To marry or not to marry?
March 10, 2008 6:33 AM   Subscribe

My brother wants me to marry his friend so he can stay in the US. Should I?

My brother called last night asking if I would be willing to marry a friend of his because his visa is about to expire and this would be his best, if only, option. My brother lives in New York City, as does his friend, though I'm not sure where he's from originally. I live about an hour north of the city. My brother says I will not have to move or change anything about my life, all I will have to do is sign the paperwork. I would then be "married" for two years, during which his friend agrees to pay my monthly rent.

My situation: I am a 28 year old single female with no prospects of anyone else proposing marriage any time soon. I have no kids and do not plan on having any in the near future. I am concentrating on my professional life right now and would desire a career change but my financial situation limits me. So, having my rent taken care of for the next two years is enticing, as I would like to take some classes and this would help out a lot.

I do not really see this as a moral issue. To me, marriage is just a legal piece of paper that can mean whatever you want it to. I feel a true loving commitment between two people can be expressed and understood and means just as much as any "legal" binding.

So, my question is...are there any complications/worst case scenarios/things I should be aware of before I consider this?

Thanks in advance for any info you can provide.
posted by anniepants to Law & Government (36 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: user closed their account -- jessamyn

For one, you could be on the hook for any debts he incurs, between now and when he decides he doesn't want to stay in the US, after all.

For the love of fuck, do NOT do this.
posted by notsnot at 6:43 AM on March 10, 2008

I worked with a guy from Austrailia who moved here and married a girl he met online. If I remember correctly, he had to go into the local INS office every six months to be 'interviewed' with his wife to prove that their marriage was for real.

Also, I believe what you are proposing is against the law.
posted by internal at 6:43 AM on March 10, 2008

From my very limited experience with this (I know someone who married a friend for this reason), it's quite complicated. You can get into trouble. They will want to see dated pictures of you together. They will ask for references from friends. You will be asked many questions. It's illegal and I think there are somewhat serious repurcutions for lying.

Again, this is just hearsay and I'm sure others will weigh in with information (I may be wrong). Another friend's sister was going to do this with a guy from the middle east and it got really screwed up really fast to the point where I think the sister was worried she was going to go to jail.

I think at minimum you'd have to live together, but I'm not sure.
posted by sully75 at 6:45 AM on March 10, 2008

Silly straight people.

It's illegal for you to do what you're proposing. It's also cheating the system for your own benefit. How can you not see it as a moral issue?

Complications - carrying that baggage with you for the rest of your life, having to hide the secret from your eventual 'real' spouse and children that mommy was basically a liar and a cheat?

Oh and one more thing to be aware of in case you didn't catch it at first... it's illegal.
posted by matty at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2008

I would really have considered asking this anonymously. Who knows where the tentacles of the USCIS reach?
posted by meerkatty at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2008

If the INS finds out, they can and will make you suffer for this. You may as well kiss financial stability goodbye.
posted by aramaic at 6:48 AM on March 10, 2008

Well, you could go to prison for up to five years and face a $250,000 fine.

And you might fall in love with Gérard Depardieu, which would be worse.
posted by pardonyou? at 6:49 AM on March 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

Even if your relationship was legitimate you would need to do a lot more then just sign some paperwork.

I would strongly suggest you don't try to defraud the government.
posted by Julnyes at 6:51 AM on March 10, 2008

Get the rent money up front because it's not like you can take it to the courts when this inevitably goes wrong.

To me, marriage is just a legal piece of paper that can mean whatever you want it to. I feel a true loving commitment between two people can be expressed and understood and means just as much as any "legal" binding.

