Mail-order bride

Mail-order bride is a label applied to a woman who publishes her intent to marry someone from another, usually more financially developed, country.[1] This term is considered offensive by some definitions.[2] The mail-order bride industry is the economic trade of contracted domestic partnership,[citation needed] often between citizens of different countries or cultures. A derivative of arranged marriage practices, mail-order bride services satisfy the statistical imbalance of men to women in the West and the economic needs of women in the East.[3][Full citation needed]

Historically, mail-order brides were women who listed themselves in catalogs and were selected by men for marriage. Sometimes the men and women involved were citizens of different countries, e.g. women from European countries moving to the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries, and sometimes they involved citizens of the same country.[citation needed]

Although historically, mail-order brides came from well-developed areas to marry men in overseas colonies and frontier lands, the trend has reversed. Recently, the trend is primarily one of women who live in developing countries seeking men in more developed countries. The majority of these women are from Southeast Asia, countries of the former Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent, from Latin America.[4] Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, large numbers of eastern European women have advertised themselves in such a way; primarily being from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. In the past, international marriage agencies such as Cherry Blossoms allowed women to sign up to be listed in picture magazines; now the Internet has largely supplanted this method. Men who list themselves in such publications are referred to as mail-order husbands. Nations that often receive mail-order brides are the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany, and Australia.

The term "mail order bride" is simultaneously criticized by owners and customers of international marriage agencies and used by them as an easily recognizable term.[5] It has been pointed out that there is some discrepancy between how international adoptions are regarded ("saving a child") and how international marriages are regarded ("buying a wife").[6] It has been pointed out that "In feminist writing on mail-order brides, women’s and men’s voices remain absent. Instead, this scholarship assumes a one-to-one correspondence between the male gaze on the Web sites and women’s exploitation as domestic laborers in the home."[7]

Contents

History

The concept of mail-order brides was first seen on the American frontier during the mid-1800s. The first recorded business selling mail-order brides was Brooker & Son who sold "authentic thai brides". Men from the East were migrating West in hopes of claiming land, farming, establishing businesses, and finding gold. Most of these men found financial success in the migration West, but the one thing that was missing was the company of a wife. Very few women lived in the West at this time, so it was hard for these men to settle down and start a family. Their only choice was to attract women living back East; the men wrote letters to churches and published personal advertisements in magazines and newspapers. In return, the women would write to the men and send them photographs of themselves. The courtship between the couple was done completely through the exchange of letters, until the women finally agreed to marry the men they had never met[8] Many of these women wanted to escape their present way of living, gain financial security, and see what life on the frontier could offer them. They wanted to become something more than a maid, a factory worker, or a schoolteacher and living on the frontier gave them the opportunity to experience hard labor. Most of these women were single, but some were widows, divorcees, or runaways.[9]

In the late 19th century, commentators began to write of an "international marriage market".[citation needed] The key variables determining the relationship between migration and marriage were demographics, legal policies, cultural perceptions, and information and technology.[10]

In the early United States, the difficulty and dangers of traveling and the uncertainty of life on the frontier resulted in early communities where women were scarce.[citation needed] Imbalances between the number of available women and the number of men desiring partners created a strong demand for immigrant women. As a result of this imbalance, a new system of "picture brides" developed in these predominantly male settlements.[11]

In the early 20th Century the institution of "picture brides" sometimes developed due to immigration restrictions. The Japanese-American Passport Agreement of 1907 allowed Japan to grant passports to the wives of immigrants to America.[12] With the immigration of unmarried Japanese women into America effectively barred, the use of "picture brides" provided a mechanism whereby willing women could gain a passport to America while Japanese workers in America could gain a female helpmate of their own nationality.[12]

