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Aside from the obvious moral and legal problems with doing this, there are many valid practical reasons why it’s simply a really, really bad idea.
The ethical problems are fairly obvious; most will understand this intuitively, and if not it’s beyond the scope of this web site to teach morality. Therefore, we won’t dwell on the ethical problems here.
The consequences of getting caught are severe – USCIS will most likely aggressively pursue removal proceedings against the foreign national, and that person may find it virtually impossible to ever attain a legal status in the U.S.
Criminal charges against the US citizen – especially where payment was received – are a real possibility as well. Really, they can file the same charges again both the US citizen and foreign national: this is a felony offense which carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
As a practical issue, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is extremely skilled at detecting fake marriages, so the chances of success are actually very low – no matter what you may have heard from friends-of-friends who have done this successfully (and let’s face it – those who have been caught aren’t going to talk about it…if they’re even in the US to do so). The officers who conduct interviews for these cases generally spend most of their time conducting exactly this kind of interview….and each likely conducts dozens of such interviews every week.
We’re in an age where the government is increasingly checking social media as well as various databases – you won’t know exactly what the government might know, and from where they may have learned it.
Further, being married to someone you don’t actually wish to be married to is a recipe for disaster. The commitment involved is significant – not only from time of marriage through to interview, but much further into the future if you pursue a joint filing to remove the conditional [probationary] status of the green card two years later…a process which can take well over a year in itself.
Ultimately, we’re probably talking about at least a four-year marriage and probably longer – during which you need to be married to someone you don’t necessarily want to be married to, and can’t marry a person you DO want to be married to if you happen to meet “the one.”