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Are 'Mail-Order Brides' Illegal?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Love knows no bounds, especially not those of international borders in the Internet Age. It is now possible to meet and fall in love with a person on the other side of the world, all from the comfort of your couch and laptop.

This might make you think that we sometimes call "mail-order brides" are a new phenomenon, gaining popularity as the world has become more interconnected. But getting a spouse via the mail dates back to the 1800s. There are some new legal regulations, however, so while finding a bride abroad is legal, there are some requirements to make it so.

What's an IMBRA?

The major statute governing mail-order brides is the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, or IMBRA. Passed in 2005, IMBRA regulates dating services between U.S. and foreign citizens with two main requirements:

  1. Background checks for all marriage visa sponsors; and
  2. Background checks for U.S. citizens using international marriage brokerage services.

U.S. men looking for foreign brides must disclose their criminal background to brokerage services, as well as financial and credit information along with their previous marital history. All of this information must be turned over to the prospective bride before her consent to the marriage can be obtained.

IMBRA also requires brokers to provide legal information to foreign fiancées regarding their legal rights and the legal resources available to them. This includes information on the visa immigration process, laws protecting victims of domestic violence, and legal obligations regarding child and spousal support.

V Is for VAWA

The other major piece of legislation that provides protection for foreign brides is the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA allows undocumented immigrants who are the victims of domestic violence to apply for a green card independently of their abuser.

Just as IMBRA is designed to weed out potential abusers of the international marriage process, VAWA is designed to punish abusers of international brides and protect immigrants from domestic violence.

You might be tempted to fill out an online form and find your love, wherever in the world she (or he) is ASAP. But an experienced family attorney will ensure that your international marriage broker is legit, and that your "mail-order bride" is legal.

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