Monday, September 16, 2019

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Article Index

G. Exceptions to IMBRA

The regulations imposed by IMBRA do not apply to all dating services. There are two exceptions to IMBRA. The first exemption applies to dating services that do not provide international dating services between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals as their primary business. To qualify for the exemption, the dating service must charge comparable rates for men and women and offer comparable services to all individuals. The second exemption is for traditional cultural or religious matchmaking organizations that operate on a non-profit basis. While these two types of organizations are exempt from IMBRA's coverage, any foreign women who use these services and decide to marry an American citizen still receive criminal background information on U.S. citizen sponsors during the visa process and also receive information about their legal rights and resources in the United States.

Congress may have differentiated IMBs from other dating services because the IMBs' model, which establishes the male as a consumer and female as a commodity, places women at greater risk for abuse. However, upon closer examination, exempted organizations may put women at just as great a risk for abuse as IMBs.

Thus, these exemptions are problematic. For example, why might a South Asian man looking for a traditional South Asian wife be any less violent than a white American who wants the same thing? The exemption may exist because lawmakers and immigration officials may be more likely to suspect marriage fraud if members of a couple are racially or ethnically distinct from each other. Therefore, IMB marriages are perceived as more suspect than marriages arranged through cultural or religious services, because the spouses are usually of different races or ethnicity.

The exemption for cultural and religious organizations highlights that deference is given to unions of persons of the same cultural background, regardless of the motives of the sponsoring spouse. If two people meet through a cultural or religious service or through a service that caters domestically, they are less regulated than two people who meet through an IMB. This proves that couples are more suspect when they are from different racial or ethnic backgrounds, one is not a U.S. citizen, and they are not paying equally for the dating service. This suspicion is based on historical fears of foreign women as a corrupting and diseased force, the association of prostitution as coerced sexual slavery, the disdain for marriage to a noncitizen, and Western notions of marriage premised on free choice and consent.

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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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