Unfortunately, immigrants can be targets of domestic abusers. Criminals can take advantage of an immigrant’s lack of knowledge of American laws or the language. The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) aims to protect immigrants who are arrived through marriage green cards from abusive spouses. Learn about an immigrant’s legal rights and how IMBRA can help.


IMBRA, passed in 2005, is a law that aims to protect immigrants, in particular foreign fiancé(e)s and spouses, by informing them about their legal rights about the criminal or domestic violence backgrounds of their sponsoring spouse. The IMBRA Law Act is an important regulation because often immigrants come to the U.S. without a solid grasp of the English language, and they are usually separated from their families and friends, so this can make it more unlikely for them to report abuse from their spouse or know who to turn to for help. The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act ensures that these individuals know their rights if such violence occurs by requiring the pamphlet to be distributed. It also requires the U.S. government to give immigrants and spouses of U.S citizens a copy of the criminal background check that USCIS conducts on all sponsors plus a copy of the visa sponsorship application to ensure the sponsor filing it accurately.

What Are Your Legal Rights?

First, it is important to distinguish what exactly domestic violence is. It can come in many forms, including physical harm, threatening abuse, manipulation through intimidation, economic threats, sexual assault, and so on. While women and children are generally the victims of this abuse, it can also happen to men.

What constitutes child abuse?

Child abuse can involve physical harm, threatening emotional or physical abuse, sexual assault, neglect, and so on. Both domestic violence and child abuse are illegal in the United States. As an immigrant, whether you are in the U.S. legally or illegally, you are protected by the law. Specifically, you have the right to obtain a protection order from the abusing spouse for you and your children, you have the right to divorce or separate them without their consent, you have the right to share marital property, and to ask for custody of your children and/or child support financially. If you feel like your life or your child’s life is in danger, it is crucial to call 911 and have the abuse documented. If you feel it is necessary, you should also file the protective order to ensure the abuser cannot contact you or come near you physically.

Main Facets of the IMBRA Law Act

The following are key points contained in the IMBRA Law Act:

  • Requires sponsoring spouse’s criminal background history to be disclosed
  • Requires disclosing an international marriage broker agreement to USCIS if the couple met through one
  • Limits the number of K-1 visas a U.S. citizen can apply for to two in their lifetime
  • Certain violent acts (sexual, murder, assault, etc.) can disqualify a U.S. citizen from being a sponsor altogether. Some waivers to this rule are available.
  • Repercussions for providing false information on the sponsorship application

Resources for Domestic Violence Victims

The following hotlines below have trained operators on hand to answer calls related to abuse. They also have interpreters if you do not speak English well enough to communicate your circumstances. If you need housing, therapy, advice, or medical care, they have resources available for those as well.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233)

1-800-787-3224 (TTY)


National Sexual Assault Hotline of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)




National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)


The National Center for Victims of Crime

1-800-FYI-CALL (1-800-394-2255)

1-800-211-7996 (TTY)


Frequently Asked Questions About IMBRA Law

What does IMBRA stand for?

IMBRA stands for the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act. It was created in response to two immigrant women who came to the U.S. on marriage green cards and were killed by their spouses. It requires the U.S. government to inform immigrants about their legal rights about their sponsoring spouse’s criminal or domestic violence backgrounds. In addition, it requires them to receive a copy of their criminal background check and a copy of the sponsoring application. There is also information in the pamphlet about ways to obtain help if you or your children are the victims of such abuse.

How can I get legal status if my sponsoring spouse is abusing me?

If the person sponsoring you in the United States is your abuser, do not feel forced to stay. There are immigration options available to you if you have been sexually assaulted by them, physically harmed, or threatened. The three options are:

  1. Self-petitions for legal status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  2. Cancellation of removal under VAWA
  3. U-nonimmigrant status (crime victims)

If you would like to explore these options further, it is best to consult an immigration attorney to determine the specific requirements.

What is the IMBRA law waiver?

You can obtain an IMBRA waiver to bypass the limitations set for the number of petitions a petitioner can apply for a K-1 visa. If the U.S. citizen petitioner has filed two or more k-1 visa petitions in their lifetime or had a K-1 visa petition approved within two years before the filing of the current petition, the petitioner can request a waiver.

What is an international marriage broker?

An international marriage broker arranges or negotiates a marriage contract between a man and woman for a service fee. The marriage broker would arrange for a U.S. citizen to marry a foreign national. USCIS is highly suspect of these types of arrangements, although it is technically not illegal. International marriage brokers must provide foreign nationals with the background information of the U.S. petitioner.

Can I leave my fiancé on a K-1 visa?

Yes, you can return to your country at any point and should definitely not stay in a situation where your partner is abusing you. However, it’s important to mention that if you stay in the country on a 90-day K1 visa and do not get married within that point, you will need to leave the country or risk removal proceedings. Contact one of the abuse hotlines if you fear your safety and cannot leave

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