Glossary of Terms


A form of legal protection that may be granted to a person who has fled to the United States to escape persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.

Female Genital Mutilation or Female Genital Cutting/Circumcision:

The names given to cultural practices that involve the complete or partial removal of the external female genitalia. These practices have been recognized as human rights abuses by inter-governmental and international human rights organizations, including the World Health Organization and United Nations agencies and commissions.

Forced/Non-Consensual Marriage:

A marriage that is entered into or continued without the consent of one or both parties through physical force, fraud, coercion or other means.

Gender-Based Asylum:

A form of legal protection that may be granted by the United States to women and girls fleeing gender-related persecution, such as female genital mutilation/cutting, forced marriage, and honor crimes.

Honor Crimes:

Acts of violence predominantly committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor on their families. These acts may include murder (“honor killings”).

International Marriage Broker or IMB:

A type of business that charges fees for providing matchmaking services between US citizens or permanent residents and foreign nationals. These businesses, commonly referred to as “mail-order bride” agencies, typically cater their business models to their paying male clients, not to the foreign women who use their services and pay little to no fees. The term “international marriage broker” is formally defined in § 833(e)(4) of the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (Public Law 109-162).

International Marriage Broker Regulation Act or IMBRA:

A federal law that was enacted in January 2006 as part of the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act. By requiring disclosures of vital information and through other safety-centered measures, IMBRA regulates the international marriage broker industry and mandates changes to the US government’s processing of marriage-based visas. The law helps to put foreign women in a better position to make informed choices about their futures and avoid abusive or exploitative relationships. Read More

International Matchmaking Organizations or IMOs:

A wide range of businesses that help facilitate romantic introductions and relationships between people from different countries. They include but are not limited to International Marriage Brokers.

“Mail-Order Bride”:

A negative term used to refer to a foreign woman, typically from a country where women may be economically disadvantaged, have limited opportunities, and occupy traditional roles, who uses an international marriage broker to meet and marry a man from a wealthy country where women enjoy greater opportunities and more progressive relationships with men. These women have also been referred to as “internet brides” or “correspondence brides.” Many in the advocacy community, including Tahirih, decline to use these terms, believing they promote misconceptions and stereotypes about women who use the services of international matchmaking organizations and about the process through which they meet their husbands.

Matter of Kasinga:

A landmark 1996 asylum case decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest appellate immigration court in the United States, that recognized that female genital mutilation could form a basis for a claim of persecution under US asylum law. This case opened the door for future successful asylum claims arising from gender-based persecution.


The infliction of harm or suffering on those who differ in a way regarded as offensive by the persecutor. Generally, persecution is used to describe harmful, oppressive, or abusive treatment that goes beyond mere discrimination and harassment.

“Severe Forms of Trafficking in Persons”:

A crime defined by federal law (the Trafficking Victims Protection Act) as (A) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act is under 18; or (B) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. A victim of this crime may be eligible for special protections under US immigration law, including a “T visa” (a type of immigration status).

T Visa:

An immigration status that may be granted to certain foreign nationals who are victims of “severe forms of trafficking in persons” and who are willing to assist law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution of the trafficking crime.

Trafficking or Human Trafficking or Trafficking in Persons:

The recruitment of an individual by force, fraud or coercion into labor or sexual exploitation. Trafficking has also been referred to as “modern-day slavery.”


  • BIA: Bureau of Immigration Appeals
  • CIS: Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • DHS: Department of Homeland Security
  • ICE: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • IMB: International Marriage Broker
  • IMBRA: International Marriage Broker Regulation Act
  • IMO: International Matchmaking Organization
  • VAWA: Violence Against Women Act

U Visa or U Nonimmigrant Status:

An immigration status that may be granted to certain foreign nationals who are victims of a list of particularly serious crimes specified under federal law. To obtain this status, the victim must have suffered substantial mental or physical injury as a result of the crime and must be willing to assist law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution of the crime.

Violence Against Women Act or VAWA:

A comprehensive federal law that improves criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the United States. VAWA includes provisions that allow immigrant victims of abuse to petition for legal immigration status independent of the abusive citizen or legal permanent resident family member upon whom the victim’s status would otherwise depend.

Widow Rituals:

Cultural rites that a widow may be forced to endure following the death of her husband. Practices may include humiliating or life-threatening burial or mourning rituals, physical abuse by family members, deprivation of inheritance or land rights, and forced re-marriage to a relative of the widow’s late husband.