International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)

IMBRA, the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (Subtitle D of United States Public Law 109-162), is a United States federal statute that requires background checks for those Americans wishing to communicate with foreign women via dating agencies as well as background checks for all marriage visa sponsors and limits serial visa applications. The impetus for its introduction was several high-profile cases in which foreign women immigrants to the United States had been abused and eventually murdered by the men who had met them via international marriage agencies. Several international matchmaking agencies challenged its constitutionality in 2006 but the statute was upheld by Judge Clarence Cooper at the district level in federal court in March 2007. IMBRA has been the subject of controversy since its passage because of free-speech (the Right to Assemble of the First Amendment) and identity theft concerns. Also controversial are the obligations it imposes on the international marriage brokers (IMB) industry.

Key Provisions

Marketing of Children Prohibited.

IMBs may not provide personal contact information, photographs, or other information about anyone under the age of 18 to any individual or entity. (Section 833(d)(1))

Duty to Disclose Criminal and Marital History and Obtain Written Consent.

Before a (for fee) IMB may allow a foreign national to have any communication with a United States client, the IMB must: (1) search sex offender public registries for information regarding the United States client; (2) collect certain criminal and marital background information through documentation or an attestation from the United States client; (3) provide to the foreign national client any records retrieved from the sex offender public registry search and the background information collected in her primary language; (4) provide to the foreign national client a government-prepared information pamphlet about the legal rights and resources available in the US to immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes; and (5) obtain the foreign national client?s signed, written consent to the release of her information to the United States client. (Sections 833(d)(2) and (3))

Penalty for Misuse of Information.

Any person who knowingly misuses any information obtained by an IMB under IMBRA (i.e., uses that information for any unauthorized purpose other than IMBRA?s required disclosures) is subject to a fine or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both, in addition to other possible penalties that may be imposed under federal or state law. (Sections 833(d)(3)(C))

Penalties for Other Violations/Nonpreemption.

An IMB is subject to a civil penalty of $5,000 - $25,000 per violation or attempted violation of its obligations under IMBRA, and criminal penalties for not more than five years in prison. This is in addition to other possible penalties and remedies that may be provided for under federal or state law. (Sections 833(d)(5) and (6))

Definition of an International Marriage Broker.

?International marriage broker? is defined as an entity (whether or not US-based) that charges fees for providing matchmaking services or social referrals between US citizens/permanent residents and foreign nationals. The definition also exempts nonprofit religious or cultural matchmaking services, and dating services that do not match US citizens/residents with aliens as their principal business and that charge comparable rates and offer comparable services to all clients, regardless of gender or country of citizenship.

Informational Pamphlet about Legal Rights and Resources.

IMBRA requires the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Departments of State (DOS) and Justice (DOJ) and nongovernmental organizations with specialized expertise, to develop a pamphlet for foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses about the K visa immigration process, the legal rights and resources available to immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes, the illegality of marriage fraud (i.e., knowingly entering a marriage solely to obtain an immigration benefit) and US legal obligations regarding child support. The pamphlet will also include a warning concerning the potential use of K visas by US citizens with a history of violence, whose acts may not have resulted in a criminal record; as well as a notification regarding IMBs?s obligations to disclose US clients? violent criminal records.

Criminal Background Information Disclosed to Foreign Fiancé(e) or Spouse.

IMBRA requires US citizens petitioning to sponsor K visas to disclose convictions for a list of violent crimes on the ?I-129F? petition form that they file with DHS, including convictions for domestic violence and assault & battery, as well as convictions for elder abuse, child abuse or neglect, and stalking; and multiple (three or more) convictions for offenses related to alcohol/controlled substances. DHS must provide to DOS a copy of the petitioner?s I-129F petition form, together with any criminal background information (including information on protection orders) that DHS has gathered on the petitioner under existing authority. DOS must provide these materials to the foreign fiancé(e) or spouse. The US consular officer conducting the K visa interview overseas must inform the foreign fiancé(e) or spouse that this information may not be complete, and ask her (1) whether an IMB facilitated her relationship with the petitioner and if so, which one and (2) whether the IMB complied with IMBRA by providing her with the required disclosures and information. (Sections 832(a), 833(a)(5), and 833(b)(1))

Limits Placed on How Many and How Often Fiancé(e) Visa Petitions May be Filed; Petitioners with Violent Criminal Records Barred from Serial Sponsorship.

IMBRA limits a US petitioner?s sponsorship of K1 (fiancé(e)) visas to 2 total, with no less than 2 years between the filing of the last approved petition and the current petition. A petitioner may seek a discretionary waiver of these limits from DHS. However, DHS cannot ordinarily waive the limits if the US petitioner has a record of violent criminal offenses. (Section 832(a)(1))

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