Today’s Business

Today, mail-order brides are defined as women who meet their spouses through the use of catalogues, agencies, or advertisements. The mail-order bride business is a multi-million dollar industry that connects financially secure men with women from impoverished countries. In some cases, these women find themselves in abusive relationships due to the fact they are foreign and lack a basic education and understanding of Western culture. A primary reason women choose to become mail-order brides is often the same as women already living in the same country as the man: financial security.[13] It has been shown that the national average of mail-order brides has been significantly lower in these third world countries during periods of financial growth.[14] The concept of mail-order brides has been a symbol of the economic inequality on the global scale.[15] Other times, there are cultural reasons for entering “the business”. In the Russian culture, women are usually married by the age of 23. Many Russian men do not want to marry “older” women, so those who have not been married by their mid-20s may have little choice but to attract men from other countries if they wish to marry.[16] The reasons for seeking out mail-order brides, however, have drastically changed since the 1800s. Originally, brides were obtained for the stability they brought to the men on the frontier and for their willingness to work. Today’s brides are acquired more for the man’s need of companionship and to fill a domestic role.[13]

International marriage agency

An international marriage agency, also called international introduction agency and international marriage broker (IMB), is a business that endeavors to introduce men and women of different countries for the purpose of marriage, dating or penpals. Many of these marriage agencies are based locally near to the women in developing countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Colombia, Brazil, China, Thailand and the Philippines.[17]

International marriage agencies act to encourage women to sign up for their services and help facilitate communication and meetings with men from the developed regions of North America, Western Europe, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.[18] This network of smaller international marriage agencies is often affiliated to web-based international dating sites that are able to market their services on a larger scale with greater adherence to regulations such as IMBRA.[19] International dating sites now provide a wide variety of online methods including instant messaging, email letters, webcam based chat, phone translation, virtual gifts, live games, and mobile based chat.[20][21]

International marriage agencies are frequently referred to as mail-order bride agencies. However many consider the term mail-order bride derogatory and feel it demeans the foreign women by comparing them to commodities for sale and by falsely implying that unlike local women, they exercise no judgement over the men they meet and would marry anyone from a relatively wealthy country.[citation needed]

Services

Services that marriage agencies offer typically include:

  • introductions
  • translating correspondence between clients who do not speak a common language
  • excursions in which a man is introduced to several women interested in marriage

Country-specific information

South Korea

South Korean men buy mail-order brides regularly. According to the U.S. Census Bureau,[22] in 2011, South Korea had 2,041,057 men aged 30-34, the peak marrying years, compared to 1,863,373 women aged 30-34 and 1,687,376 women aged 25-29. Theoretically, if all Korean men married women their own age, there would be only 91.3 women per 100 men; since women are usually a couple of years younger than their husbands, in actuality the ratio is even worse, in the range of 85-88 women. Consequently, there is an excess of Korean men, and marriages to women from poorer Asian countries has become very high in the past decade or more.

The New York Times reports that, "Every month, hundreds of South Korean men fly to Vietnam, the Philippines, Mongolia, Nepal and Uzbekistan on special trips."[23] Although many of these marriages work out, in some cases, immigrant wives end up mistreated, misunderstood - and quickly separated from their Korean husbands.[23] The method the men use when choosing these young girls as wives is "Like a judge in a beauty pageant, the man interviews the women, many of them 20 years younger than he, and makes a choice."[23] The London newspaper The Independent reports "Last year it was reported that more than 40,000 Vietnamese women have married South Korean men and migrated there."[24] Cambodian women are also very popular with Korean men, but in March, 2010, the Cambodian government banned outright any marriages with South Korean men.[25]

The below focuses primarily on the trend with respect to Filipina women, and the recent reports of abuse by South Korean men.

The Frequency of South Korean men marrying Filipina wives

The Korea Times reports that every year thousands of Korean men sign up for matchmaking to Filipina brides through agencies and mail-order. Based on data from the Korean government, there are 6,191 Filipinas in South Korea who are married to Koreans.[26]

How South Korean men meet and choose Filipina wives

After contacting a mail-order agency, the majority of Filipina mail-order brides met their husbands by attending "show-ups," a meeting whereby a group of Filipino women are brought to meet a Korean man who is looking for a wife. In the show-up, the Korean man picks a prospective wife from among the group, and in just a matter of days, they get married.[27]

Why South Korean men choose Filipina Wives

An anthropological study on Filipina wives and Korean men by professor Kim Min-jung of the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Kangwon National University, found that these Korean men find it difficult to marry Korean women, so they look for girls in poorer countries with inferior qualifications and difficult circumstances.[27] The Korean men feel that because of the difficult circumstances out of which the Filipina women come, along with the major cultural differences and the language barrier, they "will not run away." Further, she said, Korean men characterize Southeast Asian women as girls who are friendly, work hard because they come from agrarian societies, and are "docile and obedient, able to speak English, and are familiar with Korean patriarchal culture."[27] Any religious factors involved would lead to Korean men who are observant Catholics to opt for Filipinas over other Asians more than other Korean men would.

