Loopholes in U.S. Immigration Law Allow Child Marriage

the risks of child marriageThe U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (the “Committee”) released a Majority Staff Report today detailing the use of child marriages to obtain immigration visas for fiancés or spouses. This report, titled “How the U.S. Immigration System Encourages Child Marriages,” explains that loopholes in the Immigration and Nationality Act have resulted in thousands of applications for partner visas involving minors.

Between 2007 and 2017, 8,686 petitions for a fiancé or spousal visa involved a minor. Girls comprised the younger party in 95% of these applications. Twenty-four percent of these petitions were for minors aged 16 years-old and under. A total of 3.5 million applications for partner visas were approved in the same period.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves all petitions for a fiancé or spousal visa. Petitions filed by or for a minor do not require parental consent. The petition must then be approved by the State Department. Between 2007 and 2017, the State Department returned only 2.6% of petitions to USCIS. The Committee found that many petitions were awarded to individuals with significant age differences.

This report highlights concerns that current U.S. Immigration law may be encouraging the practice of child marriages, in addition to increasing the potential for child trafficking, exploitation, and fraud.


Some of the links in this report require institutional access, click here to read the full report.


More resources and reports on Immigration and Human Trafficking in the U.S. can be found at the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL).


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