That's all well and good but the state of NY and the Feds have their own ideas on this point. The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 amended § 1325 by adding § 1325(c), which provides a penalty of five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for any "individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws.". I'm sure a federal rap wouldn't be good for your career.
posted by otio at 6:51 AM on March 10, 2008

8 USC §1325(c):
(c) Marriage fraud
Any individual who knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or fined not more than $250,000, or both.
18 USC §1546
...Whoever knowingly makes under oath, or as permitted under penalty of perjury under section 1746 of title 28, United States Code, knowingly subscribes as true, any false statement with respect to a material fact in any application, affidavit, or other document required by the immigration laws or regulations prescribed thereunder, or knowingly presents any such application, affidavit, or other document which contains any such false statement or which fails to contain any reasonable basis in law or fact—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than... 10 years...
Of course, you can go to prison for longer if your brother's friend is involved in drug traficking (20 years) or international terrorism (25 years). Hope you trust him that much!
posted by grouse at 6:52 AM on March 10, 2008

The immigration policies of the U.S. are extremely screwed up, but this is a very bad idea, especially now that you've asked about it in public with your name attached.

As other people have said, the INS knows about this scam too. You'd be buying yourself a huge headache at the very least.
posted by gerryblog at 6:53 AM on March 10, 2008

A friend of mine (Canadian) married an Australian girl after they had been dating for several years, and the two of them moved to Canada. In order for the government to accept their marriage as cause for immigration, they had to produce emails they had sent to each other over the years they had dated, photos they had taken of each other showing the time that had elapsed, testimony from friends and family that they had been together for that amount of time, and other proof. I don't know how it works in the US, but I would expect it to be the same. It is absolutely not a matter of signing a piece of paper and being "married," it involves quite a thorough deception.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:57 AM on March 10, 2008

Please can the mods remove this???? Ignorance of the law being no defense and all that .....
poster, listen to the above advice. Take your name off your contact page.
posted by Wilder at 6:58 AM on March 10, 2008

Adding to notsnot point above, what you specifically need to be concerned about is the Affadavit of Support that SOMEBODY has to sign, and prove they have sufficient resources to ensure the "alien" does not become a fiscal burden on the United States.

This does not have to be you; you can have co-sponsors if you don't make enough to meet the support requirements, for instance. But it looks VERY suspicious if you don't want to sign the sponsorship and you DO have enough income.

And if you sign that thing and he decides to have merry adventures, you are 100% on the hook.

I'm currently engaged to an American, waiting on a K-1 fiancée visa, and to be honest, this sort of thing -- even setting aside the legal element and the level of deception it would entail -- it is morally wrong. You are preventing people who are legitimately in love from being together by filling quota numbers and clogging up the system. There are finite number of people they let in, and if you game the system like this, that means somebody else who does have a, well, legitimate reason to immigrate to the U.S. is going to be bumped off a list.

The four ways of immigrating to the U.S., in broad strokes:

1. Be in extreme, imminent, life-threatening jeopardy;
2. Have some good skills that you can use to get an employer to sponsor your employment immigration;
3. Have strong romantic or family ties and want to be with your love/family;
4. Be patient, or ludicrously wealthy.

If this guy has neither the skills to find an employer who will help him, or the patience to go through normal channels, I don't think gaming the system -- and thereby screwing over people who do have legitimate relationships and are trying their utmost to fight through a sea of red tape to be together -- is the right thing to do, either for yourself or for anyone else.
posted by Shepherd at 7:02 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Note that many of the most prominent prosecutions of celebrities in the past five or so years have been for lying to investigators-- Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, maybe Roger Clemens.

Those are from a whole range of different agencies, and none of them have to do with immigration. So, maybe people get away with the sort of thing you're contemplating all the time.

Still, I personally don't intend to lie to the federal government about anything.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2008

Don't do this, there are a million bad reasons...
posted by Jack Feschuk at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2008

To me, marriage is just a legal piece of paper that can mean whatever you want it to.

No. BECAUSE marriage is a legal piece of paper, it can NOT mean "whatever you want it to." It means very specific things, some of which vary from state to state. Legally speaking, you are tying your life to this person. You will end up making yourself extremely vulnerable financially.