Violence Against Foreign Brides in South Korea

There have been a string of murders of mail-order brides in South Korea. "On May 24, 2011, a South Korean man stabbed his Vietnamese wife to death while the couple’s 19-day-old baby lay next to her. The man, a farmer, had been matched up with his foreign bride through a broker. In 2010, another Vietnamese woman was killed by her husband a week after they were married. In 2008, a Vietnamese woman jumped from an apartment building to her death after being abused by her husband and mother-in-law."[24][28]

Controversy

Fraud

There is some incidence of dishonesty, fraud, and neglectful service from international marriage agencies. There is debate as to whether proscription or regulation is the better solution to these problems.[29]

Legal issues

Marriage agencies are legal in almost all countries. Certain notable legal issues are:

  1. The man must complete a questionnaire on his criminal and marital background.
  2. The seller must obtain the man's record from the National Sex Offenders Public Registry database.[31]
  3. The questionnaire and record must be translated to the woman's native language and provided to her.
  4. The woman must certify that she agrees to permit communication.
  5. A lifetime limit of two (2) fiance visas is imposed, with a waiver required for the approval of any subsequent fiance visa.

Meeting process

In the 1980s, before the internet was available to so many people, catalogs were the most popular way to connect with potential spouses. Women from all over the world would send agencies photographs and biographies, which were intentionally written to make the women seem more intelligent and attractive, in the hopes of attracting nice, rich men. Catalogs are still used today, but the Internet has become the primary search for these foreign women. Women set up Internet profiles through their designated agency, and just like the catalogs, men pay a subscription price to visit and browse these “introduction sites”.[13] The men essentially shop for women they might be interested in.[32] The owners and operators of the agency website usually edit the women’s profiles with Photoshop or other photograph editing software in order to make them appear more desirable. As the owner of one such agency described, “if the girls aren’t beautiful, they don’t get on the board”.[citation needed] In some occasions, these women have to pay in order to create an online account.

Once a man finds a woman he is interested in, he begins their relationship by writing her. This “pen-pal” relationship is strictly for the purpose of finding a spouse. Most men write to a number of different women and carry on many different written relationships until deciding on a particular bride. After the two have developed a trusting relationship, the men will usually visit the women in their native country and ask to marry them. The majority of the women have fears of marrying men they have never met, so this visit is a crucial part in the mail-order bride process.[33] The wedding, however, can take place at anytime during the relationship. For example, men who buy Taiwanese brides have been known to marry only three days after the selection of their bride.[34]

Reasons for becoming mail-order brides

Mail order brides have many different motives; these motives differ from the regions that the Brides are originally from. One common motive for women is for better economic opportunity. Becoming a mail-order bride gives young women in impoverished countries the opportunity to have a better life while supporting their family back home. They go overseas because that’s where the money is. In most cases, these young women send food, money, and clothing to their families back home.[33] Living in a Westernized country would also allow them opportunities they might not have had before such as an education, a career, and health care.

In the end, each woman has a different reason for becoming a mail-order bride. Russian women, for example, often believe that their role is to get married, have children, and raise them in an enriching environment. Becoming a mail-order bride would give them a husband, financial security, and the ability to create their desired family. Their goal is to become successful mothers, not necessarily to fall in love with their husbands.[16] The desirability of a foreign husband was amplified by "American Boy," a major 1990 Russian hit song. Filipino women, on the other hand, usually follow in their sisters’ footsteps. Their families are more likely to force them to become mail-order brides because it is what their sisters experienced and it brings their families economic independence. Love is not always a factor in mail-order marriages. Instead, these particular marriages fulfill various needs for both parties beyond an emotional connection. For the women, it’s the financial independence and the chance at a better life. For the men, it’s the domestic capability these women bring and the idea of companionship.[33]

Eastern European mail-order brides

Women in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other Eastern European countries are the most common white mail-order bride candidates. There are several reasons for this:

Economic and social conditions for women in Russia motivational factor to finding foreign arrangements. 52% of Russia’s workforce is women, yet they hold very low positions of prominence in their home country and work jobs of less respect and wage, such as teaching or doctoral positions,[35] and women make 43% of what men make.[36] Finding a foreign husband gives a woman a chance to leave her country and find better economic opportunities.

