This pertains to an American university graduate program.

A TA recently surprised me with a proposition to marry her (we've neither dated nor hooked up), so that she could obtain a green card to stay in the United States -- she wants to leave the STEM fields and go into the creative / artsy stuff (eg, dreams of having a creative career in Los Angeles), which means she likely won't earn a work visa to stay in the US.

She essentially offered a blank check from her family, so long as the amount is less than the investment green card amount of 500k dollars (something that I did not know even existed).

My question is: putting aside legal, personal and ethical questions, what are the academic implications of this situation? At what point could I get into trouble with the university; from having such discussions with her or later, if I actually did something? Could I be dismissed from the university or have my degree revoked later on? What about implications regarding any funding that I might have from the university or from the government (eg, grants, loans)?

Edit: Thanks to those offering marriage strategies and interpretations of the law, but I had hoped to stay on-topic and focus on the academic implications. Currently, I am reduced to voting for an on-topic answer that I have some qualms about, since, as mentioned in Dan Romik's comments, the answerer focuses on reporting harassment, when I have not been harassed at all. Perhaps the community can vote to reopen the question to allow for more, on-topic answers.

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    If you don't mind paying a $250K fine and going to prison for five years, I assume a bit of trouble from the university won't really be that much of a deterrent.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 3:21
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    @DanRomik That seems like a pretty good answer already
    – user58748
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 3:34
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    What is your role in the university? The question does not specify if you are her supervisor, or she is teaching you, or something else. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 3:43
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    Well, first the obvious question. Is she cute? That aside, why not suggest to her she stick to the STEM fields while trying to attain citizenship a legal route. If that fails, she could always try to find someone she is romantically attracted to get married, and kill two birds with one stone. Personally, I cannot believe anyone in Academia worth a damned would attempt to pull this stunt. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 4:43
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    I don't see how this question is about academia.
    – user9482
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 8:02

5 Answers 5


You haven't specified what you role is in this university. If you are a professor/lecturer/instructor, then you are one level of power ahead of her, and any romantic or sexual involvement can be considered as harassment and can lead you to a huge problem and potential job loss. Moreover, it is highly unethical, as there is a power difference between both of you.

If you are a student of her, then she holds the power in your relationship, and so you could contact the Title IX office and claim she is harassing you because of such approximations.

In any case, as it has been already commented, her suggestion is something totally illegal, apart from unethical and irresponsible.

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    "If you are a student of her, then she holds the power in your relationship, and so you could contact the Title IX office and claim she is harassing you because of such approximations" A bit off-topic, but I find the mindset implicit in this sentence quite disturbing: OP clearly does not feel harassed, so why are you advising him of his rights to complain about harassment? It seems that you take the view that in any relationship involving a power differential, the "lower power" party must necessarily feel harassed or made to feel shamed or guilty for participating in unethical conduct. ...
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 8:38
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    ... But while there is certainly a potential for harrassment, such situations could involve a completely legitimate and sincere mutual attraction (e.g. a friend of mine dated and later married and had kids with a woman in the class he was TAing for; he did wait until the end of the semester before asking her out). So let's keep some perspective about such things and not view everything through the prism of harassment. To clarify, I'm speaking generally here, not about OP's particular and very unique situation.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 8:40
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    +1 since unlike all the other answers, this one addresses the academic implications, and thus is actually within the scope of this site. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 17:01
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    Well, I didn't want to accuse anyone of harassment, but rather discuss the academic-context implications that the story may have. I am sorry if I came out as an accuser. However, I think that, if someone is willing to take the huge risk of marrying for a green card, then they are also likely to play dirty game in other contexts (accusing someone else of harassment, not taking a "no" for a response, etc.) so I felt like I needed to point out the resources you have in an academic context if the situation goes out of hand.
    – Anna SdTC
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:14
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    @AnnaSdTC ah, excellent points...
    – User001
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:53

I am a U.S. citizen and happen to have a foreign spouse, so I've had some personal experience with this.

It could conceivably work if the two of you had known each other intimately for some time, even if you had a George Bernard Shaw, separate bedrooms kind of relationship. But if you are just acquaintances, it is unlikely the two of you would get through the interview process successfully. In separate interviews, you would be asked an unpredictable set of questions about your shared personal history. There are sample interview questions posted online, e.g. https://www.usavisanow.com/marriage-green-card/marriage-green-card-faq/marriage-green-card-interview/ and http://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/us-immigration/what-happens-green-card-marriage-interview.html.

In addition, USCIS (formerly INS) would need to see documentation that your finances have been shared and inextricably intertwined for some time.

You could enjoy the fantasy together for an evening, with the Dépardieu film Green Card.

P.S. I have heard about a businessman's visa, which her budget might be enough for, but I don't know much about it.

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    Why don't these ethical dilemmas ever happen to me? Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 4:47
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    @NZKshatriya - Ha ha! // But seriously, I don't see this as an ethical dilemma. The plan would fail on the practicalities long before it became an ethical dilemma. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 4:52
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    I, too, am a U.S. citizen with a foreign spouse who now has a green card. She was interviewed in her home country by the USCIS, but I was not even though I filed all the paperwork myself (their only contact with me was sending the bill for each stage of the process...) Of course, we were married and lived together in her home country for six years before I got homesick. Her interview didn't go too well until she produced several photo albums of us and both of our families together from various trips when my parents spent time visiting us. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 14:47
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    blank check is not reduced by $500k, it's capped at under $500k...
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 16:09
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    @KevinRubin - So glad to hear you got it straightened out without having to pay a lawyer an arm and a leg. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 19:29

Since you have posted the question on here already, it means that you actually thought about doing so with her.

