Monday, September 16, 2019

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Article Index

F. Regulations of IMBRA

Concerns over misuse of IMBs, along with the potential for abuse in marriages formed through IMBs, prompted Congress to regulate the industry. While the language of the Act is gender neutral, it is clear from the legislative history and the fact that IMBRA was enacted as part of VAWA that its main intent is to protect foreign women from U.S. men. IMBRA is based on the assumption that once provided with the necessary information, foreign women will be able to make more educated choices about marriage and will be less likely to end up with abusive husbands. IMBRA provides foreign women with information about the criminal history of the American male clients of IMBs, as well as about the rights and resources available to domestic violence victims in the United States.

To protect foreign women, the Act imposes regulations on IMBs and the men who use them. IMBRA regulates IMBs by prohibiting them from profiling women younger than 18 years of age. Furthermore, the Act requires IMBs to search federal and state public sex offender registries for information on each U.S. client. The IMB must also provide the foreign woman with additional criminal and marital background information that the IMB has collected from the U.S. client. Lastly, the IMB must advise the foreign woman in her language of rights and resources available to victims of domestic violence and obtain written consent to release her contact information to specific U.S. clients.

In order to advise women of their rights and resources, the Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to create pamphlets, to be distributed by IMBs to the female in her native language. The pamphlet must include information about the visa application process; the illegality of domestic violence and sexual assault; services for domestic violence survivors; the legal rights of immigrants subject to abuse; the obligations of parents to provide child support; the definition of marriage fraud and the penalties for such fraud; and a warning about potential abuse by the American spouse.

IMBRA imposes regulations not just on the IMBs, but also on the American clients of IMBs. The American client must provide documentation of criminal history, including arrests related to substances or alcohol; any court orders restricting physical contact with another person; any arrests or convictions of homicide, murder, manslaughter, assault, battery, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, child abuse, and stalking; and any arrests or convictions for prostitution or attempting to procure prostitutes. The U.S. citizen must also provide a personal history including a record of any previous marriages, whether he has previously sponsored fiancé(e)s or spouses, the ages of all minor children, and a list of previous states of residence since the age of 18. IMBRA further restricts U.S. citizens from simultaneously seeking visas for multiple fiancé(e)s and provides a lifetime cap of two fiancé(e) visas per U.S. petitioner (subject to waiver), with no less than two years between the filing of petitions.

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Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

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