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Immigrants tying the knot after signing a prenup

Because the current political climate has taken a darker turn toward immigrants, a lot of foreign nationals are "tying the knot" with their American brides and grooms almost impulsively.

Marrying a United States citizen is one of the quickest ways to achieve your lawful permanent resident status, or green card. However, an impulsive marriage could raise red flags with immigration officials, especially if it includes a prenuptial agreement.

Immigration attorneys say that many of the international couples who are rushing their weddings are also getting prenups -- just in case the marriages don't work out -- to protect their assets. Prenups aren't unusual, especially for professional couples with considerable wealth. About 14 percent of couples have them.

A prenup would seem like a reasonable thing to do, especially if a couple is marrying after a whirlwind romance or a long-distance love affair. However, most of those couples don't have to worry about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent investigating whether or not the marriage is a fraud designed to get around restrictive immigration laws.

If a marriage is deemed a sham, the consequences can be serious -- it could include deportation, the inability to return to the United States or even incarceration.

One of the many things that ICE agents look at when they determine if a marriage is real is whether or not the couple has jointly-held assets and mingled their funds. A prenup may make that difficult to do because it's essentially designed to keep that from happening so that neither spouse risks their wealth (or the richer spouse doesn't, at least) in the event of a divorce.

Even the very existence of a prenup could be a sign that the couple expects to divorce as soon as they legally can and still avoid fraud charges.

One possible way around the issue is to establish one joint bank account for household bills and keep separate savings or "mad money" accounts that are controlled by each individual spouse and covered in the prenup along with other assets.

A prenup could also be self-limiting -- for example, it could expire after five years of marriage. That makes the explanation that you have a valid marriage despite a cautious desire to protect yourself if things don't work out seem more credible.

For help with prenups and that won't raise eyebrows at ICE, consider contacting an attorney promptly.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Immigration fears lead to sped-up weddings -- and prenups," Katie Johnston, April 02, 2017

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