Tag Archives: green card

Immigration Fraud and other Pitfalls in International Romance

So, in my last post I started to talk about the marriage of convenience and how, in my bachelor days, I was either worried of being accused of this kind of immigration/marriage fraud or being duped by some international golddigger who married me for the wrong reasons.  I promised a list or red flags to look out for if you are trying to avoid someone scamming you like this.  A complete list would stretch for miles but here are a few (and yes, forgive the obviously tongue-in-cheek entries):

You found her on any kind of mail order bride service. I’m not kidding.  These sites/catalogs are WAY to common.  I met a guy in a northern Philippine town and we struck up a conversation over mango pie at Jollibee.  He was from Utah, was missing teeth and seemed to drive his wife crazy with almost everything he said.  When she left to go to the rest room he told me she was a mail order bride.  Classy.
She his hot, young and from a developing country and you are old, fat and from a developed country. We have all seen this and it is easy to spot in others but not always as easy to see when you are the aging chubster.  Not to be looks-obsessed but be wary of model types climbing all over you on vacation, they’ll divorce you just as quick when they have grown enough roots stateside.
He or she asked you if you were a citizen of the US, any EU country or other rich country before taking the time to flirt with you further. This happened to ME a few years ago and since I was hyper-sensitive about this I immediately was suspicious of what otherwise seemed an innocent enough encounter.
His family was too eager to encourage the romance. Gold diggers can work as families.  When I worked in a Filipino fishing village I had a father implore me to marry his daughter.  I was 16 and clueless but even then it seemed a little too obvious.  I was the entire family’s ticket to a wealthier life.
Conversation always shifts to leaving country of origin. Pay attention to how often conversation shifts to border hopping.  It can be a veritable obsession for some.
He pushes for a speedy marriage. This may seem flattering but recognize it for what it is.  He may not be as head over heels for you as he is with the idea of a one-way ticket to your country.
Your romance has been brokered by someone who you met on vacation who promises to introduce you to someone, “beautiful’, “sexy”, etc. It happens all the time and this can be exciting.  Often the broker delivers too.  He or she is hot.  But make not mistake.  The broker will get a cut of the winnings one way or another.  And you will be paying.
Too much emphasis on filling out those immigration forms. Refuse to talk about embassies, consulates, immigrations papers or anything of the sort until you are convinced that this tropical romance is the real deal.
In all seriousness, if it is too late and you are already married to the fraudster, check out this site and get help:  http://www.immigrationfraudvictims.com/index.html
By the same token, it IS possible to over-think all of this.  I don’t work for the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)  These posts were not intended to make you paranoid or xenophobic in your approach to international relationships.  International romance is a good thing.  Do not let the mere fact that you and your potential spouse are from different countries prevent you from finding and growing real love.  That would be a tragedy.  Just be savvy.  One more thing.  Here’s a list of the questions that may come up if you are in a US Citizen / foreign immigrant marriage.  It doesn’t hurt to be prepared:)
A list of likely questions that an immigration officer will ask you if you are suspected of immigration fraud
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Bjorn Karlman

“Nice Green Card” – The Marriage of Convenience

About a year after finishing college in the US, I was working in the Los Angeles area and my US work papers expired.  I was stuck because my new visa had not arrived and a 60-day countdown began at the end of which I would have to leave the country or lose my legal immigration status.

I remember sharing the dilemma with my Rotary Club at one of our weekly meetings.  I could not believe what happened next.  I literally got an offer from one of the members: “My daughter and I cooperate on many different levels, we’ll work out a marriage between the two of you if need be,” said the Rotary member.  I stammered a “thank you” to the offer and immediately started plotting how to politely tell her I’d rather go back to Europe than marry her daughter for papers.  Luckily, by day 51 I had my papers and I was able to dodge the awkward follow-up conversations.

Fast forward to now.  I married my wife Jammie about three months ago.  She loves giving me crap about the fact that I am still on a visa as a Swede living in the United States.  She is an American citizen of Filipino decent so she keeps asking me “Why do I look like I am the one that needs the green card?”  The line always gets a laugh because of the apparent role reversal.  Ever since I stepped foot on US soil for college more than a decade ago, the issue of the “green card marriage” or marriage of convenience has been joked about and for the longest time I swore that I would not marry an American for exactly that reason.  I never wanted to be suspected of getting hitched for papers.

Neither did I want to marry someone else that just wanted my papers.  Although not quite their American counterpart, European Union passports are also highly sought-after, as is the mere opportunity to work within the EU.  So I was always on the lookout while traveling to look out for any ulterior motives in potential romances.

What is the best litmus test when you are trying sort real love from immigration desperation?  I’d love to have your ideas.  Leave a comment or contact me @culturemutt on Twitter.  My next post will have some of my ideas for red flags that you should look out for when contemplating international relationships.

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Bjorn Karlman

Surviving “Fresh off the Boat” (FOB) Parenting…

Junge Türkin bei Dreharbeiten

It happened WAY too much.  And it always happened when we were already running late.  Our old, disgracefully dilapidated beast of a Buick would shut off at the bottom of the long, steep driveway to the cookie-cutter Marietta, Ga. apartment complex where we lived.  My high-strung über-Scandinavian mother would then proceed to frantically wind down the car window, stick her head out as far it would go and yell “It STOPPED!!” with shrill, Nordic determination to the annoyed assortment of early-morning drivers behind us.  Humiliated, my sister and I would shrink down in our seats, willing the moment to pass.

This, of course, was only one of the whole smorgasbord of awkward experiences my sister and I had growing up with FOB (Fresh-off-the-boat) parents who had about as much interest in blending into local culture as we did in sticking out like sore thumbs.

I’ve met enough children of FOBs to detect some patterns.  The first of these is that immigrants often have an idealist, nonconformist streak.  It took guts and ignoring naysayers to move from their homelands.  Now that they are here, some of these qualities manifest themselves in a stronger-than-usual sense of motivation. They are also less likely to concern themselves with what others think.  While this singular focus has worked well for them, their children (who are more concerned with blending in) will often find this focus too narrow and abrasive.  I’ve rarely witnessed kids that have been able to change their FOB parents.  It seems that the best thing to do is to appreciate your parents’ work ethic and recognize that they are who they are.

Another thing about FOB parents is that although they (in most cases) chose to leave their home countries, they often are extremely patriotic and nostalgic about the homeland they left behind.  They will wax lyrical about the food, the culture and the beauty of home.  Ask them if they would like to go back though and they quickly shake their heads or talk loosely about what they might do in retirement. If you were born to FOBS and have to listen to your parents and their nostalgic rambling, take it all with a grain of salt.  It is good to be aware of your roots but realize that time and distance have probably embellished the memories of your parents’ home.

One of the more obvious things about FOB parents is their accent and how they carry themselves. Accents rarely change if someone learns a language as an adult so chances are that your FOB parents really sound foreign.  My mom’s accent used to embarrass me, but nowadays it is much more of a source of amusement.  As with most things about foreign parents and their cultural idiosyncrasies, if you can see the humor in the situation, you can actually enjoy it.  On that note, let’s conclude with a video from HappySlip, a YouTube-based comedy series by Christine Gambito, a Filipina American who plays all her characters and who has the funniest take I have ever seen on the FOB experience…

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Bjorn Karlman