Domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse are prohibited in the United States. The law protects everyone in the United States from abuse, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, ethnicity, or immigration status.

Foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses of U.S. citizens are not exempted from the protection of the law, hence the reason for enacting the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA or the Act).

IMBRA protects citizen fiancé(e)s and spouses by informing them of their legal rights and their sponsoring spouse’s criminal record or domestic violence background, among other things.

This is because most immigrants are vulnerable and unaware of US laws’. As a result, they remain in abusive relationships and live in fear.

This article will explain how foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses can get help if their relationship with a U.S. citizen becomes abusive.

IMBRA law | International Marriage Broker Regulation Act

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) is pivotal in combating domestic violence and abuse by the U.S. government.

Abuse includes physical harm, forced sexual relations, emotional manipulation, and economic and immigration-related threats against noncitizens married or engaged to U.S. petitioners who have petitioned/sponsored them to immigrate to the United States.

Although women are the most commonly abused, men are also victims of domestic violence; the Act aims to protect all.

The key provisions of IMBRA are as follows:

Duty to provide a legal rights information pamphlet to the foreign fiancé(e)/spouse

In consultation with the Departments of State and Justice, as well as non-governmental organizations with specialized expertise, IMBRA requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create an information pamphlet about rights for foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses, which will be available to immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes.

Obligation to disclose the criminal background 

International Marriage Broker Regulation Act requires the Department of State to provide foreign fiancé(e)s /spouses of U.S. citizens with a copy of the criminal background check conducted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on U.S. citizens and a copy of the petitioner’s I-129F petition form.

While conducting the K visa interview at the US embassy, the consular officer is required to inform the foreign fiancé(e) or spouse that the information provided by the Department of State may not be complete and to inquire if an international marriage broker facilitated the relationship between the US petitioner and the foreign fiancé(e). If so, it is mandatory to ask if the international marriage broker complied with IMBRA by providing the required disclosures.

Duty to obtain written consent AND PENALTY FOR MISUSE OF INFORMATION

Generally, the USCIS should be informed by U.S. citizens if the foreign fiancé(e) or couple met through an international marriage broker.

Before providing the noncitizen’s contact information to the US client, the marriage broker must obtain the foreigner’s written permission.

The information provided cannot also be used for an unauthorized purpose; if used, the person faces a fine or imprisonment for up to one year, in addition to any other penalties imposed by state or federal law.

Limits placed on the number of fiancé(e)s visa petitions and Disqualification of the abusive partner

IMBRA limits the number of K-1 visas a U.S. citizen can apply for in their lifetime to two, except if a waiver is obtained.

The Act also prohibits U.S. sponsors from sponsoring multiple visas for foreign fiancé(e)s with a history of violent crime.

What are the legal rights of domestic violence victims in the United States?

Everyone in the United States is entitled to basic civil and criminal protections. Fiancé(e)s/ spouses of the US Petitioner have the following options:

  • The right to obtain a protective order for themselves and their child(ren).
  • The right to divorce or legal separation without the consent of the US sponsor.
  • The right to divide jointly owned property and assets by the fiancé(e)s/spouses and the U.S. citizen.
  • The right to request custody of the child(ren) and financial support.

To explore the options available, the foreign fiancé(e) can consult a family lawyer who works with immigrants. The victim can contact the police to obtain a protection order if a crime is committed.

Similarly, domestic violence subjects can seek a court protection order. Most courthouses, police stations, women’s shelters, and legal service offices accept applications for protection orders. Assistance can also be sort from the government or non-governmental organizations.

What is considered an international marriage broker?

International marriage brokers are a company that charges fees for matching U.S. citizens/permanent residents with foreign nationals. The organization may or may not be based in the United States. The Act aims to protect people throughout the relationship-brokering process.

Qualified international marriage brokers must provide the noncitizen (foreign fiance or spouse) with background information about the U.S. client who wishes to contact the noncitizen. The data includes information from federal and state sex offender public registries.

The agency must provide the noncitizen with a copy of the IMBRA information pamphlet explaining domestic violence and informing them of their legal rights in the United States. It is, however, illegal to contact noncitizens under 18.

In case of a violation or attempted violation of its obligations under IMBRA, the international marriage broker faces a civil penalty of $5,000 to $25,000 and a criminal penalty of up to five years in prison, in addition to any other penalties provided for under state or federal law.

Do victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other crimes have other immigration options?

For domestic violence, sexual assault, and other specific crimes, victims and their children have three immigration options. This advantage is that the application is made confidentially without the abuser’s knowledge.

• Self-petitions for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

• Cancellation of removal under VAWA

• U-nonimmigrant status (crime victims)

What is an IMBRA waiver?

An IMBRA waiver allows a U.S. citizen to circumvent the IMBRA limit on the number of fiancé(e) visa petitions.

Suppose the U.S. citizen petitioner has filed two or more K-1 visa petitions or has had a K-1 visa petition approved within the last two years, a U.S. Petitioner may apply to the DOH for an IMBRA waiver to circumvent the limitations on the number of petitions a petitioner may file for a K-1 visa.

The waiver application will be denied if the US petitioner has a history of violent criminal offenses.

What are the penalties for marriage fraud?

Immigrants who commit marriage fraud may face deportation and be barred from receiving future immigration benefits in the United States. A conviction for marriage fraud can result in up to five (5) years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

How We Can Help You?

Do you need assistance navigating the complexities of immigration laws and procedures? We can assist you.

Contact the Herman Legal Group, a U.S. immigration law firm with over 26 years of experience representing individuals, families, and businesses in all aspects of immigration law in all 50 states and worldwide.

Call 1-216-696-6170 to make an appointment with one of Herman Legal Group’s experienced immigration lawyers or book online. Consultations can be held via zoom, skype, WhatsApp, facetime, or in-person.

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