Internet Romance and Marriage Fraud

Many Algerians befriend U.S. citizens through Internet dating and social networking sites and these relationships may lead to engagement and marriage.  While some of these marriages are successful, the U.S. Embassy in Algiers warns against marriage scams.  It is not uncommon for foreign nationals to enter into marriages with U.S. citizens solely for immigration or financial purposes.  Relationships developed via correspondence, particularly those begun on the Internet, are especially susceptible to manipulation.  Often, the marriages end in divorce in the United States when the foreign national acquires legal permanent residence (“green card”) or U.S. citizenship.  In some cases, the new U.S. citizen or permanent resident then remarries a wife he divorced before, around the same time as entering into a relationship with a sponsoring U.S. citizen.

The U.S. Embassy has seen several cases in which U.S. citizens are lured to Algeria and are then held against their will in abusive situations.  U.S. citizens who do not speak the local languages and are dependent solely on the one Algerian national are especially vulnerable.  Sometimes the U.S. citizen is able to escape only with police / Embassy intervention.  U.S. citizens in this situation have often found that their personal and financial information is hacked.  As a U.S. citizen, you need to be responsible for ensuring you are in legal status in Algeria and not rely on someone promising to take care of it for you.  The Algerian national may try to threaten to have you arrested/deported if you do not follow his or her commands.

Some of the signs that an Internet contact may be developing a relationship with a U.S. citizen in order to obtain an immigrant visa through marriage, or financial gain/identity theft are:

  • Initial contact through unsolicited requests via Skype, Facebook, Viber, on-line gaming, or other means
  • The person uses on-line dating sites to meet other foreign nationals
  • Lack of real shared interests – i.e., the person on the other end parrots back whatever the U.S. citizen mentions
  • Requests for relationships between a young Algerian man and a much older American woman. (In the Algerian cultural context it is extremely unusual for an Algerian man to have a legitimate relationship with a woman even slightly older – and especially unusual to have a first-time relationship with someone beyond child bearing age.)
  • Declarations of love within days or weeks of the initial contact
  • Proposals or discussions of marriage soon after initial contact
  • Requests to send money or provide access to financial accounts
  • Responses to messages from the U.S. friend are along the lines “I love you/Sorry I missed your call,” or similarly one-sided conversations
  • Request to get married in Tunisia or a third country with a single witness because “it’s easier to get married quickly there.” Note that weddings in Algeria are major social occasions, and it is extremely unusual for large numbers of family and friends not to be present at the wedding
  • Once engaged, married, or an immigrant visa petition is filed, suddenly starts missing scheduled appointments to chat or call

While chat rooms and dating and social networking sites are great ways to make friends across international borders, the U.S. government urges U.S. citizens who meet foreign nationals on the Internet to take the time necessary to get to know them well before considering marriage.  Entering into a marriage contract for the principal purpose of facilitating immigration to the United States for an alien is against U.S. law and can result in serious penalties, including fines and imprisonment for the U.S. citizen and the foreign national involved.