Marriage is a large part of Russian culture with 22 being the normative cut off age for being considered an old maid.[37] With 4,138,273 more women than men between the ages of 15 and 64 years of age, Marriage opportunities are slim at home and made worse by the life expectancy difference of men (59.54 years) to women (73.17 years).[38]

There are also anecdotes beyond purely economic and demographic considerations. Russian and other Eastern European women are often intrinsically more attractive than Western European or American women in appearance, dress, modes of behavior, and weight, with the reverse being true for the men.[39] Despite the worsening economy in the United States and Western Europe, marriage agencies specializing in pairing local women with Western men remain common in cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev.[citation needed]

Asian mail-order brides

Many prospective international brides come from developing countries in South and East Asia. A substantial portion of women from the developing countries of Asia join marriage sites because of financial pressures. They post profiles and photos with the ambition of marrying a man and gaining a stable financial future. The countries the women come from are faced with unemployment, malnutrition, and inflation.[40] However, those who actually marry foreign men, tend to be better educated than most women from their country or those of their husband's.

However, economical factors are not the only driving factor for women in Asia to enter the Mail Order Industry. Filipino Women often enter the mail-order industry with the hope of marrying abroad then being able to sponsor their family for immigration.[40]

In rare cases women are recruited based on their physical appearance, with an emphasis placed on youth and virginity.[40] This is found among boutique agencies most of which cater to wealthy men from other Asian nations.

Latin American mail-order brides

Women from some Latin American countries are said to also be popular with men in the United States and in Europe.[citation needed] Latin American women who engage in this are eager to marry a man from either the United States, Canada or Europe in order to escape the disadvantages of their home countries.[citation needed]

Economic standing and social conditions for many women in Latin America are two prodigious motives in searching for foreign marital arrangements. Many women in poor parts of Latin America are plagued with single motherhood and live on less than $1.25 a day. Many women feel that marrying overseas will provide for the family and/or friends that need assistance in their home country.[citation needed]

Although obtaining a better living standard and higher economic status is a powerful factor in becoming a mail-order bride, it is not the only motivation young women have. They expect to trade love and romance for financial security and mobility.”[41]

Reasons for choosing mail-order brides

Men have many different motives for international dating. In the United States, the prospective husband tends to be middle-aged, well-educated, and financially-sound. While most of the husbands are Caucasian, there are also a number of Asian Pacific American men who meet wives from their home countries. The men tend to be older than the women whom they marry.[40] Men from developed countries have various reasons for being attracted to and desiring a wife from another region of the world. Eastern European, Asian, and select Latin American territories are popular for finding mail-order brides.

A 1988 survey done by the University of Texas at Tyler shows that over half of the men who engage in mail-order marriages had been married at least once before and three quarters of them wanted children. These men range between the ages of 35-70 and are usually older than the women they choose.[13] Younger men under the age of 30 rarely choose mail order brides.[13] Each man, of course, has his own reasons for choosing to marry a mail-order bride. For example, men are often attracted to Filipino women because they can generally speak English and the Philippines is the only Asian country that is predominately Christian (besides South Korea).[13] Gender imbalances with a male majority in such areas like the U.S. states of Alaska and Texas, South Korea, Mainland China, the Middle East, and the Canadian province of Alberta; is often a reason, because they were unable to get wives in such regions due to male surpluses.[13]

Other men are attracted to women from these poverty-stricken countries because they believe the sexual division of labor makes the women more likely to be domesticated. In many of these countries, the men work while the women stay home and tend to the children and the home. According to one of these men, “there is just something in their culture that makes marriage work”. These men like the idea of being the breadwinner and having their wives be the homemakers, something that is not seen as much in Westernized women because of the relatively vast job opportunities for them.[33] They generally want women who do not want to work outside the home and deviate from their husband’s rules.

