Can You Bribe U.S. Government Officials to Get a Visa or Green Card?

Can you throw money at a USCIS official, consular officer, or other authority to get a U.S. visa or green card? It's probably a very bad idea to try, but it's happened before.

There are countries where bribery becomes an inevitable and normal part of life, such that the only way to get anything from a government official is to offer cash or other gifts. Even otherwise upright and honest people may resort to bribery, for the simple reason that they have no other choice.

However, in the United States, bribery is not only illegal, but is in the vast majority of cases not necessary. Even experienced immigration attorneys will tell you that they win their cases through solid argument and preparation, not by paying off an official. They would probably be shocked if a U.S. official, whether from the State Department or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), suggested that they pay something in order to smooth the process along.

If They’re Not Expecting a Bribe, Why Are They Being So Difficult?

Personnel at USCIS and the consulates may sometimes be difficult, perhaps taking too long to make a decision on your case or making a decision you don’t like. But it’s generally not because they’re expecting money. In fact, they are not even allowed to accept tips for good service. And most of them are proud of the fact that the United States operates strictly according to the rule of law.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, of course. Every so often, a news report will reveal that someone within the immigration system tried to earn a little extra cash on the side. For example:

  • Fernando Jacobs, former supervisor with USCIS, and Patrick Jacobs, 44, of Ontario and his son were sentenced in August, 2011 to 60 months and 48 months prison, respectively, on federal corruption charges including conspiracy, bribery, and wire fraud.   Additionally, Fernando Jacobs was also convicted of visa fraud. Fernando Jacobs had apparently accepted bribes in exchange for helping aliens seeking status in the United States to gain faster processing or fake green card stamps, while his son acted as a middleman. (Here is the court’s press release.)
  • Rafael Francisco Pacheco, an ICE agent in Tampa, Florida, was sentenced in March of 2006 to seven years in prison for having taken almost $18,000 in bribe money from a drug trafficker.
  • In late 2006, former Department of Homeland Security supervisor Robert T. Schofield, of Fairfax, Virginia, pled guilty to having accepted at least $600,000 in bribes for providing fake citizenship documents to hundreds of Asian immigrants. There were also indications that he had sold green card stamps.
  • Mario Alvarez and Samuel McClaren, California Border Patrol supervisory agents, admitted in 2006 to taking $186,240 in bribes from a human smuggling organization to help arrange the release of immigrants from custody. At one point, the two agents smuggled two undocumented immigrants across the U.S. border themselves, using a government car.

Nevertheless, offering a bribe will most likely hurt your chances of getting a green card or visa. If you are discovered, the attempted fraud may make you inadmissible to the U.S.—that is, ineligible for any visa or green card.

What’s more, being caught for bribery will ruin your credibility, which will make it doubly difficult to get any sort of immigration benefit. And even if the act of bribery isn’t discovered in the short term, you’d have to live with the fear that the corrupt official will get caught eventually – in which case you could be stripped of your green card or U.S. citizenship.

You Can Throw Money At a Lawyer

If you are worried that you can’t get a U.S. immigration benefit without bribing someone, or you have been approached by an official in a manner that suggests he or she is looking for money on the side, speak to an experienced U.S. immigration attorney.

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