Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Sham Marriage’

1st August 2016

In prior postings on this blog the issues of Thai immigration law and immigration enforcement have been discussed. In a rather recent posting it was noted that Thai immigration is placing increased scrutiny upon those seeking marriage visas (officially referred to as Thai O visas) in the Kingdom. It appears that after discovery of a spate of sham marriages perpetuated in order to obtain Thai immigration benefits, Thai immigration authorities began to subject Thai marriage visa applications to more intense scrutiny. This matter apparently remains a top priority of immigration officials in Thailand as a recent article in the Bangkok Post points out that high ranking officials with the Royal Thai Immigration Police have issued new directives with respect to this issue:

Pol Lt Gen Nathathorn warned officers against dishonest acts as he listed the bureau’s action plans to screen foreigners in the country illegally…He ordered immigration officers to investigate if authorities colluded with foreigners to help enable sham marriages.

This news comes amidst the recent revelation that the so-called “border run” method of maintaining lawful immigration status in Thailand is coming to an end. In a recent posting on the Love Pattaya Thailand website it has been noted that as of August 13th 2016 the days of visa running to obtain a 15, 30, or even 60 day stamp is coming to an end. To quote directly from the aforementioned website:

The Immigration Bureau have already told the officials to refuse entry to foreigners on visa runs as a measure to stop the exploitation of tourist visas and visa exemptions to live or work here. Tourists wishing to extend their stay in Thailand must now need to exit the country and apply for a proper tourist visa

In the past, one could hope to obtain a new thirty day stamp at the airport in Thailand so long one was willing to fly out of the country and immediately get on a plane and fly back in. It appears that this is no longer feasible as so-called “fly-out/fly-in” visa runs will be discouraged following August 13th to the point where presumably such travelers will be turned away and not permitted to reenter the country without a duly issued visa from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Meanwhile, Japan just recently solidified her position as the number one tourist destination of people from Southeast Asia. Japan tops the list of most favored tourist destinations among Thai nationals. It appears that Thai tourism numbers in Japan has been on the upswing since the easing of visa rules for Thai nationals including 15 day visa free travel.

This news comes at the same time as news that Taiwan is allowing Thai tourists to travel visa free to that country starting August 1st. It will be interesting to see if this move has a positive impact upon the tourism sector in Taiwan.

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10th April 2016

In previous postings on this blog the recent policies of the Royal Thai Immigration Police regarding visa overstayers in Thailand have been noted. In follow up to those articles, it should be noted that Thai immigration officials have recorded a sharp decline in the number of people physically present in Thailand beyond the expiration date of their visa. In a recent Bangkok Post article, the drop in overstay was noted:

The more than 39% decline, from 810,522 in October last year to 486,947 in March, shows “our new measure is effective”, Immigration Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said on Friday.

While immigration officers chalk up a victory in the campaign to thwart overstaying foreigners it appears that a new issue has come to the forefront. In another article in a more recent edition of the Bangkok Post suspicious trends in Thai Marriage registration numbers were reported:

Bureau chief Nathathorn Prousoontorn said several foreign nationals are believed to have resorted to sham marriages as a loophole to stay in the country…The [Royal Thai Immigration Police] received a tip-off from the Public Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) that at least 150 Thai women in one district of a northeastern province had married foreigners in the past few months.

Clearly, the recent spike in marriages and the recent change in immigration overstay policy cannot be assumed to be coincidental. However, the upshot of these developments is the very strong probability that all upcoming Thai marriage visa applications (otherwise referred to as O visa applications) will be more heavily scrutinized when compared to similar applications lodged in the past. This blogger can personally attest to the fact that since policy changes at Thai immigration in late 2015 the process of obtaining or renewing a Thai business visa has been a more intensive endeavor as Immigration officials scrutinize all business visa applications and supporting documentation extremely thoroughly. Therefore, this recent news regarding marriage scrutiny could easily lead one to infer that future marriage visa extension applications and renewal applications could require more documentation and the backlog for issuing such documents could become exacerbated as a result of the increased scrutiny and documentation requirements.

As a general rule, this blogger has advised those interested in remaining in Thailand to understand that the process of obtaining a long term Thai visa and/or a Thai work permit is becoming increasingly complex. As a result of this increased complexity, the notion that the Thai immigration process is something that is quick and easy is simply a fallacy. Thai immigration matters are arguably as complicated and time consuming as immigration issues arising in countries such as the USA or the UK. Those undertaking Thai immigration matters for the first time are strongly encouraged to retain the assistance of a competent professional.

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11th December 2010

The issue of immigration fraud is a serious one. Authorities of the United States government within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State (DOS), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP), and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE) are all tasked with the responsibility of screening and investigating matters pertaining to visa and immigration fraud. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, colloquially referred to as ICE, apprehended a Nigerian man in connection with US visa fraud. To quote directly from the ICE.gov website:

HOUSTON – A Nigerian man on Monday was stripped of his U.S. citizenship at his sentencing hearing for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, naturalization fraud, and making a false statement to a federal agency. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Ibraheem Adeneye, 33, who is originally from Nigeria and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, was convicted of the charges May 7 by a jury. He has been in federal custody on these charges for about six months. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt sentenced Adeneye to the time he has already served in prison. The judge also granted the government’s motion to strip Adeneye of his U.S. citizenship. Adeneye is now subject to deportation.