For Eastern European brides

Traditional gender roles of conforming to the economic dominance of men in a marriage and the appreciation and adulation of wives are what fuels American men to seek Russian brides, as American women are considered too career-obsessed and materialistic.[42]

For Asian brides

One consumer of an Asian mail-order bride stated “I do favor Asian woman... There, women are truer, more loyal and have a mystical air or attitude”.[40]

Outcomes

A fair number of mail-order brides are treated fairly and agree upon fair and just contracts with their husbands, allowing them many liberties and favorable treatment. In other cases, they are subject to abuse, disease and broken promises.

Older data also showed that marriages with international brides met though mail correspondence had substantially lower divorce rates than most marriages, though this could have to do with the fact that many of these wives are unwilling to divorce their husbands for fear of deportation.

Effects on global economy

Although the industry is growing the economic effect is still largely limited to the countries that the brides are coming from. It was estimated that only .4% of the total United States Immigrants in 1996 were brought here on marriage or fiancee visas.[43] In 2005 “Cherry Blossom” the largest Mail Order Agency in the United States grossed $500,000.[43]

Reality of marriage agreement

There is little understanding of US Immigration policies for foreign wives, though many of the mail-order bride services provide them with some information.
“Most mail-order brides... believe that they must remain in abusive situations or else be deported. This is not the case thanks to 1994 Violence against Women Act. Under this law passed in 1994, spouses of US citizens or their children have the right to petition for permanent residency when they meet the following criteria:

  • Must be legally married to the US citizen or lawful permanent resident batterer.
  • Must reside in the United States.
  • Must have resided with the US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse in the United States.
  • Must have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty during the marriage, or is the parent of a child who was battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse during the marriage.
  • Is required to be a person of good moral character.
  • Needs to demonstrate that removal from the United States would result in extreme hardship to the self-petitioner or the self-petitioner's child.
  • Must have entered into the marriage in good faith, not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.”[3]

Divorce rate

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that "...marriages arranged through these services would appear to have a lower divorce rate than the nation as a whole, fully 80 percent of these marriages having lasted over the years for which reports are available."[44] The USCIS also reports that "... mail-order bride and e-mail correspondence services result in 4,000 to 6,000 marriages between U.S. men and foreign brides each year."

Immigration issues by country

Canada

Canadian immigration laws have traditionally been similar to but slightly less restrictive than their US counterparts; for instance, previously not requiring the Canadian citizen to prove minimum income requirements as has been a long standing requirement of United States immigration laws. While there is still no formal requirement for a minimum salary, the sponsor must provide evidence of income in the form of their most recent T4 Income printout from the Canadian Revenue Agency as an attachment to their IMM 5481 Sponsorship Evaluation.[45]

Until recently (2001) Canada's immigration policy designated mail-order brides under the "family class" to refer to spouses and dependents and "fiancé(e)" class for those intending to marry, with only limited recognition of externally married opposite-sex "common law" relationships; same-sex partners were processed as independent immigrants or under a discretionary provision for "humane and compassionate" considerations.[46]

In 2002, the Canadian Immigration Law was completely revised. One of the major changes was conjugal partner sponsorship, available for any two people (including same sex couples) who have had conjugal relations together for at least one year. Currently, Canadian immigration authorities frown upon conjugal partners sponsorship in the case of heterosexual couples and now require the couples to marry before a visa is granted unless serious reason can be demonstrated why the couple is not yet married.

Taiwan

In Taiwan, mail-order brides are sourced primarily from Mainland China and Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam. The common age range for Vietnam women range from 20 to 28 years of age. On average, Taiwanese men spend USD $10,000 on this type of marriage; however, only USD $500 to USD $1,000 US dollars will be received by the bride's family and the remainder absorbed by marriage brokers of the groom and the bride.

