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MARRIAGE

Fraudulent marriages to obtain residency spike in Spain

An increasing number of foreigners are attempting to gain residency in Spain through fake marriages of convenience that authorities can easily lift the lid on. 

Fraudulent marriages to obtain residency spike in Spain
Some foreigners are willing to take the risk of potentially being caught in a fraudulent in order for the benefits being married to an EU national can bring in Spain. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

Any fan of 90s romcoms may be familiar with the film Green Card, which sees an undocumented French migrant in New York played by Gérard Depardieu marry an American (Andie McDowell) in order for him to have his slice of the American dream, only for them to predictably fall madly in love.

Here in Spain, marriages of convenience have seen an “exponential rise” in recent years according to the Central Unit of Illegal Immigration Networks and Fake Documents (Ucrif), and for those who get caught it’s no laughing matter. 

Faking a marriage or civil union isn’t generally classified as a crime in Spain, which means that the bogus couple are unlikely to end up behind bars, but it is still considered a fraudulent act that can carry fines of between €500 and €10,000, according article 53.2B of Spain’s migration law.

Nevertheless, in recent years an increasing number of non-EU citizens are striking deals with Spanish or other EU nationals in Spain as a surefire way of obtaining residency in the country and acquiring practically the same rights as a Spaniard. 

Individuals may be willing to accept the offer of a fake union, whether it’s to help a migrant out, for mutual convenience or financial gain.

But faking marriages or civil unions has now been absorbed as another illicit practice by criminal gangs in Spain’s major cities.

In 2020, Europol reported how Spanish National Police arrested 12 suspected members of a sham marriage network which facilitated illegal immigration into the EU by setting up partnerships of convenience.

The following year, a priest in Murcia was handed a 20-month prison sentence for carrying our at least 16 bogus weddings.

In February 2022, another gang was arrested in Catalonia for charging migrants for fake civil union partners.

Migrants usually pay between €3,000 and €7,000 for these illegal wedding agencies to find them a partner and to organise the union.

As civil partnerships (parejas de hecho) are generally simpler to carry out than marriages, this has been the preferred modus operandi, and may be one of the reasons why civil unions rose exponentially in Spain from a total of 1.6 million in 2018 to 1.8 million in 2020.

READ ALSO: Civil union or marriage in Spain: which one is better?

It’s not illegal for a non-resident third-country national to marry an EU resident in Spain and gain residency like this. 

And although love is not a prerequisite for such a union to take place, living under the same roof is.

If a Spanish civil servant suspects that the relationship isn’t real, they can contact police to conduct a check at the address provided, or an interview with the alleged couple. 

“When there are suspicions, interviews are carried out during which they ask you a lot of details about the other person, and if you don’t live with them, you don’t pass the test ,” migration lawyer Antonio Segura told La Vanguardia.

Despite the risk it can entail, some migrants without the residency documents needed to live and work without problems in Spain see the civil union as the fastest way to resolve their issues and take the risk anyway. 

“You have to put yourself in people’s situation,” Segura argues.

“I understand that it’s a mistake to fake a marriage but undocumented migrants can sometimes be here for years without documents, they’re scared of being stopped by police, they’re imprisoned in Spain and can’t fly back to see their families until they’re granted residency through years spent in Spain, they can’t work legally in Spain.”

READ ALSO: How can non-residents or new arrivals get married in Spain?

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CRIME

Spanish mother jailed for falsely accusing ex-husband of child abuse

A Spanish court has jailed a woman for five years for repeatedly filing false reports about her ex-husband sexually abusing their daughter.

Spanish mother jailed for falsely accusing ex-husband of child abuse

According to El Mundo daily, the sentence was unprecedented in Spain.

In a ruling handed down by a court in the southern city of Granada which was seen by AFP on Wednesday, the unnamed woman was convicted of filing false allegations, offences against moral integrity and abandonment of parental responsibility.

She was also ordered to pay €40,000 ($42,000) each to the child and her father for the harm caused by her unfounded allegations, which were aimed at securing sole custody of her daughter, now nine.

The court also took away the mother’s parental responsibility for 10 years on grounds she posed “a threat to (her daughter’s) development”, according to court documents dated Monday.

The woman had filed eight reports to the police and the courts over a two-year period, accusing her husband of abuse and on one occasion rape as they were in the throes of getting divorced.

She also took her daughter to be examined by doctors and psychologists on 10 separate occasions.

None of them ever found any evidence of the alleged abuse.

The ongoing gynaecological and psychological examinations had an impact on the child’s “psychological stability and her performance at school”, according to the court documents.

The aim was to “obtain the sole and exclusive custody” of their daughter.

The sentence, which can be appealed, described the mother as a person with a predisposition for “lying” who displayed “shameless cynicism” and “cunning malice with obsessive overtones”.

The couple married in 2010 and had a daughter in 2012. But they split up in 2017 and the problems began a year later when the father, an English teacher, requested joint custody.

After his ex-wife began filing the false allegations against him, he lost most of his students along with his “emotion stability, peace of mind and sense of calm”, the court found.

“It’s like being buried alive,” he told El Mundo.

“It’s trying to kill someone without laying a finger on them… accusing them of the vilest, worst thing that a human being can do: harming your own daughter.”

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