How the IND can check for fake relationships
A relationship can be considered a sham if no genuine relationship between the individuals has been established. In the context of immigration, people sometimes enter into sham relationships in order to secure a residence permit. However, partaking in a sham relationship, whether that is married or unmarried, is criminal offence in the Netherlands. In this article, we explain how the Dutch authorities can evaluate the possibility of a sham relationship and the consequences of being convicted.
How can the IND check for a sham relationship?
If the IND suspects that you and your partner are in a sham relationship for the purpose of obtaining a residence permit, they can conduct an investigation into the nature of your relationship.
One method of investigation is a contemporaneous interview with you and your partner. The IND will send a letter requiring you and your partner to each attend an interview. The interviews will be conducted at a different locations but will be held at the same time. Interviewers ask each partner details about their relationship with the other and later compare the answers that each partner gives. These interviews can be quite lengthy—a recent client of ours was interviewed for five hours.
Another method that the relationship can be investigated is through a house visit. During the house visit, the IND will consider whether or not it is reasonable to deduce that the individuals live together.
What does the interview process look like?
The interview will begin with the IND officer checking the identity document of the person being interviewed. Once the identity has been verified, the interviewer will explain the process of the interview. The first two questions asked will be:
- Whether the interviewee has any questions about the process.
- Whether the interviewee feels physically and mentally healthy enough to sit the interview.
The interviewer will then ask the interviewee questions about their residence in the Netherlands. These questions can relate to the length of time the individual has lived in the Netherlands, the people they live with, and/or the relationships of the people they live with.
The next set of questions will concern the nature of the relationship and key dates in the relationship. Partners can be asked about any of the following topics:
- The first time they met;
- How they met;
- Whether other people were there the first time that they met;
- How they contacted each other after the first time that they met;
- What the content of the first message was that they sent to each other;
- Details of their first date, including the time of day, the activities they did, what they spoke about, how long the date lasted, etc.;
- How frequently they see each other;
- Whether they have spent the night together;
- Whether they have met friends of their partner;
- The first time they met the parents and siblings of their partners;
- Trips they went on together, including the method of transportation, splitting of travel costs, presence of other people, etc.;
- Descriptions of each other’s tattoos;
- Details about their wedding ceremony including choice of location, when they decided to get married, what activities they did during the day of their wedding, names of the people attending the wedding, the time of the vows, etc.;
- If living separately: Details about their partner’s living situation and plans on moving in together;
- If living together: How they found the apartment or house, the date they moved in together, whether the house was furnished, what the landlord does for a living, the monthly rental cost, etc.
What will the IND look for in a house visit?
The IND will be looking for evidence that the individuals live in the house together. This proof could include photos of the couple hung up in the house, clothing items from both individuals, and/or the presence of personal items from each of the individuals (such as clothing items, toothbrushes).
It is, however, worth noting that the mere fact that two individuals live together is not a guarantee that the IND will find their relationship to be genuine. Additional proof may need to show the strength of the relationship.
Who has the burden of proof?
As a general rule, for both refusal to grant an initial partnership visa and the withdrawal of a partnership visa, the IND has the burden of proof to show that a relationship is a sham. Therefore, if the IND wishes to withdraw a partnership visa on the basis that the individuals in the partnership are in a sham relationship, the IND must substantiate their claim with evidence.
However, the burden of proof can shift to the foreign nationals in certain circumstances where there is a strong indication that the relationship may be fraudulent. For instance, having a child with someone other than the person you are linked to on your visa can be enough to shift the burden of proof to the foreign national.
What proof can be given to show my relationship is not a sham?
There is no specific list of documents that must be shown or facts that must be established to prove that a relationship is genuine. In order to refute the conclusion that a relationship may be a sham, individuals can send any materials that demonstrate that the relationship was active during the time in questions. Examples of potential proof to send include:
- Photos of the partners together
- Screenshots of Facebook or WhatsApp messages between the partners
- Plane or train tickets of joint trips
- Entrance tickets from places or events attended together, such as museums or concerts
- Copies of joint bills, such as gas contracts with both partners’ names
- Statements from family members or common friends stating that they know the couple and believe they have a genuine relationship
What proof indicates that a relationship is a sham?
On the other hand, proof that a relationship is a sham can include:
- A divorce filed shortly after a residence permit has been granted
- Having children with partners other than your registered partner
- Not living together
- Regular transfers of money from one partner to the other
While none of these automatically prove that a relationship is a sham, they can be used to indicate that a relationship is less genuine.
What is the consequence of having a sham relationship?
If the IND considers that your relationship is a sham relationship, you and/or your partner can receive any of the following:
- A prison sentence, a fine, or community service.
- Rejection or withdrawal of a the foreign partner’s residence permit.
In 2012, nine people were arrested in connection to a sham marriage ring that enabled foreign nationals to take advantage of Dutch social security. Arrests were also made in 2015.
Has your application for partnership been rejected by the IND? Or, would you like to discuss a scheduled interview or home inspection? Please contact Mynta Law today to see how we can help you.
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