expects you to lie in writing to the Federal government, you should probably reevaluate your relationship with this person, or at least your opinion of him. he's willing to expose you to penalties for his own sake.

if ethics are to be fucked with, he might as well leave his friends alone and pay money to a stranger to vouch for him (it happens, yes) instead of putting an innocent friend in danger.
posted by matteo at 6:51 AM on April 24, 2006

I think that stretching the truth would be okay, but outright fabrication is not. Surely you can write a nice letter vouching for him and his relationship based on your friendship with him, downplaying the fact that you've not met his wife. The thing where he has made up elaborate stories for you to repeat is a terrible way to lie.
posted by desuetude at 6:54 AM on April 24, 2006

To clarify, I mean terrible in that it's a poor way to get away with lying, not terrible as a moral judgement.
posted by desuetude at 6:55 AM on April 24, 2006

I was asked to write a letter for a friend's wife -- he had citizenship, she didn't. I had met her once and it was pretty obvious from their relationship that, although he loved her, she was likely just in it for the green card.

I wrote a noncomittal "I've met them, they're a fine couple" etc in the most bland way possible. When I handed it over to him I said I did what I thought was right, but I couldn't outright lie. He was disappointed (apparently she was pissed), but said he understood.

Turns out it was good enough to get her a card anyway.

(Basically, I agree with desuetude.)
posted by Gucky at 7:36 AM on April 24, 2006

As someone who has sat in front of the officers during this process, he's going to be under oath. That was one part that suprised me when my wife was getting her green card, was that they swear you in before starting.

As someone who's been there within the last 5 months, this is not really that bad of an idea for you, but jebus mother of god this is a horrible idea for your friend. Please, please try and talk him out of it, as it sounds that if you don't do it, he'll just try and find someone who will.

The INS (sorry, DoHS), above all, hates being lied to. They will let you get away with damn near any trangression if you just let them know about it and not change stories.

Oh, and finally - does this cat have a lawyer? If he does, he should fire them. If not, he should get one. This is a completely passable instance (if my understanding of the rules is correct) if you've got people who know what the hell their doing.
posted by plaidrabbit at 7:56 AM on April 24, 2006

If I were in your shoes I'd require talking to the wife. As jamesonwater, evariste, and invisible ink suggested, you'll get an idea about whether she'll be fighting it or if she'd be willing to back you up and get your stories straight, etc.

I am unable to work up any moral indignation about the friends asking friends to lie for them, or the lying to the govt, etc. Jeez.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:46 AM on April 24, 2006

Okay, on thinking now I'm curious. IANAL. I especially ANA immigration L.

Others with more experience in immigration matters can chime in. But I don't think that affidavits of the sort your friend is requesting of you play any part in Adjustment of Status processing. We certainly had none.

Affidavits of the relationship can be part of the I-751 removal of conditions part of the process, where you switch from a 2-year conditional to 10-year unconditional green card. But:

(1) You still don't need them, and they aren't good evidence anyway. We had none and were not asked to come in for an interview.
(2) You do not need to still be married to remove conditions. You only have to show that you entered into the marriage in good faith. This might be a little bit of an uphill battle, but showing that you filed taxes together and had a joint bank account and lived together would go a long ways.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:17 AM on April 24, 2006

My wife is a Canadian. We went through the entire immigration process with a fiancee visa. We just finally got our final approval recently and our final green card arrived last week. We started this process about 6 months before we got married. We just celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary in March. It took 3 1/2 years.

So a few comments:

1) The letter your friend is asking to sign is basically a "supporting document". Things like these are not "specifically" asked for, however they *do* help the process. We used an immigration attorney, and she asked us to provide as many supporting documents as possible. We has 2 or 3 friends write letters as well. None of them were ever contacted.

2) *If* you sign this document, it's not legally binding at all. The USCIS isn't going to come after you for anything. Well, in this day and age, that really depends actually. If this person gets into serious trouble somewhere along the line, then *yes* they may contact you for some reason. One thing for sure, don't screw around with immigration, they don't mess around at all.

3) Finally, keep in mind, if you sign this document with fictitious information, you are lieing. Why does your friend want you to lie for him? Why can't he get his green card truthfully like the law states?

If you go through the immigration process, you find out it takes a lot of money, a ton of waiting, and a ton of paperwork. Anyone who is not willing to go through the correct immigration process for whatever reason doesn't deserve their green card.

Oh, we only live like 3 blocks from the Peace Bridge too. I still laugh that we had to go through all this immgration stuff to a country that I can ride my bike to!
posted by punkrockrat at 10:14 AM on April 24, 2006

*If* you sign this document, it's not legally binding at all. The USCIS isn't going to come after you for anything.

I don't know what you mean by "it's not legally binding." If you knowingly make a false statement, CIS can come after you and you could be imprisoned.
posted by grouse at 10:46 AM on April 24, 2006

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