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Secret Marriages and U.S. Immigration Law

Immigration lawcan sometimes be complex in its nature. And, in some cases, it can be cut-and-dry. But many times, immigration laws are misinterpreted.

The marriage-status immigration regulations are something that most U.S. citizens don’t understand, much less people who may be new to the county. But misinterpretation of this immigration law can have devastating consequences.

What Are Secret Marriages When It Comes to U.S. Immigration Law?

The law forbids “secret” marriages and inflicts harsh penalties onto people who partake in the underground weddings.

A recent article by the Philippine Daily Inquirer discussed a man named Mario, who was a green card holder. His parents petitioned him as a single adult child a decade ago.

But Mario was actually married— his parents just didn’t know that he had wed his childhood girlfriend, Anna.

When Mario was interviewed for his immigrant visa, he didn’t disclose his marriage to the immigration official.

Anna eventually obtained a visitor’s visa to come to live with Mario. After some time, they decided to marry again and Mario filed a petition for an immigrant visa on behalf of Anna. He also applied for naturalization to become a U.S. citizen.

Penalties Include Deportation

He was denied a green card and now faces deportation because the examiner found out about his first marriage with Anna. Keep in mind, he also swore under penalty of perjury that he had no prior marriage with Anna.

His withholding of information didn’t just affect him.

Anna was also denied to adjust to her immigration status because Mario’s was now considered unlawful.

According to the article, Mario is awaiting a removal/deportation hearing where he will attempt to persuade an immigration judge that he should be allowed to stay in the country.

The Immigration and Marriage Rules

Generally, if you petition yourself to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as unmarried, you must remain single until you enter the United States or your adjustment of status is approved.

This means that if a person awaiting a green card already resides within the states, he or she can’t get married until the adjustment of status is approved.

This also means that if a person resides outside the United States and already passed their immigration interviews—even if your immigration visa has been mailed to you—you still can’t get married until after you’ve literally stepped inside the United States.

Many people are mistaken that once their visa is issued, they are free to marry before they arrive in the United States. This misinterpretation of the law can result in life-changing consequences for all people involved.

Busted: The Secret Marriage Exposed & Its Consequences

If a person is found to have a secret marriage, they not only lose their eligibility for their own visa, but they also are not allowed to petition for their spouse to come to the United States to be with them.

The United States is strict about this immigration policy.

In fact, when a people declare themselves as single, they are required to sign a document that states they are aware of the policy and have been advised that they could lose their eligibility to immigrate if it’s discovered they’ve been hiding a marriage.

Unfortunately, these rules have resulted in some couples finding out the hard way that secret marriages have lead to years—and sometimes a lifetime—of geographical separation.

Who’s Making These Secret Nuptials?

Sometimes before a sweetheart immigrates to the United States, a couple decides to avow their relationship by engaging in a “secret” marriage.

Some couples may view the act as simply a ceremonial gesture, and may not realize that oftentimes their marriage is officially registered with the civil registrar and is considered active and valid in the eyes of the law.

When they are interviewed, they often declare themselves as single because they didn’t think the marriage was legally acknowledged.

Sadly, it takes some people by shock when they discover that they’re denied their green card because they didn’t alert authorities to their marriage.

Of course, there are some people seeking U.S. citizenship or visas who intentionally hide their marriages to defraud the system in an effort to deceitfully obtain green cards.

The USCIS takes all of these situations seriously. In its eyes, immigration deceit could very well be a threat to national security.

If USCIS discovers that any fraud has occurred at any step in the immigration process, a person can be deported and banned for life from the United States. They wouldn’t even be allowed to visit the country. Moreover, the person’s spouse or children can’t stay or be brought to the United States either.

Remarrying a Former Spouse

In general, immigration officials raise their eyebrows when they discover that a U.S. citizen or green card holder has remarried a previous spouse. It typically happens after one spouse obtains citizenship or gets their green card.

Although there are remarriages that are genuine reconciliation, they are usually seen to immigration officials as part of a plot for the other spouse to acquire a green card.

Some people remarry their spouses after they had a secret marriage so the couple’s second “real” marriage could be the basis for a petition to change a spouse’s immigration status.

Or, sometimes people seeking legal U.S. status divorce their first spouse to marry a U.S. citizen, obtain a green card, and then remarry the original spouse to bring them to the United States.

Immigration authorities are well aware of the tactics people use to dodge immigration law—and they arm themselves with research and investigators.

When applying for immigration, authorities usually conduct extensive background checks on the individual. This includes looking for prior marriages. It’s important for immigrants to know the consequences of trying to evade such immigration laws.

Immigration attorneys are good resources that can help make sure all your bases are covered when you’re applying for naturalization. If you’d like to connect to a local immigration lawyer, fill out our free immigration case evaluation or call 877-421-3761.