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MARRIAGE: CA1 Upholds BIA’s Finding That Petitioner Had Not Entered into Marriage in Good Faith

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MARRIAGE: CA1 Upholds BIA’s Finding That Petitioner Had Not Entered into Marriage in Good Faith


The First Circuit found that it lacked jurisdiction to evaluate the IJ’s credibility determinations or to reexamine the weight given to certain evidence. The court then held that, considering the totality of the record, substantial evidence supported the IJ’s and BIA’s conclusion that the petitioner had not entered into his marriage in good faith, where his former wife could not recount basic facts about the marriage, there was evidence she was living with another man with whom she had a child while married to the petitioner, and the evidence showed there was a severely limited commingling of assets and a dubious commitment to the marriage by both parties. Accordingly, the court upheld the BIA’s determination that the petitioner was ineligible for discretionary relief because he had failed to establish the bona fides of his marriage. (Alzaben v. Garland, 4/14/23)

  • The petitioner, a noncitizen, filed a petition to remove the conditional basis of his permanent resident status, based on his marriage to a US citizen.
  • The government denied the petition, and the petitioner appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
  • The BIA affirmed the decision, and the petitioner appealed to the First Circuit.
  • The First Circuit dismissed the petitioner’s jurisdictional challenge, but reviewed his arguments that the BIA erred in upholding the denial of his petition.
  • The petitioner argued that the Immigration Judge (IJ) erred in making several factual determinations with respect to assessments of credibility and the weighing of evidence.
  • The First Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to evaluate the credibility determinations of the IJ or to reexamine the weight that he gave to any particular piece of evidence.
  • The petitioner also contended that the IJ and BIA considered evidence in a manner that was contrary to law, but the court found those contentions to be without merit.
  • The petitioner argued that evidence he presented was more than sufficient to prove that he entered into the marriage in good faith, but the court concluded that there was substantial evidence supporting the IJ and BIA’s decision that the marriage was not entered into in good faith.
  • The petitioner pointed to financial records, affidavits, letters, photographs, and other evidence to support his claim, but the evidence as a whole demonstrated a severely limited commingling of assets and a generally dubious commitment to the marriage by both parties.
  • The IJ and/or BIA considered evidence of the petitioner’s former wife’s extramarital affair and her living with another man, and having a child with him, all while she was purportedly married to the petitioner, which called into serious doubt the bona fides of the marriage.
  • Additionally, the court noted that the petitioner’s former wife’s inability to recount basic facts about the marriage also raised serious doubts about the marriage’s legitimacy.
  • The petitioner argued that the IJ flouted the requirement to consider “any credible evidence” that concerns a petition by ignoring a document that had granted him a power of attorney over his former wife’s finances, including tax filings.
  • The First Circuit found that the IJ and BIA considered the evidence as a whole, including the power of attorney, and there was no indication that either entity failed to consider the evidence.
  • The First Circuit concluded that the decision of the agency (first the IJ and then the BIA) was supported by substantial evidence, and therefore dismissed the petition in part and denied it in part.

Evidence Presented by Petitioner:

  • Financial records
  • Affidavits
  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • Other pertinent proof

Evidence Considered by IJ/BIA:

  • Former wife’s extramarital affair
  • Former wife living with another man
  • Child born to former wife and another man while she was married to petitioner
  • Former wife’s inability to recount basic facts about the marriage
  • Limited commingling of assets
  • Generally dubious commitment to the marriage by both parties

Entering into a marriage solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card is a fraudulent act that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes extremely seriously. When USCIS uncovers a marriage entered into in bad faith, the consequences can be severe, far-reaching, and life-altering for both the foreign spouse and the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse.

The immediate repercussion for the foreign spouse is the denial of their coveted green card application. This devastating outcome can trigger the initiation of removal proceedings, potentially resulting in the foreign spouse being deported from the United States. Moreover, the foreign spouse may face a formidable lifetime ban from obtaining any future immigration benefits, including non-immigrant visas and green cards. This ban applies even if they later enter into a bona fide marriage with a U.S. citizen or LPR, making it a truly life-altering consequence.

For the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse, participating in a fraudulent marriage carries its own set of significant legal consequences. They may find themselves subjected to criminal charges, which can include hefty fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the severity of the offense. Furthermore, their involvement in a sham marriage could severely jeopardize their eligibility to sponsor any future spouses or other relatives for immigration benefits, putting their future family plans in serious jeopardy.

