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A sham marriage is a union (marriage) motivated not so much by love but instead by a desire for political advantage or personal convenience. Examples of the former include many royal marriages, such as between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 12th Century.

Sham marriages for personal convenience can involve a desire to conceal homosexuality or other aspects of one's self from a public that might view that true self with derision or intolerance. Rock Hudson's marriage was encouraged by his studio to camouflage his increasingly well-known desire for same sex relations.

While referred to as a 'sham', such a marriage is still a legal union (provided it conforms to necessary legal details).

  • Marriage for legal benefits of personal convenience often constitutes a sham marriage, including marrying solely to gain legal status as an immigrant. The couple marries with knowledge that the marriage is solely for the purpose of obtaining legal status for the man or woman in the destination country. This is frequently arranged as a business transaction. This occurs more commonly with foreigners already in the country. U.S. Immigration (USCIS) can punish this with a $250,000 fine and five-year prison sentence.

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