I advise not to, as this is clearly illegal ("get married so she can get a green card"). This could result in being fined and put in jail as well (like one comment mentioned about it). See here for more information.

With Trump being the new President, things have gone in a hard way for international students who want to become US citizen to obtain a green card. She clearly does not have confidence in her academic ability to stay here, thus trying to lie to the government by "buying" a green card. You should not deal with liar like this.

P.s: I'm international student.

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    Well, thinking about something is not the same as leaning towards doing it, but I see your point.
    – user58748
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 4:05
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    Well, currently in the USA discussions on less than legal topics are, well, legal. Whether or not this will remain the case for long remains to be seen. note: I am completely politically biased, I despise both major parties equally :P Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 4:45
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    @NZKshatriya: But "conspiracy to commit <crime>" is a thing. If you discuss murdering someone and then that person ends up dead at the hand of the person you were talking to, and someone finds out, you're going to have a hard time. It's not as simple as "it's legal to have discussions". Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 11:29
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I'm no legal expert, but I was under the impression that you need to have actual plans for a conspiracy charge. I think "just talking" is at a lower level than that, and is not chargeable
    – Shokhet
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 13:51
  • @Shokhet Exactly. Discussing something that is illegal, and planning to do something that is illegal, are two different things. There is a little thing called freedom of expression in the USA, and "just talking" still falls under that..... Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 14:13

I'm going to more practical than the rest of the lot, and act as the 'devil's attorney'. In no way am I telling you to do something illegal. I'll be discussing a what if scenario, and maybe a possible book/film plot.

To marry there doesn't need to be love or any kind of other feelings. It'll depend on the amount of time she's willing to wait.

You definitely need to hook up with her, and have some sort of public relationship with her for at least 7-8 months. But by the way the world is heading, the youngsters these days don't even need to be publicly monogamous or faithful, so you'll just post on your face account something crass like as 'open relationship'. Stay with her, go the public events, share several photos on facebook and instagram and all that other crp millennials do. You'll need to know her a lot better, create joint plans for the future(kids, work,etc), even if you do not plan to go ahead with them. You'll need to fake every aspect of a married life. The key is to not over-fantasize. Be truthful in your planning, so as to better sell the idea. Your parents cannot know. In fact, her family should also not know. Do this in a way that she tells her family that she's in fact in love with you, and it's not a matter of a green card. It must look the part in every way. Go to thanks-giving with her, and all that things. You'll need to sell it to your and her family also. Visit her family a few times. If someone tells anything, then it's over.

After 7-8 months together, tie the knot. Afterwards, you'll have to wait for at least a year, year and half, so as not to arouse suspicions. During that period, with some joint account, you start to transfer some small random amounts, in a random time frame, until you get it done. Most divorces happen in two-three years within marriage, in the last months of your arrangement, move out, pretend she was tired of your infidelities. Make it seem like a rough divorce, but not so rough as to make you really mad and spill the beans...

It's never been easier to fake a marriage as in the time we live in.

This would be feasible only for those who would be in it for the long-run, and who knows... you might in fact fall in love with her.

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    Addenda, if you cannot trust her, than no deal. Or you could be really devilish and say to her that you don't want her money, but instead would like to go out with her. I do not know your history with her, so maybe it's not feasible. Make her believe that you really love her. This would be the best way to be sure you won't go to jail... However, you might not get paid. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 10:39
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    Addenda2: Honestly, I abhor this type of behaviour. And if someone was able to do this successfully with any serious hiccups, then it would be symptomatic of a serious fault in that person's character. She/he would devious/twisted (maybe a trace of sociopathy) to the point I would fear him/her. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 10:43
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    "I'll be discussing a what if scenario, and maybe a possible book/film plot." Reminds me of the West Wing. "We are writing a very important Thanksgiving proclamation... and possibly a new action-adventure series." Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 11:33
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    The first green card for a spouse is temporary (2 years?) so you would have to wait out that time as well, until she got the condition removed and had a permanent green card.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 20:28
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit LOL
    – BCLC
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 6:40

As others have pointed out, you could go to the stripy hole for that.

Her family seem to have enough money, so let’s think about that artsy business she wants. Who would be funding that? Obviously her family are going to have to put in a few $100k for that, if it ever manterializes.

So – for you: run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit. Tell her firmly that the answer so “NO”, and that you won’t discuss the matter again.

That’s all that you need to do – for you. You can stop reading right here.

If you want to help her, try to get it through to her why this is a bad idea. Even if she did find a mug, they could both end up in prison, years later when they had long forgotten their “harmless white lie”; the marriage could be declared illegal & void, she could be deported (after leaving prison) and lose her lovely artsy business.

Perhaps if you explain it in those terms, her family will find that they can afford the full $500k to invest in the business and get her the green card.

(and I would not suggest to her that said business could do business with her family’s business back home, which benefits the family business to the tune of a few $100k ;-)

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