To crack down on unconsenting child brides, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is following a new set of rules. The rules will change the method of assessment for petitions received from individuals who seek to bring their migrant spouse into the United States. The announcement followed the discovery that thousands of such requests involving minors got approval last year.

The crackdown will not be indiscriminate. The USCIS updated policies guiding adjudicators would require further scrutiny with emphasis on marriages that involve underage spouses.

Marriages under scrutiny must: 1) have been legal where they were celebrated, 2) also be considered legal in the state where the incoming child spouse would be residing, 3) have been entered into freely and consensually by the involved minor, and 4) be considered duly certified by adjudicators.

Reports indicate that among the various petitions from individuals in adult-minor relationships, a minimum of 5,000 were adults that were petitioning on behalf of minors and 3,000 were minors who were attempting to petition on behalf of their older spouses to get them into the United States. Such cases would require a two-step visa process with the approval of the petitions from the agency serving as the first. Petitions would then be passed on to the State Department for further approval. From 2007 to 2017, there were 3.5 million petitions involving minors. The agency promises that further action will be taken to better vet and sift through the petitions.

These marriages are legal according to the Immigration and Nationality Act. According to the law, there is no minimum age requirement for the individual making the petition or the spouse/fiancé that wants to bring them into the country legally. Interestingly enough, policies for bringing a migrant parent into the United States from another country require that the petitioner be at least 21 years old.

The crackdown is unlikely to put an end to child marriage, but USCIS officials remain hopeful that it will make a difference – curbing instances where the underage spouse is in a marriage without their consent.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about the latest updates to U.S. immigration policy, or if you have a loved one seeking immigration assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the experienced immigration attorneys at Aronow Law PC.