Additionally, if USCIS identifies a pattern of fraudulent marriages involving multiple individuals, all parties involved may face heightened scrutiny in any future immigration proceedings. This increased attention could lead to delays or denials of immigration benefits, even for those who subsequently enter into bona fide relationships. The ripple effects of engaging in marriage fraud can spread far and wide, impacting the lives of not only the couple involved but also their friends, family members, and future partners.

It is crucial to recognize that USCIS employs a variety of sophisticated methods to detect and investigate potential marriage fraud. These methods may include comprehensive background checks, in-depth interviews with the couple, unannounced home visits, and meticulous verification of documentary evidence provided in support of the green card application. In some cases, USCIS may also speak to friends, family members, or neighbors to corroborate the authenticity of the marriage. The thoroughness of the investigation process underscores the gravity with which USCIS views marriage fraud and the lengths they will go to in order to uncover it.

When facing such significant consequences, it is clear that engaging in a fraudulent marriage to obtain a green card is a risky and ill-advised endeavor. The potential fallout for both the foreign spouse and the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse can be severe, long-lasting, and life-changing. Instead, it is always in the best interest of both parties to enter into a marriage based on genuine love, commitment, and shared values, ensuring a solid foundation for their future life together and a successful immigration process.

By prioritizing a relationship built on honesty and genuine connection, couples can avoid the dire consequences associated with marriage fraud. As they embark on their journey through the immigration process, they will be able to approach each step with confidence, knowing that their marriage is rooted in truth and love. This sense of security can make all the difference when navigating the often-challenging immigration system and can ultimately pave the way for a successful, fulfilling life together in the United States.

In conclusion, it is crucial for couples to understand the gravity of entering into a fraudulent marriage for the sake of obtaining a green card. The consequences can be severe and far-reaching, with life-altering implications for both the foreign spouse and the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse. By focusing on building a genuine, loving relationship and steering clear of marriage fraud, couples can set themselves up for a successful future together and a smooth immigration process. The stakes are high, and the risks are simply not

worth taking. Instead, couples should invest their time and energy in nurturing a strong, authentic relationship that can stand up to the rigorous scrutiny of the USCIS.

By choosing the path of honesty and authenticity, couples will find themselves better prepared to face the challenges that may arise throughout the immigration process. They will be able to present a united front when undergoing interviews, providing evidence, and responding to any inquiries from USCIS. This sense of unity and trust can prove invaluable in navigating the complexities of the immigration system, ultimately leading to a successful outcome.

Furthermore, entering into a bona fide marriage sets a strong foundation for building a life together in the United States. As the couple begins to establish their lives, they can do so with the knowledge that they have embarked on this journey for the right reasons. This sense of certainty and commitment can strengthen their bond, providing a solid base from which to grow and thrive as a couple.

In addition to the personal benefits of entering into a genuine marriage, couples who do so also contribute positively to the integrity of the immigration system as a whole. By upholding the sanctity of marriage and respecting the rules and regulations governing the immigration process, they help to maintain the credibility and effectiveness of the system. This, in turn, ensures that the immigration process remains fair and just for all those who seek to build a life in the United States.

In the end, the decision to enter into a marriage for the purpose of obtaining a green card is one that carries immense weight and far-reaching consequences. The risks are significant, and the potential for life-altering repercussions is high. By choosing to build a relationship rooted in love, trust, and commitment, couples can avoid the pitfalls of marriage fraud and embark on a journey that leads to a successful, fulfilling life together in the United States.

It is vital that couples contemplating marriage for immigration purposes consider the potential consequences of their actions and make informed decisions based on a thorough understanding of the risks involved. By focusing on the development of a genuine, loving relationship, they can protect themselves and their future partners from the devastating consequences of marriage fraud and set the stage for a successful, rewarding life together.

USCIS does take its duty to ascertain the merits of a marriage based green card filing seriously. Once the USCIS makes a finding against you, it is very difficult to get overturned. The rule is that the couple entered into the marriage in good faith, but the USCIS can look at all sorts of factors to determine that wasn’t the case. Obviously the affair and child with another man is the killer in this case, but the fact that the couple didn’t mingle their assets is also a huge problem that people in bona fide relationships can run into, even if everything about the relationship is above board. It always helps to retain an experienced attorney who knows exactly what the USCIS is looking for. I offer a free consultation for your marriage case.

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