Denaturalization is the process by which a person is stripped of United States Citizenship and returned to foreign national status. Regarding the issue of sham marriage and the United States Immigration process, the report went on to note:

The ICE HSI investigation was initiated in 2008. Adeneye indicated that he was engaged in brokering sham marriages between Nigerian nationals and U.S. citizens so that the Nigerians could obtain immigration benefits, ultimately leading to U.S. citizenship. In return, the U.S. citizen “spouses” received cash payments to assist the Nigerians in the deception.

Incorporating a sham marriage into an effort to obtain United States visa benefits is a serious crime as can be seen from the above cited report. Those thinking of filing for American Immigration benefits should note that it is NEVER a wise course of action to lie to immigration authorities or attempt to deceive the United States government or its officers. Even if one becomes a United States Citizen, then previous fraudulent activity during the visa process could result in possible de-naturalization and criminal charges.

It should further be noted that those seeking American visa benefits should consult a licensed attorney in an effort to gain insight into the immigration process as only an American attorney licensed and in good standing in at least one US state is entitled to provide advice, counsel, and/or possible representation before the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.

For related information please see: K1 visa Thailand or K1 Visa Singapore.

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25th June 2010

Marriage Fraud as well as Immigration Fraud are a serious issues in the eyes of those agencies tasked with the job of adjudicating visa petitions and enforcing American law with regard to admission to the United States. With that in mind, it should be noted that domestically the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE) has jurisdiction to enforce immigration regulations as well as decisions issued by Immigration courts. The following is a direct quote from a recently promulgated press release from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A U.S. citizen, who was paid to engage in a phony marriage with a Cambodian national to evade immigration laws, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court. The guilty plea resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Justin Michael Martin, 25, of Georgetown, Ky., pleaded guilty June 22 in the Western District of Kentucky
to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud. Martin admitted that between Jan. 1, 2000 and April 7, 2010, he knowingly reached an agreement with Yota Em, Phearoun Peter Em, aka Sophea Lim, and Michael Chanthou Chin to knowingly enter into a marriage to evade U.S. immigration laws. Martin admitted that Phearoun Peter Em drove Martin to a U.S.
Post Office in Lexington to apply for a U.S. passport, and that Phearoun Peter Em paid the passport
application fee. On June 17, 2004, Michael Chanthou Chin drove Martin and others to the Louisville airport. In exchange for a fee, Martin, Phearoun Peter Em, and others traveled from Kentucky to Cambodia. Once in Cambodia, Martin met with Cambodian national Yota Em and agreed to marry her to evade the immigration laws of the United States.


Photographs were taken of Martin and Yota Em during an engagement ceremony on June 25, 2004, and at other locations in Cambodia. While in Cambodia, members of the conspiracy paid for Martin’s lodging, food, transportation, sexual services from a Cambodian female, and other expenses.
On June 27, 2004, Martin returned to the United States and was met at the airport by Michael Chanthou Chin. Thereafter, certain immigration forms were completed by Martin and Yota Em, which falsely represented the marriage as genuine. On Sept. 27, 2005, Yota Em entered the United States using a K-1 (fiancée) visa. On March 5, 2007, Yota Em and Martin participated in a civil marriage ceremony in Lexington, knowing that the marriage was not entered into in good faith, was in exchange for something of value, and that the purpose of the marriage ceremony was to enable Yota Em to obtain U.S. permanent resident status in the United States. Phearoun Peter Em and Michael Chanthou Chin served as witnesses at the civil marriage ceremony.


Martin and Yota Em subsequently participated in a marriage interview with immigration officials in Louisville and falsely claimed that they married in good faith. Phearoun Peter Em acted as an interpreter for Yota Em. On June 30, 2009, Martin and Yota Em were divorced. The marriage between Martin and Yota Em was fraudulent and was entered into solely to evade U.S. immigration laws. Martin admitted that he was paid about $7,000 for participating in the marriage fraud scheme.
Defendant Yota Em is currently a fugitive. Anyone with information about her whereabouts should call 1-866-DHS-2ICE. The maximum potential penalties for Martin are 10 years’ imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and supervised release for a period of six years.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Claire Phillips, Western District of Kentucky, is prosecuting the case. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.

It is unfortunate to see this type of fraud occurring as it makes it increasingly difficult for bona fide couples to receive immigration benefits due to the fact that the American government must expend resources in an effort to catch fraudulent visa petitions and applications. As time and resources are spent investigating visa fraud, the overall visa process for all applicants could slow down. That said, Officers of the United States government should be commended for their diligence in apprehending the individuals involved in the conspiracy noted above. Fraud Prevention is a serious issue that must be dealt with in order to forestall an erosion of the integrity of the US Immigration system.

In recent weeks it has been announced that fees associated with the K1 visa and the K3 Visa are increasing. There is speculation that the funds derived from the increase in fees will be used to combat immigration fraud on a wider scale as the fee is being increased by the Department of State for those applications filed at a US Consulate or US Embassy abroad. Many feel that the funds will likely be used to increase the resources available to each Fraud Prevention Unit attached to US Missions overseas. Hopefully, by increasing resources available to Fraud Prevention Units outside of the USA, there will be fewer people entering the United States illegally based upon sham relationships.

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