What Does IMBRA Mean? Why David And Lana From '90 Day Fiancé' Can Only Message On App — Not Directly

Photo: TLC
What Does IMBRA Mean? Why David And Lana From '90 Day Fiancé' Can Only Message On App — Not Directly
Entertainment And News

Catfishing isn't an unheard-of phenomenon in the 90 Day Fiancé universe. Fans recall Ceasar Mack who never got to meet his girlfriend Maria in season 3 of 90 Day Fiancé: Before The 90 Days. And on the most recent season, Yolanda finally had to admit that Williams wasn't a hunky British guy who wanted to marry her but was instead a likely scammer. 

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This season also brought us David Murphey and Lana (last name unknown), two people who have been dating for seven years but had never met. They had never FaceTimed or talked on the phone either. Everyone around them thinks Murphey is being scammed but he is certain that he and Lana will find happily-ever-after if they just follow all the rules set up in an immigration law called IMBRA. 

What does IMBRA mean — and how does it apply to David and Lana from 90 Day Fiancé? 

Who are David and Lana?

David Murphey is a 60-year-old computer programmer in Las Vegas who joined the show to highlight his love affair with a 27-year-old Ukrainian woman named Lana.

Murphey told TLC that in spite of a seven-year history of online dating, he and Lana have been communicating exclusively through a text app on a Ukrainian dating site. They don't talk on the phone and  they don't use video-conferencing. Moreover, Murphey explained that he has sent her money totaling close to $100,000 over the course of their relationship.

This season, fans watched him fly to Ukraine to meet his significant other, only to be stood up when he arrived. In fact, it was the third time he had flown to Ukraine and not been able to meet her. Not to be dissuaded, he hired an investigator to track her down. The investigator found Lana, found all her other dating site profiles, and told Murphey he was being scammed. Murphey responded by returning to Ukraine where Lana finally deigned to meet him. He proposed immediately and she accepted. 

By the time he did the tell-all, he said they were still together, but still communicating via dating site, a service he has to pay to use. He swore to the cameras that there is a legitimate reason for that and cited a law called IMBRA. 

A selfie from when the couple met the first time after seven years.

What is IMBRA?

IMBRA stands for the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005 and it's actually a serious law. The law was passed in response to two cases where foreign women came to the U.S. on fiancé or spousal visas to enter into marriages arranged by international matchmakers. Both were later abused and murdered by their American husbands. The law is designed to prevent abuse of mail order brides by prospective husbands who had criminal histories. It stipulates that any entity arranging a marriage has to do a background check on the American requesting the match so and alert the prospective spouse to any red flags like a criminal history, prior marriages, or being on a sex offender registry. 

But even if the American does have a shady background, the couple can still get married. The law is intended to ensure that matchmakers, who are usually being paid to put couples together, don't cover up information about potentially dangerous situations. 

Even if a couple is getting married without the assistance of a marriage broker, the foreign spouse is given information about domestic abuse laws and their rights as a spouse living in America. 

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David Murphey is already familiar with how international dating works.

It turns out that using different services to meet women, specifically women in Ukraine is a long-standing hobby of David's. On the tell-all, he shared with host Shaun Robinson that he has been looking for Ukrainian loves since the 1990s. In the days before dating websites, he used to receive catalogs in the mail with pictures of Ukrainian women. He could contact the companies that sent to catalogs and could invite women who caught his eye to a "social" and he would travel to Ukraine to meet them. He said he has been to Ukraine more than 20 times, including the four times he went to meet Lana. He has spent over $300,000 on these sites and trips. 

Considering how long he has been dating internationally, it seems safe to assume he has at least a passing familiarity with the laws governing bringing a foreign national to the States for marriage. But then again, he seems to have misinterpreted the law as it's stated on a dating site pertaining to how the men who use it can contact women. 

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Why would IMBRA limit how David can talk to Lana?

From what we can tell, the law doesn't actually place any limits on how prospective spouses can communicate. But the Victoriya Club, the website where Murphey met Lana, has a long disclaimer that states that U.S. men are subject to IMBRA and must comply with background checks before talking to the women on the site. 

The disclaimer seems to means that once Murphey got the all-clear to chat with Lana on the site, the couple should have been able to exchange information that would allow them to talk on other platforms. However, the Viktoriya Club might make communicating directly difficult because they don't want Murphey to stop paying the fees they charge for messaging services. 

Why doesn't Lana just give Murphey her number?

Murphey has Lana's phone number. In fact, he was the one who gave her the phone. She says she can't use it to send him messages because she can't type on it with her nails. 

Most of the 90 Day Fiance couples think Murphey is being scammed.

Even long-time fans of the show as well as participants were confused by the mention of this particular facet of immigration law. Many past couples have met using international dating sites and none of them talked about their communication being limited by IMBRA statues. 

When Murphey tried to tell his castmates about IMBRA being a barrier to direct communication, most of them were rightfully skeptical. Big Ed Brown straight up told him he was getting scammed. 

Murphey admitted that he and Lana technically engaged but he's not sure about the future of their relationship. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.