Often viewed as a topic not openly spoken about by US politicians, Immigration attorneys and the general US populace alike, the most clear path to Permanent Residency in the US is marrying a US Citizen. Now in reality the path is not that simple, just a hell of a lot easier, quicker, risky and general less costly than the total alternative paths like going via work visa, family sponsorship, green card lottery or even marring another permanent resident.
However in the underworlds of US Immigration this is the pursued by foreigners who;
(a) Have been faithfully following the US Immigration system for years and see no other path to a Green Card
(b) Those who want to scam the Immigration system as the easiest path to a Green Card often with full help of Immigration lawyers
(c) Those who may be in legitimate relationships with US Citizens but fast track an official marriage to get a Green Card
Now many people may rightly say that all of the above cases are indeed dishonest and examples of a broken Immigration systems and the untrustworthy nature of many foreigners. However in good portion of those cases we are dealing with people who have paid tens of thousands of dollars and more, been separated from their families, had to ignore promotions and pay raises and been waiting for 10 years and more for a Green Card.
The reality is unless US Immigration reforms addresses the current needs and wants of the American populace and the economic reality of the country, then the current system will continue to encourage people to follow unsavory paths versus the arduous and often fruitless journey millions are forced into to live a somewhat normal life. In fact with with gay foreigners living in the shadows even more than their heterosexual counterparts during this time, the recent announcement allowing same sex marriages to be recognized for permanent residency petitions, has the potential to add to the less ideal path to be pursued by foreigners because of the lack of their preferred path through natural marriage, employer sponsored or merit earned based Permanent Residency.
The reform proposed of 2013 plans to address this by shifting the focus of Green Card attainability away from family based needs to economic based needs. This brings the US in line with other similar western Immigrant nations like Canada, Australia and the UK.
There will always people who want to find loopholes in the system whatever that may be in place, however if the fairest path to Permanent Residency and eventually US Citizenship, (if that is what a foreign national may desire), is one that is merit based and earned by faithfully following US laws and customs, paying taxes each year, working for US companies, being a good member of local communities, serving in the US military or peace corps, earning university level degrees and forming relationships with local people, then the idea of a sham marriage might become a thing of the past in time.