Immigration fraud is a serious concern for immigration officials concerned that foreign nationals may be marrying US citizens just for a chance at permanent residency. In cases where immigration fraud is suspected, a couple may be asked to prove in court that they did not commit fraud. However, as a recent case shows, one question which attorneys must grapple with is exactly why a couple chose to enter into a marriage. Most human relationships are complex, and in some cases marriages may be entered into for multiple purposes. In cases where a couple marry for multiple reasons, including immigration reasons, are they still guilty of immigration fraud?
Chief U.S. District Judge William Steele agreed with prosecutors in a marriage fraud case that defense attorneys could not make the argument that the 2009 marriage between Katerina Petrasova and Andreas Andresean Jr. was made for the “sole” reason of getting Petrasova a green card. According to the federal judge, two previous appellate court rulings in other cases determined that defendants could be convicted of marriage fraud without proof that a marriage was entered into only for the propose of immigration fraud. Earlier this year, prosecutors deemed that the law did require proof that a marriage was entered into only for evading immigration laws. In that case, a hung jury was the result of the court case.
An attorney for Andresean noted that an official administrative manual concerning applications for green cards states that a green card application can be approved if, among other things, the marriage is “not entered solely for immigration purposes.” Judge Steele, however, deemed that the manual is not as important as Congress law. Petrasova’s attorney asked the judge to prevent prosecutors from arguing that the attorneys need to prove that immigration was “a” reason behind the marriage, rather than sole reason.
According to the indictment in the case, Petrasova, a Czech citizen, arrived in the US on a visitor visa in April 2002. She married US citizen Andresean in April 2009. The couple allegedly traveled to Atlanta for immigration interviews and signed immigration forms even though prosecutors allege that the couple were never in a legitimate marriage. If the couple are convicted, Petrasova could face deportation and both parties could face prison time.