International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (IMBRA)

Recently I got a phone call from a man who was working on his I-129 F,  petitioning for his Fiancee to enter the US on a K-1 Fiancee Visa. He called to inquire what answer he should give to question #19 on his I-129 F.  This is the one that asks "Did you meet your fiancé(e) or spouse through the services of an international marriage broker?"  

In his case he had met her via an online dating service that connects Latin women with Americans and Australians.  So the quick and simple answer was for him to write down the name and address of the website where they met.  The problem though, is the dating service he used did not comply to IMBRA. The service he used is based in Australia, and like most (all) foreign based websites (and many American sites too) that provide international dating, aka "foreign brides" services, it totally ignored IMBRA, the International Marriage Broker Act, and never followed any of the procedures required by IMBRA.  

He is now in a difficult spot. If he lies, stating he met a different way, he is quilty of fraud. If found out, his petition would be denied.

However by admiting he met his fiancee via a non-compliant dating site, then his petition should also be denied, since they met in an illegal manner.

I do not know what he decided to do. I wish him luck.  But this made me think that a lot of American men do not know what IMBRA means to them, and a little information, to help them understand the law better would be useful. So that is what this page is going to be about, ie:  The International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (IMBRA) and how it affects YOU.

IMBRA became law in March 2006.  Full text of  t
he International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (IMBRA)

Its avowed purpose is to protect foreign women from American predators. Its practical effect is to make it difficult for American men to seek romance overseas, and to put small American internet businesses that service the international dating niche out of business.

It effects YOU as follows:

At the "Say Hello" stage:

It labels as an International Marriage Broker, any for-profit entity whose principal business is to charge fees for providing dating, matrimonial, matchmaking services, or social referrals between U.S. and foreign national clients by providing personal contact information or otherwise facilitating communication between U.S. and foreign national clients. Yes we know that these online dating sites are not real "brokers". No hand was extended asking for a fee in case a marriage resulted from a couple meeting each other. The term "broker" was coined by the drafters of IMBRA specificall because it brings to mind the picture of buying and selling people, even though that is NOT what really happened. This is a good example of propaganda. And of course it causes confusion for any American man completing his I-129F, because he does not remember ever using a broker.

requires any for profit, dating service, which primarily facilitates international contacts between Americans and non-Americans, any so called "International Marriage Broker" to perform the following :

A. To conduct a background check at the National Sex Offenders Database, NSOPR.GOV on each American it serves.

B. To ask a list of mandated questions of each American about his marital and criminal background.

C. To request the American to provide court records, police reports, etc for any conviction or arrest, specified in the mandated questions list.

D. To translate (B and C) above to the primary language spoken by the foreign person the American wants to contact.

E.  To present to the foreign person, items (B and C) above translated to her primary language

F. To present to the foreign person, a pamphlet about Domestic Abuse written in her primary language.

G. To ask her to sign a statement, also in her primary language,  stating that she consents to allow the American contact her.

If you are using a dating site,  and it looks like most of its business is to put Americans in touch with Non-Americans, and even if you now by no stretch of imagination that it is a broker for marriage or anything else, still, despite logic, the dating site you used is defined by IMBRA as an International Marriage Broker. This definition does not care if no "brokerage" actually occurs. This definition applies to any company, anywhere in the world.  If you use such a service, then only if the above steps are followed by the service, will your situation be compliant with IMBRA.  Only then will you be able to answer #19 on the I-129F honestly, without fear of IMBRA causing your petition to be denied.

CASE 1. Heart of Asia

Penpal Address Sales to Americans halted, replaced by Foreign Introductions

Heart of Asia has served the international dating community for 13  years. A mom and dad company, operated by husband and wife. He from US and she from Hong Kong. They had operated a simple penpal type website. Foreign women listed their profiles after applying by postal mail. They gladly hoped that any and all interested men would purchase their address and write them a letter.  IMBRA made this simple system impossible.  Now instead of offering a man a womans mailing address for him to quickly send her a letter and "Say Hello", Heart of Asia can only offer Americans a system forced by IMBRA. This substitute product is called a "Foreign Introduction". American clients choose the gals they want to contact. 
Heart of Asia also checks to see if the American is listed at the National Sex Offenders Database. The American answers the IMBRA background questions (B). Heart of Asia translates the answers to each gals language. Then sends the Americans background information, and Sex offenders database results to the gal by postal mail.  Included is a coupon written in her language, for her to sign and to mail back.  If she agrees, and after her coupon arrives, the American is sent her address.  Slow and undesirable, it is the only way to process penpal address type orders via postal mail.  Records of all consents, background details are maintained, and this information is available when the American may need it when applying for a Fiancee or Spousal visa.


