Created By: drewderMarch 7, 2012 Last Edited By: drewderSeptember 4, 2013

Government Marriage Inspector

Where Bob and Ivana get married and the Feds go to extreme ends to prove the marriage is a fake

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Trope
A citizen and a non-citizen marry in a country where marriage is a fast-track to residency status and/or citizenship for the foreign half of the couple. An Obstructive Bureaucrat, suspicious of Loophole Abuse, dogs the couple in an effort to prove the marriage is a "fake", done simply for its convenient side-stepping of more onerous waiting periods and citizenship tests. Said bureaucrat is also apt to become deeply invested in exposing this "fraud" as a means of proving their bureaucratic mastery. The couple and their friends and family will be presented with demands for proof, and there will be forms and interviews (often with jaundiced and skeptical officials). There may even be attempts at spying on the couple in hopes of catching them not sleeping together. Often Played For Laughs. As same-sex marriages become more common, a new type of this investigation may be done to prove a "gay" couple are really two straight people trying to game the system for benefits of some kind. In U.S. settings, this is most likely done for health insurance, since health care in that country is not universal nor provided by the government to all citizens. Truth In Television: According to The Other Wiki article on Sham marriages, it does indeed occur in Real Life, not only in the U.S., but also in the United Kingdom.
Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • March 7, 2012
    Koveras
    What is "INS"? Some abbreviation?
  • March 7, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    INS stands for Immigration and Naturalization Service.

    Naturalized citizens can become such through study and taking classes, or by marriage, hence why the INS is always trying to prove such marriages fakes.
  • March 7, 2012
    Koveras
    Ah, an US government agency. Sorry, we are not all Americans here...
  • March 7, 2012
    wanderlustwarrior
    Apart from the acronym, I like the idea. I got the acronym, but I can see how others would have trouble.

    Also, props on "Bob and Ivana".
  • March 7, 2012
    robybang
  • March 7, 2012
    reub2000
    • House - Man Of The House includes House studying his "wife" Dominika's history in order to fool an immigrations official. Wilson pretends to be House's neighbor and corroborate his story. But it goes to hell when his actual neighbor comes home, and notices that it's the guy playing loud video games with House all the time.

    I also have to ask, does this have any basis in Real Life? It all seems so, silly.
  • March 8, 2012
    Arivne
    ^ @reub2000 wrote: I also have to ask, does this have any basis in Real Life? It all seems so, silly.

    According to The Other Wiki article on Sham marriages, it does indeed occur in Real Life. Not only in the U.S., but also in the United Kingdom.
  • March 8, 2012
    Ryusui
    You know, perhaps this trope doesn't just apply to citizenship marriages, as the Chuck and Larry example demonstrates.

    I don't know if it'd be an example, but it brings to mind an episode of DuckTales where Ma Beagle manages to "prove" she's married to Scrooge Mc Duck, with all the attendant financial benefits, and in the end, Scrooge has to fake his death in order to make her come clean.
  • March 8, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    This is the premise of a movie called Green Card, in which a hetero couple enter a marriage to secure the man US citizenship, and they get investigated. This being a romantic comedy, their relationship evolves into a real love match.

    There's also some use of it in the last season of Remington Steele. Laura and Steele have been flirting/courting for years, then an INS investigation of Steele forces the issue. There's more than one agent one their case, and it goes through multiple and two part episodes ("Bonds of Steele", "The Steele That Wouldn't Die" 1 & 2, "Steele Hanging In There" 1 & 2) from the end of season four and into an abbreviated season five.
  • March 8, 2012
    benjamminsam
    This appeared in Rockos Modern Life in a fake marriage between Rocko and Filburt. (I believe this was because Rocko needed a Green Card. Does anyone remember?)
  • March 9, 2012
    Treblain
    On The Drew Carey Show, Drew had to marry Mr. Wick so he could stay in the country, and an incredibly suspicious INS official came to investigate that they were really married. Subverted when it turns out it was a fake official that Mr. Wick hired so Drew wouldn't kick him out.
  • March 9, 2012
    Shnakepup
    I think the INS is actually called the USCIS nowadays.

    Definitely not a truth in television thing. My wife is from a foreign country, and when we got married there wasn't any more investigation than an interview where they essentially said "Are you sure you're really in love?" "Yes." "Okay!"
  • March 9, 2012
    TheNinth
    Shnakepup -- I think it's situational. If they suspect fraud they'll dig deeper. If evidence of the relationship is shaky, or the two people don't really seem to know each other during the face-to-face interview, or if one person does all the talking... I had to submit tons and tons of paperwork and letters from friends and coworkers, and proof we were even living together because we got married 11 months after the first time we even talked, and only had 15 days of actual time together before we filed the paperwork. There wasn't any of the sit-com "dropping in on the couple unexpectedly" stuff, but the paperwork and interviews really were deep.
  • March 9, 2012
    jatay3
    What business of the INS is it if they are "really in love"? If they are married they are married because they gave their word making it a contract. If the INS has any business at all in the matter that is all the business it has. Are they the emotion police?
  • March 9, 2012
    Duncan
    In a continuing arc on the second season of Will And Grace, Jack married Karen's maid Rosario so she could get her green card. Getting the card was difficult because, Jack had previously slept with with the male INS agent.
    Ok. Let's stop pretending. I've gotten farther with your husband than you have. I hope your bags are packed 'cause you're going back to El Salvador.
  • March 9, 2012
    Treblain
    Would Citizenship Marriage Inspector /Inspection be a better name?
  • March 9, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Used in an episode of Rockos Modern Life when Rocko and Philbert were supposedly married because Philbert would have been deported otherwise.
  • March 14, 2012
    VincentGaribaldi
    The Rocko's Modern Life example is from the episode "Kiss Me, I'm Foreign". Immigration screwed up and thought he was there illegally, which he wasn't, so he had to get married to Filbert and keep up the act until he could get his green card back, or get a new one.
  • March 15, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    @ jatay3 Well, this is a government bureaucracy we're talking about here, plus love/marriage/sex, so it's ripe to be Played For Laughs and obliquely criticize big/insensitive/overbearing government.

