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Visa fraud has increased in the United States in recent years as government policy has made it more difficult for individuals to enter the United States. Many individuals have chosen the option to attempt to enter the United States under a visa with a false identity or false information.
The reasons for the need to engage in visa fraud are endless and include changing your name and identity because you have a prior order of removal, changing your name and identity because you have previously been denied on a prior visa application, or changing your name and identity because you have a prior criminal record that bars you from entering the United States.
The penalties for visa fraud are severe. The maximum sentence for visa fraud ranges from 5-25 years depending on the specific facts of your case. In addition, a conviction for visa fraud will result in your deportation from the United States.
Elements of Visa Fraud
Visa Fraud is prosecuted by the federal government under 18 U.S.C. 1546 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1546 ) which is titled "Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents."
To prove the crime of visa fraud, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Possessed a forged, counterfeited, altered, or falsely made a visa; and
- The defendant knew that the visa was forged, counterfeited, altered, or falsely made.
Visa fraud is commonly discovered at the time the individual attempts to enter at a port of entry such as an airport, a port, or a border crossing. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") is the immigration agency that will inspect the visa. If CBP suspects any type of visa fraud, they will refer the individual to a secondary inspection where they will run the individual’s fingerprints, compare photographs, compare prior immigration records, and question the suspect.
If CBP makes a finding that the visa is fraudulent they will either 1) issue an expedited order of removal to the individual or 2) arrest them on charges of visa fraud.
Penalties for Visa Fraud
There are both criminal and immigration penalties for visa fraud. If CBP simply issues an expedited order of removal, the individual will receive a minimum of a five-year bar from entering the United States. If CBP refers the case to United States Attorney's Office for prosecution and places the individual under arrest, the defendant will be subject to much harsher penalties.
The maximum penalty for visa fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1546 is 25 years. The minimum penalty is five years. In addition, visa fraud cases have the possibility of an additional charge of aggravated identity theft. If aggravated identity theft is charged, the judge must impose a minimum mandatory sentence of two years that must be imposed consecutively to the visa fraud sentence.
In addition, the defendant will be subject to deportation from the United States. If an order of removal is issued in immigration court, the defendant will also be subject to a minimum 10-year bar from entering the United States.
Defenses for Visa Fraud
There are several defenses to visa fraud. As stated previously, the government has the burden of proving both that the visa was fraudulent and that you knew that the visa was fraudulent.
Therefore, you may have a defense to visa fraud if the visa was not fraudulent and any inconsistency on the visa was due to a mistake by the issuing agency. You may also have a legal defense if you had no knowledge that the visa was fraudulent. Many foreign countries have businesses that advertise that they can expedite the process in obtaining green cards to the United States. Many individuals who are uneducated to immigration laws in the United States might be unaware that these businesses often produce fraudulent documents. If the individual that receives the fraudulent document was unaware that it was fraudulent, he or she may have a defense to the crime.
Find an Attorney for Visa Fraud in Miami, Florida
If you have a friend or a family member in Florida who was charged with visa fraud in Federal Court in the Southern District of Florida, you should contact Hubbs Law Firm immediately. Our attorneys, E.J. and Erika Hubbs, are experienced in both immigration and criminal law. Their unique experience in both areas of the law can assist you in defending your friend or relative against the charge of visa fraud.
Hubbs Law Firm represents clients in Miami and throughout Miami-Dade County, including Hialeah, Miami Gardens, Miami Beach, North and South Miami, Homestead, Kendall, and anywhere else in the Miami area.
At Hubbs Law Firm, your first consultation is always free. Our Miami visa fraud attorneys will discuss both the criminal and immigration case with you and your family member. They will also thoroughly explain the process and help you prepare strategies to fight the case.
Call today to schedule your consultation: (305) 570-4802.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Find information on Krome’s facility, contact information, visiting hours, bond information, and more.
- U.S. Department of Justice – Find information on immigration court at Krome Detention Center.
- U.S. Department of Justice – Find information on immigration court at the Miami Immigration Court at 333 South Miami Avenue in Miami, FL.
- Department of Homeland Security – Find information on the Department of Homeland Security including the location of someone in ICE custody, updates on DHS and ICE immigration policies, and locations for DHS offices of the Chief Counsel.
- Customs and Border Protection – Find information on the United States Customs and Border Protection including regulations for admissions into the United States, importing/exporting goods, and obtaining an individual’s travel history.
Attorneys E.J. & Erika Hubbs
As professional Miami criminal defense attorneys, we take every case personally give every client the deliberate care it deserves. Our clients become part of our family and we fight relentlessly for their rights. Read more about us to find out how we can help you.
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