The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986, also known as H.R. 3737(99th), is a collection of changes passed by President Ronald Reagan the same year as the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. The purpose of the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 was to institute changes that would deter marriage fraud committed by foreign aliens.
The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 modified the Immigration and Nationality Act by instituting a period of conditional residence for the immigrant rather than automatically conferring permanent resident status upon marriage. This conditional status could be removed by applying with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office once the necessary requirements have been fulfilled.
Individuals who fail to meet the new requirements under the Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 by the end of their period of conditional residence may find themselves unable to remain in the nation and potentially face apprehension or deportation. The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 also includes provisions that allow immigrants the right to contest the revocation of their status. It also grants the Attorney General authority to waive requirements in the event of significant or undue hardship.
The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 aimed at a particular area of immigration: spousal marriage visas. The general idea was that a U.S. citizen marries a foreign national intending to grant them citizenship or permanent residence through their marriage despite not wanting to marry the person.
The Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act added a new subsection to the Immigration and Nationality Act that now provides legal ramifications for committing immigration-related marriage fraud. Under § 1325(c), immigration-related marriage fraud can be punished by a prison sentence of up to five years and a $250,000 fine. § 1325(c) also explicitly defines a person guilty of immigration-related marriage fraud as anyone who “knowingly enters into a marriage for the purpose of evading any provision of the immigration laws.”
Before the institution of the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act, immigration marriage fraud was very narrowly defined. Typically to prove immigration marriage fraud, it had to be shown that the U.S. citizen was paid to marry their immigrant spouse or that neither member of the marriage intended to live together after the marriage ceremony was certified. In these cases, if the couple followed all state laws regarding marriage, completed the ceremony, and testified before Immigration and Nationality Services that they subjectively believed that they were truthful and in compliance with the necessary rules, they were generally seen to have not committed fraud.
This legal grey area came to a head with the supreme court case United States v. Qaisi. In this case, the defendant and his wife were married, but the marriage turned sour. Although there were several legal complexities regarding the defendant’s behavior, the court ultimately ruled that as long as the initial marriage is valid and proper, the law did not require that the union be viable long-term.
This loophole was addressed by the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986 by instituting a two-year conditional residence. If at the end of this period, the couple is still married and the family unit still exists, then the foreign spouse can apply to have their conditional resident status removed and be awarded the full lawful permanent resident status.
If you are an immigrant looking to take advantage of the path to citizenship established by the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act of 1986, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf to get you the best possible outcome for your case.
Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your alternative options to deportation as well as present your case in the most compelling light possible and deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy as well as the obscure functions of immigration court.