Furthermore, if (when?) your marriage is verified by INS, you're going to need to be able to convincingly play house with this person, and "prove" that you're a real couple -- are you willing and able to do that? Are you willing to accept the consequences if you fail to convincingly lie to the government?

On another note, if none of the above convinces you, two years is a fairly long time -- what if you do this, and then meet THE GUY. Will he be willing to put his life on hold for two years while you complete this commitment? Will you regret tying yourself down to this harebrained scheme when a real opportunity for happiness slips through your fingers?

On preview, what these folks all said. Don't. Freaking. Do it.
posted by somanyamys at 7:07 AM on March 10, 2008

Yeah, if something has appeared multiple times on sitcoms as a "wacky hijinks" sort of situation, it's probably best to not do it.
posted by stefnet at 7:08 AM on March 10, 2008

posted by buxtonbluecat at 7:14 AM on March 10, 2008

Could your parents adopt him? Seriously. My folks tried to do this for a friend. He eventually was allowed to extend his visa.
posted by Gungho at 7:14 AM on March 10, 2008

And the OPs account has been disabled...
posted by stefnet at 7:15 AM on March 10, 2008

nthing don't do it. A friend married an American (for love, not convenience) and the hoops they had to jump through were incredible. The American was rather poor so HE asked me to sponsor him, and even though he was my one of best friends I still said no. That's an incredible amount of responsibility for someone I'm not in love with.
posted by desjardins at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2008

Bear in mind that you would be making yourself vulnerable to somebody who knows your position and threatens to report you to the INS (or just reports you anyway). What would if be worth for you, as a couple, to pay to a potential extorter to avoid you getting fined/imprisoned and him getting deported? I would imagine more than the couple of years rent money you will receive.
posted by rongorongo at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2008

This is NOT your problem. Don't make it yours. And shame on your brother for even suggesting it.
posted by Doohickie at 7:23 AM on March 10, 2008

A coworker of mine is dealing with marriage & immigration with her husband currently living in Saudi Arabia. They were married three years ago and have a great deal of pictures and letters from throughout their marriage. Still, his recent application to come over here was just declined on the grounds that their marriage did not look legitimate. She was heartbroken, as she's going to have to go another year or so before she can see him again.

Stuff like what you suggest make it even harder for people actually committed to a loving relationship. It is too a moral issue.
posted by sian at 7:24 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why can't your brother and this dude get married in Canada or Denmark or something? This is probably even more illegal but at least it doesn't include you in any way.
posted by uandt at 7:27 AM on March 10, 2008

Or your brother could extend his visa legally. Failing that, he could stay here and work under the table. It has worked for millions of other illegal immigrants. Who knows, maybe he can even qualify for amnesty someday. The fact that your brother would ask you to do this...
posted by sophist at 7:38 AM on March 10, 2008

It's what I like to call "asking for trouble."
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:46 AM on March 10, 2008

They WILL interview the two of you, and they WILL expect to see wedding pictures. And this may happen more than once if my wife's green card process is any indication. This is a very bad idea.
posted by chundo at 7:50 AM on March 10, 2008

Your brother is smoking crack and trying to exploit you in the worst way.
posted by Avenger at 7:51 AM on March 10, 2008

Anecdotally, I was approached in college to do this by a friend of a friend. Nice enough guy, wanted to stay in the country because he'd fallen in love with a guy he worked with, and he desperately wanted to stay in the country to be with him. Going back to Mexico with his lover was not an option; he was not out to his family, among other reasons. The plan was, I'd move in with him and his lover, we'd pose as a married couple with his lover posing as a friend living with us until he got on his feet financially, and they would pay off all of my student loans after graduation, plus pay all the rent and expenses while we were married. We'd divorce after he became a citizen.