New Online dating site specifically designed to comply and conduct IMBRA seamlessly in background.

In order to develop a more client friendly IMBRA compliant process and to avoid the cumbersome and slow, sending back and forth of background details and coupons via postal mail, Heart of Asia decided to develop a new webservice that relied solely on email and instant messaging. Thus was born.  An American who wishes to use must first apply for membership. He is checked at the National Sex Offenders database.  Then he is asked the IMBRA background questions (B above).  His answers are translated to 14 different languages.  As a member at each time he sends an email or invites a foreign member to an instant message chat session, the system checks to see if the foreign member has already given permission for contact to take place.  If the consent is on file, the foreign member can read the message. If no consent is on file, the foreign member is presented with the consent request, and consents if she wants to allow contact. Records of all consents, background details are maintained, and this information is available when the American may need it when applying for a Fiancee or Spousal visa.

CASE 3.  Melindas Penpals

Abandoned charging for services, so are no longer considered an International Marriage Broker.

This was a small service, operated by husband and wife. He from US she from Philippines. It started as a courtesy to her (Melindas) friends. They offered penpal addresses for sale. Never had any complaints. The requirements of IMBRA being too draconian, they decided to modify their service so that it would no longer be defined as an International Marriage Broker.  The way they achieved this was to stop charging any fees.   As a not-for-profit service they could still help Americans and non-Americans, in this case Filipinos to meet, without having to comply with IMBRA.  The down side is that now with no money coming in, they were forced to fill each page with google advertisements, and of course forced to find other ways to support their family have little time to spend on moderating their website.

CASE 4. Hundreds of Mom and Dad websites.

Killed by IMBRA.

Not willing to work for free and concerned about possibly violating the many and confusing IMBRA requirements, they just shut their doors, closed their websites and went out of business.

CASE 5.  Dozens of American websites, and all Russian, Chinese and other foreign websites.

Pretend that IMBRA does not exist or does not apply.

If sincere, they are waiting for the US to take them to court for violating IMBRA, and hope to defend themselves and defeat IMBRA in open court.  More likely they are just happy to take the money of American clients and not concerned about what may happen to them after they find a partner and stop sending subscriptions.

At the Fiancee or Spousal Visa stage

Assuming the person you met over the internet, is physically resident outside of the US, and you decide to bring the relationship to the next level, ie marriage, then it is required to apply to the US government for permission for her to enter the US either as a Fiancee or as your Spouse.  This process of petitioning for a Fiancee (K1) Visa, or Spousal (K3) Visa takes about a year.

IMBRA effects YOU as follows:

H. The initial stage of the visa petition process is to complete form I-129F and submit it to USCIS.  This form has been modified to ask you some of the same questions of B. above specifically about your criminal background and results in dissallowing your petition of a Sponsor who has been convicted by a court of law (civil or criminal) or court marshaled by a military tribunal for any of the specified crimes, even if the records were sealed or otherwise cleared or even if anyone, including a judge, law enforcement officer, or attorney, advised you no longer has a record.

I. Requires you to declare on I-129F the contact information of the dating service (so called International Marriage Broker) where the couple met.

J. Limits an American to a maximum of two Fiancee or Spousal visa petitions in his lifetime.

K. USCIS conducts a criminal background check on the American and if the American failed to fully disclose this information or if the crimes are on the list to make him ineligible, will reject his visa petition.

L. USCIS will forward any positive results of a criminal background check, to the consulate which will perform the interview with the Fiancee and will disclose all information on the background check to her, giving her time to reconsider her willingness to apply for a visa.


IMBRA Compliant International Dating:

Got Any Fiancee Visa or Spousal Visa Questions?

Are you the webmaster or client of an IMBRA compliant dating service?
Please contact us so we can add more links to this list.  
Contact: info @

IMBRA Information

Full text of  the International Marriage Broker Act of 2005 (IMBRA)

General Account Office: Review of IMBRA progress as of August 2008



Do it yourself fiancee visa eBook

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