    Remington Steele mined the bureaucratic vein of comedy a lot after Doris Roberts joined the cast as a former government bureaucrat (IRS, I think) who became the receptionist and sometime assistant in the agency's investigations. Mildred Krebs could not only spot fake government agents (being familiar with the real ones), she could also throw her weight around as one herself when the occasion called for it. The INS plot was a logical extension, given Steele's accent and con artist backstory.
  • March 15, 2012
    Bisected8
    • In an episode of My Hero an immigration officer tries to "prove" that George and Janet's marriage is a shame (because he wants to deport George's cousin, also an Ultronian but disguised as an American, out of spite and needs to deport George to do so).
  • March 15, 2012
    Telcontar
    We need better title ideas; the acronym is one I had never heard of and couldn't decode. Anyway,

    • In The Proposal, the main couple are repeatedly questioned as to whether their marriage is just for citizenship. It is, but they resist telling the Department until the alter. Afterwards, they actually fall in love and go through all the investigation again, but end up married for real this time.
  • March 25, 2012
    suedenim
    Definitely needs a better title, as the INS no longer exists. Its former functions are now carried out by ICE and CIS, both part of the Department of Homeland Security. I believe CIS would be responsible for this bit.

    One thing I've never been quite clear on is just how much Truth In Television is in this trope. Are/were there REALLY ever federal agents following around a married couple to make sure they're actually having sex/doing other married-couple stuff? Or is the notion wholly or mostly a Hollywood sitcom writer's creation?
  • March 25, 2012
    TBeholder
    ^ nothing like that can happen! and if it can't, doesn't! ;] The next time you'll ask whether childcare bureaucracy always have only the kids' interests in mind and could this be compromised by how funding depends on performance...
  • March 25, 2012
    elwoz
    ^^ I've seen this process fairly close up. Two friends of mine, one a US citizen, the other living in the US on a student visa, fell in love and got married. After they did that, they had to go through roughly two years of bureaucratic crap to get that student visa upgraded to permanent residency. A good deal of said bureaucratic crap involved coming up with documentation of the length and durability of the relationship. It wasn't that anyone disbelieved them; it was just that there needed to be a file of supporting evidence. Because bureaucracy loves its files.

    How do I come into it? Well, besides being a sympathetic ear to kvetch at, the agency's idea of supporting evidence included photographs of the couple being a couple, ya see, so they had to go around to all their friends and ask for prints...

    (Make no mistake here: this process was (a) bullshit, (b) a complete waste of your tax dollars and mine, and (c) ultimately motivated by racism. I'm quite certain my friends would have had less grief if they didn't happen to have different skin tones. But it was just bureaucracy, there were no investigators following anyone around and certainly nobody wanted to know what they did in bed.)
  • March 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Key West: Savannah marries JoJo so he can stay in the country, and plans a detailed backstory for their love. He can't go through with it and ends up outing himself.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    I think this is a legit plot trope and there certainly seem to be a good number of examples, but it had better get a better name and description.
  • August 30, 2013
    drewder
    How about as a name "Government Marriage Inspector"
  • August 30, 2013
    69BookWorM69
    Try this for a description:

    A citizen and a non-citizen marry in a country where marriage is a fast-track to residency status and/or citizenship for the foreign half of the couple. An Obstructive Bureaucrat, suspicious of Loophole Abuse, dogs the couple in an effort to prove the marriage is a "fake", done simply for its convenient side-stepping of more onerous waiting periods and citizenship tests.

    Said bureaucrat is also apt to become deeply invested in exposing this "fraud" as a means of proving their bureaucratic mastery. The couple and their friends and family will be presented with demands for proof, and there will be forms and interviews (often with jaundiced and skeptical officials). There may even be attempts at spying on the couple in hopes of catching them not sleeping together.

    Often Played For Laughs. As same-sex marriages become more common, a new type of this investigation may be done to prove a "gay" couple are really two straight people trying to game the system for benefits of some kind. In U.S. settings, this is most likely done for health insurance, since health care in that country is not universal nor provided by the government to all citizens.

    Truth In Television: According to The Other Wiki article on Sham marriages, it does indeed occur in Real Life, not only in the U.S., but also in the United Kingdom.
  • September 4, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Isn't this basically Citizenship Marriage (which can also include e.g. allegedly gay couples marrying for the health benefits) + Inspector Javert?

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