Fiance visa: what is IMBRA and Adam Walsh Act?

The K-1 fiance visa was created to bring people together for marriage. Tragically, nefarious individuals and criminals secure fiance visas to abuse and exploit foreign nationals. There is a long history of physical, emotional and sexual abuse related to K visas. Unscrupulous citizens and criminals have attempted to exploit unsuspecting foreigners by securing a fiance visa and bringing them to the United States where they are abused and exploited by individuals or international sex trafficking rings. Fiance visas have also been used by foreign nationals to commit marriage fraud. In some cases, foreigners pay U.S. citizens to complete a petition and secure a K-1 visa although the two do not intend to have a legitimate romantic relationship.

Legislation to Prevent Fraud and Exploitation When used for their intended purpose, K-1 fiance visas allow non-citizen beneficiaries to enter the United States permitted the petitioner and beneficiary are legally married within 90 days after the visa holder enters the U.S. Following the marriage, K-1 visa holders can apply for a green card and adjustment of status using Form I-485. Fortunately, the U.S. government has enacted two bills, IMBRA and the Adam Walsh Act, to protect foreigners and crack down on fraudulent fiance visas. The government has also increased training to help consular officers identify potential visa fraud, improve transparency and protect foreign nationals.

The K Visa has a Legacy of Abuse For most couples, the K-1 visa is a legal means to become married and begin a loving life together in the United States. The fiance visa has also been used by career criminals and sex traffickers to lure unsuspecting women and their children into the country where they will be abused and subjected to inhumane treatment. Petitioners who lure foreigners into the country with a K-1 visa pretend to love the emigrating party, make unrealistic promises and tell them they will have a fairy tale life in the U.S. These exploitative relationships often begin online and include a brief trip abroad. This trip enables the couple to fulfill the requirement of meeting in person within two years of applying for the fiance visa. Petitioners may also skip the meeting altogether and lie to the consular officer during their visa interview. In these situations, language and distance barriers make it easy for unscrupulous individuals to conceal their intentions and criminal history. Furthermore, K-1 visa holders are often afraid to report abuse for fear of losing their immigration status. They may also be reluctant to report abuse because they do not have many friends and are unfamiliar with cultural customs in the United States.

Dangers Associated with International Relationships Many people who arrive in the United States with a K-1 visa don’t know much about the person they are meeting. Petitioners frequently conceal important information concerning their criminal past and convictions. Long-distance relationships conducted over the Internet or by telephone have a variety of drawbacks that make it easier for unscrupulous individuals to conceal important personal information. In the past, applicants wouldn’t be able to discover if their fiance was a convicted sex offender, pedophile, child abuser, wife beater or sex trafficker. Once K visa holders uproot their lives and move to a new country with their children, it can be too late.

The U.S. Government Responds with Protective Legislation To protect K-1 visa applicants from harm and exploitation, the U.S. government has enacted the IMBRA in 2005 and the Adam Walsh Act in 2006. Thousands of successful marriages have been made possible with K-1 visas but cases of abuse have also occurred. Under these laws, it will be much more difficult for criminals to lure unsuspecting foreigners and children into the United States where they could be subjected to abuse and depraved behavior.

What is the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)? The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, also known as IMBRA, protects visa applicants by relaying important information involving criminal acts committed by the U.S. citizen petitioner before the visa holder travels to the United States. Under this law, consular officers who interview visa applicants must disclose criminal details related to the petitioner that was revealed by the sponsoring citizen or found through a routine background check run on all petitioners who complete Form I-129F. However, all crimes are not revealed to the visa applicant. Those that must be disclosed include acts that are particularly heinous or could pose a threat to the visa holder. Crimes reported under IMBRA include: • Sexual assault, abusive sexual contact and sexual exploitation. • Elder abuse, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. • Slave trade, involuntary servitude and unlawful criminal restraint. • Abduction, peonage, trafficking and holding hostage. • Manslaughter, rape, incest, homicide and torture. Other information reported to the K-1 visa applicant includes convictions to attempt any of the crimes mentioned. The visa applicant will also be informed if the petitioner has been convicted of a crime involving alcohol or controlled substances three or more times. To protect future visa holders, applicants will also be informed if a restraining order or protective order has been filed against the petitioner. Consular officers must disclose the relationship between the petitioner and the individual who filed the order, but the filer’s identity will be protected.

What is the Adam Walsh Act? Under the Adam Walsh Act, sex offenders and U.S. citizens with a criminal past involving heinous crimes against children and minors are ineligible to file a Form I-129F petition, which is required for K-1 visas. The Adam Walsh Act affects individuals convicted of the following crimes against minors. • Committing a sex offense against a child. • Kidnapping and false imprisonment. • Soliciting minors to engage in sexual acts. • Committing criminal sexual conduct with a minor and using the Internet to attempt the same. • Soliciting or promoting prostitution. • Possessing child pornography. Contact a qualified immigration attorney for more information about applying for and securing a K-1 fiance visa. A K-1 visa attorney from our law firm can assist with the application process and help you avoid potential problems and setbacks.