K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa: IMBRA Limitations and Waivers

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) created harsh reporting requirements for US persons who seek to meet foreign nationals through dating services.  IMBRA requires that potential US petitioners disclose certain criminal and marital history to matchmaking service companies before the companies may assist them in finding foreign natioanls interest in American suitors.   If the US petitioner does not disclose this information to the matchmaking company, he or she must still do so on the fiancé(e) visa application form (Form I-129f).  Additionally, when the foreign fiancé(e) applies for the visa at the US Consulate, the Consular officer will ask if the couple met through a matchmaking or dating service and where he or she was made aware of the US petitioner’s criminal and marital history.  Failure to disclose will result is a denial of the fiancé(e) visa and can also lead to civil and criminal penalties of up to $25,000 per violation and 5 years in prison.

US petitioners must disclose:

1.  Domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, dating violence, elder abuse, and stalking.

2.  Homicide, murder, manslaughter, rape, abusive sexual contact, sexual exploitation, incest, torture, trafficking, peonage, holding hostage, involuntary servitude, slave trade, kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment, or an attempt to commit any of these crimes.

3.  Crimes relating to a controlled substance or alcohol where the petitioner has been convicted on at least three occasions and where such crimes did not arise from a single act.

IMBRA also mandates certain filing limitations be US petitioners.  If the US petitioner has filed two or more K-1 visa petitions at any time in the past, or previously had a K-1 visa petition approved within two years prior to the filing of the current petition, the US petitioner cannot obtain an approved Form I-129f without obtaining a waiver of these limitations.   These limitations do not apply to petitioners for a K nonimmigrant visa for an alien spouse (K-3 visa).

In order to obtain an IMBRA waiver, the US petitioner must demonstrate why a waiver would be appropriate along with evidence in support of the waiver.  If the US petitioner has committed a violent offense, a waiver may also be obtained if extraordinary circumstances exist which show that the US petitioner was acting in self defense or that he or she was not the primary perpetrator of violence in the relationship or that there was no serious bodily injury in the offense committed.

IMBRA also requires USCIS to maintain a database to track K-1 visa and K-3 visa applications.  If a US petitioner applied for a second or subsequent K-1 visa or K-3 visa, the USCIS will notify the US petitioner and foreign beneficiary of the number of previously approved petitions listed in the database. USCIS will also send the beneficiary a pamphlet containing information on legal rights and resources for immigrant victims of domestic violence.

Since enacted, IMBRA has created a burden on US petitioners as well as international matchmaking service companies.  It has also led to many denials of K-1 visa and K-3 visa applications.  It is not uncommon, especially for unrepresented applicants, for Form I-129f cases to be approved by USCIS but later denied at the US Consulate for minor, unintentional errors.  Because IMRA imposes filing limitations where a Form I-129f was approved within the last two years, the US petitioner cannot simply reapply if the first application was denied at the US Consulate.