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Highlights

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) was enacted to address issues of domestic violence and abuse against noncitizens (beneficiaries) married or engaged to U.S. citizens (petitioners) who have petitioned for them to immigrate to the U.S., including those who met through an international marriage broker (IMB). IMBRA mandated that GAO study the act's impact on the visa process for noncitizen spouses and fiance(e)s. This report addresses the extent to which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); the Department of State (DOS); and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have implemented IMBRA, and the extent to which USCIS and DOS have collected and maintained data for this GAO report as required by IMBRA. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed the act and related legislation, analyzed IMBRA implementation guidance and available data on applications filed, and interviewed officials at USCIS, DOS, and DOJ.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services 1. To improve implementation of IMBRA and to help ensure that beneficiaries receive all IMBRA-required information, the Director, USCIS should develop a mechanism to check all petitioners for prior filings to determine if a petitioner exceeds the filing limits established by IMBRA.
Closed - Implemented
The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 (IMBRA) was enacted to address issues of domestic violence and abuse against noncitizens (beneficiaries) married or engaged to U.S. citizens (petitioners) who have petitioned for them to immigrate to the United States, including those who met through an international marriage broker (IMB). To address these issues, IMBRA, among other things, limits how many times a person may petition for a noncitizen fiance(e ). In August 2008, we reported that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) did not have a mechanism in place to check all petitioners for prior filings to determine if a petitioner exceeded the filing limits established by IMBRA (GAO-08-862). Thus, we recommended that USCIS develop a mechanism to check for petitioner prior filings. In March 2012, in response to our recommendation, USCIS deployed an update to its Computer Linked Application Management System (CLAIMS), to include IMBRA-related queries that would allow adjudicators to check CLAIMS for any prior filings made by a petitioner and determine if a petitioner exceeded the filing limits established by IMBRA.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services 2. To improve implementation of IMBRA and to help ensure that beneficiaries receive all IMBRA-required information, the Director, USCIS should develop a mechanism, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to implement the IMBRA requirement that beneficiaries be notified regarding the number of previously approved petitions filed by the petitioner.
Closed - Implemented
In fiscal year 2008, we reviewed and reported on actions the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the Department of State (DOS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have taken to implement selected requirements of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) of 2005. IMBRA was enacted to address issues of domestic violence and abuse against noncitizens (beneficiaries) married or engaged to U.S. citizens (petitioners)who have petitioned for them to immigrate to the U.S., including those who met through an international marriage broker. We reported, among other things, that USCIS and DOS did not have procedures in place to ensure that beneficiaries were notified during visa interviews of any previous filings by petitioners, leaving beneficiaries without all required information (previous filings being one piece of information) for making a decision about the person petitioning on his or her behalf. On October 31, 2008 the Department of State issued guidance to its consular officers to notify beneficiaries during the visa interview of previously approved Form I-129F petitions filed by the petitioner. The guidance is contained in 9FAM 41.81 PN3.4 of State's Foreign Affairs Manual.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services 3. To improve implementation of IMBRA and to help ensure that beneficiaries receive all IMBRA-required information, the Director, USCIS should develop a timeframe for finalizing the information pamphlet so that it can be translated and distributed as required by IMBRA.
Closed - Implemented
In fiscal year 2008, we reviewed and reported on actions that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have taken to implement selected requirements of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) of 2005. We reported, among other things, that USCIS had not finalized an information pamphlet for K non-immigrant visa applicants, including non-citizen fiances, that is to discuss the visa application process, domestic violence and sexual assault services, and beneficiary legal rights and resources among other things. The pamphlet was to be completed and available for distribution 120 days after enactment of IMBRA which would have been May 2006. We recommended that USCIS develop timeframes for completion of the pamphlet. On February 27, 2009 USCIS provided us with a timeline for finalizing the information pamphlet. As of February 2009, the pamphlet was being reviewed within DHS. The timeline calls for DHS to complete its review by June 2009 and beginning in July 2009 for the Department of State to begin to translate the pamphlet into the required languages. USCIS plans to release the finalized pamphlet in September 2009.
Department of Homeland Security 4. In order to help ensure that penalties can be imposed on IMBRA violators as provided for in the law, the Secretary of Homeland Security should, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, develop a framework for the investigation, referral, and prosecution of potential IMB violations of IMBRA.
Closed - Not Implemented
As of July 2012, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Policy stated that the department has not taken action, in consultation with the Department of State and the Department of Justice, to develop a framework for addressing potential international marriage broker violations of the International Marriage Brokers Regulation Act of 2005. Office of Policy officials could not provide GAO with a time frame during which the department might take action on this recommendation. Therefore, GAO is closing this recommendation.

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