The Korean press has reported recently on Korean-Americans who seek their mates later in life, sometimes through marriage agencies. But some of the agencies that advertise in magazines are not legitimate matchmakers, the Korea Times reports — they are actually organizations that orchestrate fake marriages for immigration purposes, at a hefty price. A translation of the article from Korean is below.
A 32-year-old Korean-American woman with her U.S. citizenship, who would be identified only as K, was asked an unexpected question when she called the number of a wedding agency advertised in a magazine. The agency suggested that if she were to sign a marriage document for a sham marriage and participate in an interview with immigration authorities, she could receive $20,000 in cash.
“The broker told me that the procedure of divorce was not that difficult, so I hesitated, thinking of making that cash, but, in the end, I refused,” said K. “I was scared of the temptation, which is prevalent in our community.”
Even though the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has been cracking down on fake marriages, frauds regarding phony marriages continue. In particular, recently, brokers recruit potential spouses who have U.S citizenship, running fake advertisements for wedding agencies in magazines. It is common to find advertisements saying “seeking a spouse, 30-60 years old, U.S. citizen,” which is likely to be for a sham marriage agency. Brokers often run ads saying: “After the contracts, you will get married within a month and obtain permanent residency within six months.” In addition, the agencies put out the word that they not only do paperwork, but also help people practice and prepare for the interview with USCIS.
“As the regulations of USCIS are getting stricter, people decorate houses for newly-married couples and prepare them thoroughly before the interview, which have been getting more sophisticated than they were several years ago,” said a Korean-American lawyer. Mainly, the targets for phony marriages are single people around 30 or 40 years old, but sometimes they even include elderly people of 60 or 70 years.
The payment for a sham marriage among Korean-Americans usually ranges from $10,000 or $20,000 to $30,000 or $50,000. However, in some circumstances, people might be required to pay as much as $100,000.
“At first, I thought the process was finished after I paid $50,000, but I was constantly required to pay more,” said a Korean woman of about 40, who obtained her permanent residency through a sham marriage to a Korean-American citizen in his 50s. “When my conditional permanent residency expired after two years and I had to renew my permanent residency, I was required to pay more, so I lost around $100,000 in the end.”
Meanwhile, the USCIS conducts crackdowns against those suspected of fake marriages, and when the agency proves that a fake marriage has taken place, even after the person has obtained a conditional green card, he or she will be deported. To track down sham marriages, USCIS has invested in a new crackdown program, which has been in the works. Unlike the past, the USCIS is vigorously investigating cases, even when the conditional two-year green card has expired.