Immigration Law Expert Identifies Major Flaw in Newly Passed Mail Order Bride Law Called IMBRA

Share Article

Lobbyists for the big Internet dating mega-sites succeeded in persuading the proponents of the new mail order bride law, "International Marriage Broker Regulation Act" called IMBRA, to carve out an exemption for them over other smaller online international dating services. This exemption allows them a "free pass" on collecting criminal background disclosures from U.S. men who might be violent abusers, thus potentially endangering many foreign brides.

What the U.S. Congress intends to do, and what it actually ends up doing, in our age of high-paid lobbyist influence-peddling, may not be the same thing. Take, for example, the topic of Congress's intention to provide abuse protection to foreign mail order brides in a super-charged mid-term election year, when lobbyist corruption will probably be a hot-button issue at the polls in November for many incumbents.

At issue: The newly-passed mail order bride law, called the "International Marriage Broker Regulation Act" or IMBRA for short, which went into effect this month. This new law imposes tough new conditions on U.S. men who seek a romance partner abroad through international dating services. Propelled largely by media reports of the deaths of two immigrant women in Washington State who were abused and murdered by their American citizen husbands, IMBRA was quietly inserted onto the back of the widely-applauded Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to help prevent domestic violence. It quickly passed the Congress, and was promptly signed by the President.

What does this new law say? It requires any U.S. mail order bride company, now called an "International Marriage Broker" or IMB for short, to first secure from any gentleman customer extensive background information such as criminal and domestic violence history. next, the law mandates that the IMB provide a copy of this to the foreign lady client in her native language. And last, the IMB must obtain a signed, written consent from the lady as to that specific man before her "personal contact information" is released and the couple can communicate. There are stiff penalties on the IMB mail order company for any violations of these requirements, including up to $25,000 civil fine and up to 5 years in federal prison.

Why this law? The proponents, notably Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), argued that this law would force full disclosure of a man's violent records, if any, and enable a foreign lady customer of IMB dating services, which they say may number up to 5000 with some charging hefty fees, to decide for herself if she wants to communicate with and marry that man.

Problem: What about the largest and most lucrative of the international matchmakers in cyberspace, namely the big Internet dating mega-sites? Well, they get a "free pass" on having to collect any information at all on their U.S. men customers, even if those men happen to be repeat felony abusers of their ex-"mail order bride spouses".

How? Because of a little-known exemption written into the law for a company if its "primary business" is NOT international dating but some other business, and if they offer the U.S. men and foreign women "comparable rates for comparable services".

Say what?

Lobbyists for certain large mega-sites, whose websites are actually but sub-divisions of larger companies with services ranging from telecommunications to mortgage loans, argued to the law's drafters that international dating was not their primary business. And they also apparently made the case (successfully) that the potential for abuse from a U.S. man over a foreign women was less if they charged a "comparable rate" to men and women alike, such as a flat monthly fee for customers to E-Mail each other, thus supposedly leveling the imbalance of power between the sexes.

Is this really true? Actually, simple logic suggests that a U.S. man "serial abuser" can "beat" the new law's disclosure requirements by simply choosing to use the foreign bride matchmaking services of only the big mega-sites over the smaller ones.

And what about the raw numbers of foreign women potentially affected?

One IMB owner, in a certified statement submitted to a federal court in Atlanta, Georgia, where a lawsuit has been filed to stop IMBRA, commented: "The number of foreign women profiled who are listed on websites exempted by law (the dating mega-sites) dwarf the total number of profiles listed by International Marriage Brokers worldwide. For example, I have performed a search at (one mega-site). I found 354,166 foreign and 553,976 women listed on their site. None of these women, whether foreign or national, are protected by the act."

What next? More court hearings are scheduled soon in the Atlanta case, but the federal court has already issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against enforcement of the IMBRA law for now on the IMB in that case. See: European Connections & Tours, Inc. vs. Gonzalez, et al., No. 1:06-cv-00426-CC, U.S.D.C., N.D. Ga. (Temporary Restraining Order, March 07, 2006, Cooper, D.J.)

About Gary Bala:

I am a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Assn. (AILA) with 24+ years of legal experience. I have completed hundreds of family cases, fiancée visas, spousal petitions and consultations involving foreign fiancees and brides from nearly all parts of the world.

My office is in Pennsylvania. My telephone number is: 610-446-8472.


1. Federal Court's TRO Order in PDF:

2. Commentary on Federal Court's TRO Order:

3. Blog Article:

"The Backdoor Law That Sabotages International Romance"


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Gary Bala
Visit website