Sham Marriages in Germany

Sham Marriages in Germany

Sham marriages are usually concluded with a view to obtaining the desired residence permit or German citizenship. If a German administrative authority suspects that such a sham marriage might be involved in a specific case, the officials are obliged by law to report it immediately and to obtain its annulment. This is a situation that is usually emotionally stressful and legally challenging for those affected.

As a full-service law firm, Schlun & Elseven offers legal assistance that is both competent and committed in all those cases that have an interdisciplinary character. Our lawyers have excellent expertise in the German family, immigration and criminal law as well as the necessary sensitivity to support you in the case of an allegation of a sham marriage and to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

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What is a Marriage of Convenience (Sham Marriage)?

A marriage of convenience (sham marriage) is a marriage that was concluded for reasons of convenience to obtain legal advantages for the parties involved or third parties. This is the case, for example, if a residence permit is to be obtained through the marriage.

A characteristic of a marriage of convenience is that it is not a lifelong commitment but a temporary business-like agreement. In practice, marriages of convenience are often challenging to determine. However, certain factors help determine whether a marriage can be seen as fake. These can be read in more detail in the European Council Resolution 97/C 382/01 of 4 December 1997. Here are some of the factors considered:

  • matrimonial cohabitation is not maintained,
  • the spouses not meeting before the marriage,
  • the lack of a common language between spouses,
  • lack of appropriate contribution to marital responsibilities,
  • evidence of previous marriages of convenience/sham marriages,
  • financial transactions between the parties for the marriage to be contracted.

This information can be found from:

  • Statements made by the parties or third parties,
  • written documentation,
  • information acquired during inquiries carried out.

The immigration authorities in Germany can investigate marriages they suspect to be “marriages of convenience” and closely examine them. However, suspicion does not equate to guilt.

If you are accused of such a marriage, it is highly advisable to seek experienced legal advice immediately. Our lawyers will happily examine your legal situation and support you in refuting the accusation.

The Reasons for Marriages of Convenience (Sham Marriages) in Germany

There are many reasons why a sham marriage can take place. Often, a sham marriage is linked to gaining a residence permit. § 30 German Residence Act allows for family reunification for spouses/registered Partners in Germany. This extends to spouses of those with a residence permit in the EU, an EU Blue Card and those in the EU for research reasons.

However, § 27 German Residence Act outlines the limits of this allowance for fake marriages/sham marriages.
§ 27 German Residence Act

(1) The temporary residence permit to enable foreigners to be joined by foreign dependants so that they can live together as a family (subsequent immigration of dependants) shall be granted and extended to protect marriage and the family in accordance with Article 6 of the Basic Law.

(1a) The subsequent immigration of dependants shall not be permitted

  • 1. if it is established that the marriage has been entered into or kinship established solely for the purpose of enabling the persons immigrating subsequently to enter and stay in the federal territory or
  • 2. if there are concrete indications that one of the spouses has been forced into marriage.

Immigration concerns and residence permit issues are not the only reasons behind a sham marriage, although they make up most cases. Sham marriages can also take place for benefits derived from inheritance law and other reasons.

The Dangers of Sham Marriages

If you are suspected of having entered into a marriage of convenience, it is advisable to consult a lawyer immediately.

If the authorities have a suspicion, they will quickly conduct comprehensive investigations. In this context, whether there are indications of a coerced marriage is often examined. If a marriage of convenience is discovered, this can have criminal consequences.

§ 95 (2) German Residence Act provides for a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine if incorrect or incomplete information is provided or used to procure a residence title for oneself or another person. In addition, in the case of a marriage of convenience, the residence permit of the person concerned is revoked, which may also lead to deportation.

Ending a Sham Marriage in Germany

Divorce usually involves a lengthy and costly procedure. Aspects worth mentioning in this context are the separation year, spousal maintenance and equalisation of gains. If the marriage of convenience has lasted so long that a permanent residence permit has already been applied, the marriage and the residence title may still be reviewed. A marriage of convenience, therefore, does not pay off in any case.

According to § 1314 BGB, a marriage of convenience can also be annulled. This is the case, for example, if the marriage was forced (cf. § 1314 para. 2 no. 4 BGB).

In addition, a marriage may be annulled if…  a spouse was unlawfully induced to enter into the marriage by duress.

In the case of annulment, no separation year is required, and no pension equalisation takes place. In addition, a marriage annulment has the consequence that a residence permit granted can be withdrawn again. Please, don’t hesitate to contact our law firm for more information on this topic.

In the context of marriages of convenience, a limitation period of five years applies. The start of the limitation period is the time at which the offence was committed. This is not the marriage itself but the provision of incorrect or incomplete information to the competent foreigners’ authority (in the case of a marriage of convenience for the purpose of a residence permit).

Please note, however, that the residence permit may still be revoked even if the offence has become time-barred.

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Practice Group: German Family Law

Practice Group:
German Family Law

Dr. Tim Schlun

Lawyer | Managing Partner

Maria Ivanova

Certified Specialist Lawyer in Family Law

Contact our German Family Lawyers

Please use the contact form to contact our family lawyers regarding marriage of convenience (sham marriage) cases in Germany. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment based on the information provided and give you a cost estimation.