15. MARRIAGE WITH A PHANTOM (NON EXISTING) AMERICAN CITIZEN
The most dangerous "adviser" an undocumented alien may encounter in the U.S. are those calling themselves "consultants." These are non-lawyers who promise you salvation in the form of Green Cards, Employment permits, Travel documents. What they really do is file inappropriate applications, make incorrect statements in your name and get you into deep trouble with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). Oh, they also take your money.
One of the worst scams practiced by some consultants is the "phantom marriage." An alien pays a consultant to get him or her an Employment Authorization Card. The consultant gets some biographical information from the alien, prepares and files an application for a Green Card (Form I-485) with a marriage certificate showing marriage to an American citizen. In reality there was never a marriage. The American citizen spouse does not even exist. All is fake, but CIS issues an Employment Authorization Card. The alien is happy - not knowing what was filed in his or her name. The consultant is happy, too, for the additional money from the alien.
After some time the CIS schedules the alien and the U.S. citizen spouse an interview at the CIS office. But there is no spouse and the consultant, too, disappeared. The application is denied.
Some time later the alien files a real application based on a real marriage to a real American citizen spouse. This application, too, is denied because the CIS accuses the alien of having entered previously into a FRAUDULENT marriage. The alien feels like the sky fell on his or her head.
This is a real mess, but there is hope. The case requires a "facts heavy"response to the CIS, showing that:
1. There was no marriage fraud because there was never a marriage to the Phantom spouse; and
2. If there was any immigration fraud it was performed by the consultant and not by the alien.
There were many cases like this and they were published in the local newspapers. An experienced Immigration lawyer would know how to handle such cases. It is still possible to come out whole after such a mess.