IMBRA – K-1 Protections and Limitations for Fiancés
In 2006, the President signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law. Within VAWA contained the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) which sought to protect foreign nationals from U.S. citizen petitioners who have a criminal history or who have filed petitions for multiple fiancés in the past.
IMBRA forces a petitioner for any K nonimmigrant visa for an alien fiancé (K-1) or alien spouse (K-3) to submit information on certain criminal convictions in their past. Convictions of the crimes or attempting to commit the following crimes must be disclosed:
Crimes relating to Controlled Substances or Alcohols
For any of the above crimes, the petitioner is required to submit certified copies of all court and police records disclosing the charges and court disposition for each crime even if the petitioner’s records were sealed or cleared. If the petition is approved, all the criminal background information submitted by the petitioner, related criminal conviction, and the USCIS criminal background check will be disclosed to the fiancé during the consular interview.
In addition, IMBRA imposes a limit on the number of K-1 petitions a petitioner can a file. The petitioner is limited to a lifetime filing of two K-1 visa petitions and may not have had a K-1 visa petition approved within the two years prior to the filing the current petition. The filing limits do not apply to petitioners filing for an alien spouse (K-3).
The limits on the number of K-1 visas a petitioner can file is to protect beneficiaries from individuals who scam foreign nationals with promises to marry. They may file dozens of petitions for K-1 visas, bring the foreign national into the United States, then sexually exploit them or place them into involuntary ervitude.
The limit of two K-1 visa petitions is very low. And there have been issues with the limit of one every two years. There are circumstances where a petitioner has successfully filed a K-1 petition for their fiancé but because of unforeseen circumstances, the fiancé was not able to use the visa or had to return home after entering the United States on the K-1 visa before getting married. Under a strict reading of the regulation, the petitioner may be barred from filing a new petition for two years after approval of the previous K-1 visa.
To alleviate the suffering of these unforeseen events, USCIS allows petitioners to request a waiver of the time or numerical limitations if the petitioner does not have a history of violent criminal offenses against a person or persons. If the petitioner has a history of violent offenses, USCIS will not waiver the limitation without evidence of extraordinary circumstances in the petitioner’s case.
The waiver should outline that the petitioner criminal history, the circumstances of the previous K-1 petitions, and why a waiver should be requested in the current case. The waiver should include supporting documentation of the facts stated in the waiver request. If the petitioner has a history of violence, the waiver should outline that the petitioner was acting in self-defense or the petitioner was not the primary perpetrator of the violence. The decision of whether to grant the waiver is in the discretion of the immigration officer reviewing the case.
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