What is an International Marriage Broker?

Online dating and international marriage brokers

The term “International Marriage Broker” (IMB) refers to a for-profit business or dating website whose primary business model is to introduce U.S. citizens with foreign nationals for the purpose of marriage. Relationships which originate through an international marriage broker are highly scrutinized by U.S. immigration officials. Regardless, the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) plays a role in your Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé.

This isn’t to say that using an IMB is against the law. The U.S. citizen and foreign national beneficiary may use an IMB. However, if the agency qualifies as an international marriage broker, it must give the beneficiary information on the U.S. petitioner. This includes any information contained in federal and state sex offender public registries.

IMB Defined

An international marriage broker could be any corporation, partnership, business, individual, or other legal entity, whether or not organized under any law of the United States, that charges fees to provide dating, matrimonial or matchmaking services, or provide social referrals between U.S. citizens/lawful permanent residents and foreign national clients by providing personal contact information or otherwise facilitating communication between individuals.

The term is not used to refer to:

  • Traditional matchmaking organizations of a cultural or religious nature that operate on a non-profit basis and in compliance with the laws of the countries in which they operate, including the laws of the United States; or
  • Entities that provide dating services, but only if:
    • Their principal business does not provide international dating services between U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents and foreign nationals; and
    • They charge comparable rates and offer comparable services to all individuals served regardless of gender or country of citizenship or nationality.

Most couples didn’t use an international marriage broker. For example, if you met your fiancé through family or friends or a chance meeting, an IMB was not the platform for meeting. Likewise, websites like Facebook or Match.com are not considered international marriage brokers.

International Marriage Broker Regulation Act

Relationships arranged through IMBs can potentially create volatile situations. Foreign nationals – often women – seek entry to the United States. U.S. citizens – often men – seek a marriage. Unfortunately, the leverage that the U.S. citizen holds over the intending immigrant can be the impetus for some abusive situations.

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) of 2005 (codified at 8 U.S. Code § 1375) is a U.S. law intended to provide measures to prevent these scenarios and provide protections those that find themselves victims of domestic violence following their immigration. The key provisions of the IMBRA include:

  • Prohibits the marketing of any client under the age of 18
  • Requires IMB to perform a background check of the U.S. client and share the findings with the information with the foreign national in the foreign client’s primary language
  • Requires that a U.S. citizen disclose certain crimes when filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé
  • Puts limits on the number of times a U.S. citizen can petition a foreign fiancé
Mistakes on your I-129F petition can cause costly delays or a denial.
Prepare Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, correctly and affordably with CitizenPath. The attorney-reviewed software guides you through the petition and provides help to answer questions like this one. And personalized filing instructions help you to file your petition today knowing that you did everything right! No credit card or signup required to get started. Try it before you buy it >>

IMBRA Impact on I-129F Petitions

When filing Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, USCIS requires you to disclose previous petitions. If a U.S. citizen has previously filed two I-129F petitions, and it has been less than two years since the filing of the latest of those petitions, that person is not eligible to sponsor an additional K visas. The U.S. citizen petitioner may ask the government to waive this limitation. Immigration officials may grant a waiver in very limited situations.

If applicable, the petitioner must also disclose to USCIS that he or she met the fiancé through an international marriage broker. Additional supporting documentation must be submitted to evidence that the online site is either not an IMB or conforms to the IMBRA standards.

Additionally, Form I-129F filers must disclose previous arrests, citations, charges, indictments, convictions, fines, or imprisonments for breaking or violating any law ordinance in any country. This is exhaustive but does exclude traffic violations unless the traffic violation was alcohol- or drug-related or involved a fine of $500 or more. USCIS will also do its own background check. Certain crimes — particularly domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other violent crimes – can be catastrophic to a visa petition.

Anyone that has filed more than one Form I-129F and/or has a criminal history is highly encouraged to consult with an immigration attorney before filing another I-129F petition.

RECOMMENDED: Overview of the K-1 Visa Process

Source: USCIS