When I thought about it, this was a huge charade to keep up for several years. I had a year of college to finish and I wanted to focus on my studies. I asked myself alot of questions - what if I fell in love and really wanted to be with someone else? What if I wanted to live on my own at some point or move to another city? Did I really want to involve myself in the day to day life of another couple that I barely knew? What if they broke up? What if the naturalization process didn't go as planned and was held up for a long time? Not to mention credit issues - I wasn't great with money, I knew nothing about his financial history, and the thought of being bound to someone else in that way freaked me out. An extended lie on this magnitude was too much for me to handle.

Your brother may be misinformed about the process. At the time I was considering this - about 15 years ago - it was not a matter of simply signing papers and being done with it. I had worked with a woman at a restaurant job who'd actually fallen in love with an immigrant, who actually had a loving relationship with him, who was actually invested emotionally, physically and financially in her lover, and her experience with the INS was brutal. They were both interviewed extensively. They were asked all sorts of questions about their sexual practices - explicit personal questions designed to demean as much as divine intent and gather information - their financial involvement, their families, their future plans, if and when they planned to have children, how many, where would they raise them, how, etc., etc. They were repeatedly subjected to impromptu visits from the INS, as well. So, not only would we have to keep up appearances publicly, but privately, too. And they had each other and their shared love to buttress them through that process; I'd be a callow college student legally bound to a guy I didn't know at all living with him and his lover. And this is all aside from considering my true feelings and convictions regarding love, marriage, divorce, etc., all things I was really too inexperienced and foolish to think about at the time. Which, I'm pretty sure in retrospect, was part of why he approached me.

I chickened out. I felt terrible about it, too, because I do have strong feelings about the immigration issue, particularly now. Maybe it is a matter of signing some papers, but you should know that a current friend of mine immigrated from Canada to be with her now husband, and her legal immigration was a drawn out process that was very hard on both them. For a while, it was practically their job to get her into the country. The INS isn't messing around these days.

Think hard on this. Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:51 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

My brother called last night asking if I would be willing to marry a friend of his because his visa is about to expire

No, you would not.
posted by oaf at 7:53 AM on March 10, 2008

Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick!

What, is this guy your brother's boyfriend or something... and your brother somehow is unable to follow this guy back to his home country? Is he the only match for a close relative of yours who needs a bone marrow transplant?

Putting aside the moral and legal issues for a minute here... seriously, you have your head deeply in the sand if you think what you are suggesting is at all about signing a paper or about your suspect views on marriage.

The US does allow for "lighting strikes" kinds of sudden marriage hookups, but its' shaky at best. You have to fabricate not only a history but a present and a future with someone you never met, who is so feckless he is allowing your brother to call you and ask you this ridiculous favour. If he had any class at all, he wouldn't ask... but putting that aside, he'd ask himself, in person, and not through a proxy over the telephone.

You'd have to live with a man you don't know for a number of years, lie to the federal gvt, fill out form after form, open your financial and personal life to the unblinking inspection of a professional sadist at the INS to show just how you've comingled your lives over that time... and you're willing to do this for a promise in an illegal and unenforceable contract for two years free rent? Of course the rent is free - he'll be living with you! He'll have to, if this application is to be successful.

All the hoops legit people who can show years of prior contact and relationship documentation (pics, email, letters/cards, plane tickets) will be set that much higher for your quickie marriage application. Even if the relationship was real, you'd have to have a very good immigration advisor and lots of luck to have a successful application with this sort of setup.

In addition, it's the rest of your life you have to worry about. Anyone who knows you married this guy to let him stay in the US can report you after the fact for the fraud.

Sometimes, when I read something like this, I wonder if this isn't some hack writer trying to work out plot kinks in some crappy novel instead of a legit problem someone's posting.
posted by Grrlscout at 8:00 AM on March 10, 2008

And the OPs account has been disabled...

What the hell is going on here? Any admins want to weigh in?
posted by Dasein at 8:00 AM on March 10, 2008

It could get awkward if you meet someone you like, but are "married".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:04 AM on March 10, 2008

This might be a good time to stop trusting your brother's judgment.
posted by ewkpates at 8:14 AM on March 10, 2008

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