Is Immigration Fraud A Federal Crime?
Immigration fraud is a broad term used to describe a wide array of unlawful activity. The act of being present within the United States in violation of U.S. immigration law is not, by itself, a criminal offense. It is a civil matter. However, a person accused of committing immigration fraud can be arrested and charged with a criminal offense.
This raises an important question: Is immigration fraud a federal crime? While the answer depends on the specific circumstances, the short answer is ‘yes’—certain forms of immigration fraud can be charged as a federal crime. In this article, our Orlando federal criminal defense lawyer provides an overview of the most common immigration related criminal charges.
- Application Fraud (Improper Entry)
A person could be arrested and charged with immigration fraud if they are accused of knowingly providing false information on an official U.S. government application in order to enter the country. Under 8 U.S.C. 1325(c), it is a federal crime to “willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact.”
An example of this offense would be a person attempting to evade immigration law by applying for a visa on fraudulent grounds. A conviction for application fraud is punishable by up to two years in prison. Notably, there is an even more harsh related criminal statute for immigration marriage fraud. Marriage fraud is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
- Benefits Fraud
Another way in which immigration fraud could lead to a federal criminal charge is on the grounds of “benefits fraud.” Under federal law (18 U.S.C. 1546), a person can be charged with benefits fraud in relation to an immigration matter if the person “forges, counterfeits, alters, or falsely makes any immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, permit, border crossing card, alien registration receipt card, or other document.” Benefits fraud is a serious federal criminal offense that can carry up to five years in prison. There may be even more serious penalties if certain aggravating factors are present, such as if the defendant is alleged to have engaged in benefits fraud to commit drug trafficking.
- Identity Theft
In some cases, an immigration fraud allegation may be charged as an identity theft crime. There are both federal and state criminal laws in place against identity theft. A person who uses someone else’s Social Security number (SSN) or other personal identifying information to navigate through the immigration system could face a potential identity theft charge. If you or your loved one was arrested and charged with identity theft, our Florida criminal defense attorney can help.
Contact Our Florida Immigration Fraud Defense Attorney Today
At The Baez Law Firm, our federal criminal defense lawyer in Florida is an aggressive, experienced advocate for clients. If you or your family member was charged with an immigration related offense, please do not hesitate to contact us for a fully confidential case review. With offices in Orlando and Miami, we provide federal criminal defense representation throughout all of Florida.