Domestic Violence and the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act

Developed by the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Associate Attorney General

What Every Law Enforcement Officer and Domestic Violence Advocate Should Know

This is Lana.

Lana is a 28 year old domestic violence victim.* In the course of interviewing Lana you learn that she is originally from South Asia. You also learn that Lana met her fiancé through an international matchmaking agency that recruits South Asian women interested in meeting men in the United States and markets its matchmaking services over the internet. Lana tells you that she emigrated to the United States to join her fiancé — now her batterer and spouse — here. Interesting background information, you think, but does it bear on your investigation or analysis of her domestic violence case? It should.

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)

IMBRA, 8 U.S.C. §1375a, regulates individuals and companies who charge fees for facilitating introductions between US. citizens, nationals, or green card holders (together, “U.S. clients”) and foreign nationals. IMBRA created certain disclosure requirements for international marriage brokers (“IMBs”) and their U.S. clients, and the failure of either to abide by those requirements may give rise to federal civil and/or criminal liability in addition to any other federal or state law charges relating to Lana’s case. *Lana is a fictional character used for illustrative purposes only.

What is an IMB?

IMBs include individuals, businesses, companies, or other legal entities that charge fees for providing dating, matrimonial or matchmaking services, or social referrals (collectively, “matchmaking services”) by sharing personal contact information or otherwise introducing or facilitating communication between U.S. clients and foreign nationals. (IMBs do not include: (1) nonprofit cultural or religious organizations providing matchmaking services; or (2) persons or entities who do not provide these services as their principal business and whose rates and services are the same regardless of the client’s gender or country of citizenship.)

How does IMBRA regulate IMBs?

IMBRA regulates IMBs and U.S. clients in several different ways. Among other things, the law:

  • Prohibits IMBs from conducting business with any individual under the age of 18;
  • Requires IMBs to search the National Sex Offender Public Website for the names of U.S. clients;
  • Obligates IMBs to collect certain background information from their U.S. clients (including, among other things, information about arrests or convictions for assault, battery, domestic violence, murder, prostitution, rape, and sexual assault, as well as civil protection orders);
  • Requires IMBs to provide foreign nationals with the results of the sex offender website search, the background information, and a pamphlet including information about domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse; the legal rights of immigrant victims of these crimes; and a warning about the use of fiancé(e) and spouse visas by U.S. citizens who have a history of committing domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, or other crimes;
  • Demands that IMBs obtain the foreign national’s written consent to release his or her contact information to the U.S. client before the IMB shares that information with the U.S. client; and
  • Creates civil and/or criminal penalties for IMBs and U.S. clients who fail to abide by their disclosure obligations.

How will I know if an IMB was involved in a particular case?

Discerning an IMB’s involvement in a domestic violence case involving a foreign national may be challenging. Some domestic violence victims may be reluctant to acknowledge that they relied on an intermediary for an introduction; others may have been coached by an IMB to avoid disclosing that fact; still others may not know what an IMB is or understand the legal requirements attaching to IMBs. On the back of this pamphlet you will find a list of questions to ask domestic violence victims who are foreign nationals. If the answers to any of these questions suggest that an IMB was involved and failed to satisfy the requirements identified in this pamphlet, contact us today.

Questions to Ask Domestic Violence Victims Who Emigrated to the United States to Join Their Fiancé(e) or Spouse

How did you first meet or speak with your fiancé (e)/spouse (for ease of reference, “fiancé”)? Did anyone arrange your introduction? If so, who?

Did this person or entity require you or your fiancé to pay a fee for the introduction/matchmaking service?

Could you tell me more about this person or entity (for ease of reference, “matchmaking service”)? Was the matchmaking service affiliated with a religious or cultural organization?

How old were you when the matchmaking service introduced you to your fiancé?

Did the matchmaking service attempt to verify your age? Did it ask for any documentation concerning your age?

How did you learn about the matchmaking service? How did you communicate with it?

What is the contact information for the matchmaking service?

Did it ask for permission to share your contact information with your fiancé before you met or spoke with your fiancé for the first time? Did you provide your permission in writing?

Did you receive any background information about your fiancé before you met or spoke for the first time?

Did the matchmaking service inform you of its obligation to search the National Sex Offender Public Website and determine whether that website contains any information regarding your fiancé?

Did this person or entity provide you any documents or other information concerning its search of the sex offender website?

Did the matchmaking service provide you with any information about or copies of police or court records concerning:

  • Temporary restraining or civil protection orders?
  • Arrests or convictions for assault, battery, homicide, manslaughter, or murder?
  • Domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, sexual exploitation, incest, child abuse or neglect?
  • Torture, human trafficking, holding hostage, involuntary servitude or slavery?
  • Kidnapping, abduction, unlawful criminal restraint, false imprisonment or stalking?
  • Prostitution?
  • Alcohol or drug abuse? Did you receive any information about your U.S. fiancé(e) or spouse’s:
  • Prior marriages?
  • Prior efforts to obtain visas for other fiancé (e)s or spouses?
  • Children under the age of 18?
  • Prior states or countries of residence?

