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The AHA Foundationinformedthe Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committeea year ago about a loophole in immigration law that recognizes the marriages of children as young as 14 years old for immigration purposes.

These marriages are arranged to provide the alien spouses with a basis for obtaining visas they can use to enter the United States as lawful permanent residents, leaving young girls trapped in marriages that have been described as a form of slavery.

When the Committee asked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS) about this, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissnaconfirmed in a letter dated October 4, 2018, that there are no statutory age requirements associated with a visa petition for a spouse or fiancé.

USCIS, however, will not approve the petition if the beneficiary or the petitioner was not old enough to marry under the laws of the place where the marriage was performed, or a marriage at that age violates the public policy of the American state in which the couple intends to reside.

Most states do not have a minimum age for marriageif the child has parental or judicial consent, but USCIS admittedat a Committee staff briefing that visa petitioners do not have to prove parental or judicial consent. However, the instructions for a fiancé petition require evidence that the couple met in-person within the last two years, unless doing so violates religious customs or social practices.
Delaware and New Jersey are the only statesthat prohibit marriage for anyone under the age of 18 with no exceptions.

The United Nations Population Fundsays that child marriage is a human rights violation. It threatens girls’ lives and health, and it limits their future prospects. Girls who marry while they are still children often become pregnant while still adolescents, which increases the risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth. This is the leading cause of death for older adolescent girls.

U.S. policy on child marriages

Read more at: https://thehill.com/opinion/immigrat...ophole-invoked

Published originally on The Hill.

Nolan Rappaportwas detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.