Is entering into a sham marriage a criminal offence?

If you enter into a sham marriage, you are committing a criminal offence. A sham marriage is a marriage contracted to obtain a residence permit for a foreign national. Sham marriages enable people who are not eligible for a residence permit to reside in the Netherlands. This is why the authorities investigate possible sham marriages. The same checks apply when you enter into a registered partnership.

A sham marriage is a criminal offence

If you enter into a sham marriage you are breaking Dutch law. A sham marriage is a criminal offence for the following reasons:

  • You may have links with criminals. Sham marriages are often associated with people smuggling and human trafficking. In some cases, people make a lot of money from sham marriages. For example, you or your partner may receive money for entering into such a marriage. 
  • A sham marriage may allow you or your partner to obtain a residence permit for the Netherlands. This will give you or your partner access to social provisions to which you are not entitled, or unfair access to the labour market.

Personal declaration – no sham marriage

If you or your partner are not Dutch you may both be asked to sign a Personal declaration – no sham marriage stating that you are not marrying to obtain a residence permit. Your municipality will tell you where and when you need to sign this declaration.

Sham marriage investigations

If the authorities believe you intend to enter into a sham marriage, the municipality will investigate whether that is the case. You will be interviewed by a municipal official. You and your partner will be interviewed separately about your marriage and/or your relationship.

The municipality works with various parties when conducting these investigations, including the police and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). 

Consequences of planning a sham marriage

Giving incorrect information during your interview may have the following consequences:

  • a fine, an alternative sanction and/or a prison sentence for you or your partner;
  • denial of the foreign partner's right of residence based on marriage to a resident;
  • revocation of the foreign partner’s residence permit (if already issued).