Did you receive this pamphlet from the matchmaking service? http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Humanitarian/Battered%20Spouse,%20Children%20%26%20Parents/IMBRA%20Pamphlet%20Final%2001-07-2011% 

United States Department of Justice
Office of the Associate Attorney General
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530
Phone: 202-514-9500
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Accreditation

Accreditation Core Services & Standards

Accreditation by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence is a system by which the delivery and efficacy of sexual assault and domestic violence services provided by comprehensive Sexual and Domestic Violence Organizations is assessed and monitored to ensure the best possible outcomes for survivors/victims/clients and communities in Kansas. An Accreditation review determines if core services are being provided in a meaningful way and have sufficient organizational support to assure consistent practices. All standards and services are built upon a foundation of Guiding Principles that are reflected throughout all aspects of an accredited Organization. There are 12 Sexual Violence Core Services and 13 Domestic Violence Core Services assessed in the Accreditation process.

  • I. Sexual Violence Core Services
    • a. 24-Hour Hotline
    • b. Crisis Intervention
    • c. Personal Advocacy
    • d. Medical Advocacy
    • e. Court Advocacy
    • f. Law Enforcement/Police Response Advocacy
    • g. Emergency Accommodations
    • h. Shelter
    • i. Supportive Counseling
    • j. Support Groups
    • k. Child/Youth Advocacy
    • l. Community Awareness and Education
  • II. Domestic Violence Core Services
    • a. 24-Hour Hotline
    • b. Crisis Intervention
    • a. Personal Advocacy
    • b. Medical Advocacy
    • c. Court Advocacy
    • d. Law Enforcement/Police Response Advocacy
    • e. Emergency Accommodations
    • f. Shelter
    • g. Supportive Counseling
    • h. Support Groups
    • i. Parent and Child Advocacy
    • j. Child/Youth Advocacy
    • k. Community Awareness and Education
  • III. Standards
    • a. Governance
    • b. Administration

Guiding Principles

These guiding principles are intended to inform the implementation of the Sexual and Domestic Violence Accreditation Core Services and Standards. They are not a separate consideration but are intended for full inclusion in each standard and core service.

  1. Competent
    All survivors must have access to competent sexual and domestic violence services.
  2. Safe and Confidential
    All survivors must have access to safe and confidential sexual and domestic violence services.
  3. Respect, Dignity and Compassion
    All survivors must be treated with the utmost respect, dignity and compassion.
  4. Trauma-Informed and Survivor-Centered
    All services must be provided in a trauma-informed and survivor-centered manner. Individual survivor experiences, including the impact(s) of trauma and any barriers faced by that survivor, must be taken into account.
  5. Informed by Survivors
    All services must be informed by the needs of survivors. Survivors can inform the work in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: survey responses, focus groups, evaluation of a particular service, roundtable discussions, among others.
  6. Culturally Relevant
    All services must be provided in a culturally relevant manner, meaning that they are informed by the traditions, customs and beliefs of the survivor and the community/communities being served.
  7. Free and Voluntary
    All services must be free and voluntary.
  8. Universally Accessible
    All services must be available without regard to physical or mental ability, language proficiency, literacy, or other individual characteristics. Additionally, all interpreter services must be provided by a trained interpreter.
  9. Available to All
    All services must be available to all persons regardless of ethnicity, race, education level, gender, gender identity, age, economic status, sexual orientation, immigration status, geographic location, marital status, spiritual beliefs, ability/disability, or criminal status.

Bio: Jenifer Markowitz

Dr. Jenifer Markowitz  N.D., R.N., WHNP-BC, SANE-A


Jenifer Markowitz is a forensic nursing consultant who specializes in issues related to sexual assault and domestic violence, including medical-forensic examinations and professional education and curriculum development. In addition to teaching at workshops and conferences around the world, she provides expert testimony, case consultation, and technical assistance; and develops training materials, resources, and publications. Much of her work can be found on her website, Forensic Healthcare Online, a space dedicated to helping forensic clinicians access current science and clinical guidance.

Until December of 2012 she served as the Medical Advisor for AEquitas: The Prosecutor’s Resource on Violence Against Women. A forensic nurse examiner since 1995, Dr. Markowitz served as president of the International Association of Forensics Nurses in 2012, and has received IAFN’s Distinguished Fellow award, presented annually in recognition of the impact of one forensic nurse’s work on the advancement of the profession. Dr. Markowitz received a B.A. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She completed her clinical doctorate in nursing (ND) at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado and is board certified as a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (Adult/Adolescent).

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