Brides from Mainland China are known colloquially as dalu mei (大陸妹, pinyin: dàlù mèi, literally: little sister from the mainland). The marriages and immigration are arranged by licensed marriage brokers. Spousal immigration is the only legal form of immigration from Mainland China to Taiwan. Although from Mainland China, dalu mei are not normally perceived as members of the Mainlander minority of Taiwan. There are also mail-order grooms from Mainland China to emigrate to Taiwan, although this is much less common. Pro-Taiwan independence parties such as the Taiwan Solidarity Union have expressed concerns that brides from Mainland China and their children will adversely influence Taiwan’s political landscape as they acquire citizenship. However, these attitudes are not universal even among pro-independence supporters, and former President Chen Shuibian of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party made a particular point of welcoming these brides during his campaign activities in 2004. A local poll suggested that Mainland Chinese brides tend to vote for the same political party as their husbands.

Many commentators have noted the emigration of foreign brides from Mainland China and Southeast Asia is already changing the ethnic composition of Taiwan, namely, mail-order brides and their children already outnumber Taiwanese aborigines. Some now consider foreign brides to be Taiwan’s fledging fifth ethnic group and are interested in observing how Taiwan’s demographics will gradually change by this group. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of Vietnamese stores and restaurants in Taiwan operated by Vietnamese brides. The Taiwanese Ministry of the Interior has published domestic violence-prevention materials in Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Thai, as well as a general guide to life in Taiwan in Khmer.[47]

for statistics references.

Other Asia

South Korea and Japan also have accepted a large number of foreign brides. In the case of South Korea, many of the brides are Chinese (largest group) and Vietnamese. Japan accepts many brides from China, the Philippines, and Thailand. They have become common in recent years especially among rural bachelors who cannot find suitable wives in their small towns. South Korea notably a gender imbalance, with an excess of available bachelors relative to single women. The implications for the ethnic composition of South Korea and Japan are similar to those for Taiwan, albeit less severe due to their higher populations.

Mainland China has become a destination for internal mail-order brides, due to gender imbalances. These tend to come from poorer parts of China, North Korea, or Burma, and Vietnam which are considerably poorer per capita than China as a whole. Trafficking and criminal gangs are prominently involved in the mail-order "business".

India has considerable mail-order bride activity, mainly within the country but also drawing women from Bangladesh and Nepal where the per capita income is less than India as a whole. This phenomenon is projected to become much more acute in both China and India over the coming decades due to an unnaturally high number of males born as a consequence of sex selection via widespread availability of cheap ultrasound pre-natal screening, will mature and seek wives. Most estimate the number of the unnaturally high male population, and lifetime bachelors probably will exceed tens of millions.

United States

The United States issues a K-1 "fiancée" visa that can be used within six months of issue and is valid for a 90-day entry into the U.S. The K-1 (and K-2 for accompanying minor children) is classified as a "non-immigrant" visa, though all the immigrant visa checks (i.e., FBI check and medical exam) are required for this visa. While this visa is issued as a single entry visa, should the intending spouse return to her country within the 90 days and seek to return again to the U.S. for the purpose of marriage the Embassy may issue a second visa document. The USCIS reports that approximately 17,263 such visas were issued in fiscal 2001, about 7988 coming from Asia and about 4714 coming from Europe (including all of the former Soviet Union states). It should be noted though, that the K-1 visa is used by Americans who met partners overseas, and perhaps most commonly, by recent immigrants to the US. "Mail-order" style engagements account for a tiny fraction of all K-1 visas. This type of visa application specifies the applicant's fiancé. If the visa holder does not marry the specified fiancé within the validity of the visa, she is required to return to her country of origin. However, if she marries her fiancé, she and her husband can apply to obtain "green card" permanent resident status with her husband (and possible co-sponsors) promising to support her for ten years or until she obtains citizenship. This residence status is conditional for a period of two years, after which the couple is expected to apply to have the condition removed. Removal requires the couple prove that they are married to each other in good faith. If the couples have divorced, the immigrant can apply for a waiver to remove the condition. In all cases supporting evidence is reviewed by the USCIS, often consisting of wedding and vacation photos, love letters, birth certificates of children, and evidence of mutual financial trust such as joint bank account statements, leases signed by both spouses, bills, insurance policies and other documentation demonstrating a genuine marital relationship. If evidence is found to be suspect further investigation by the USCIS may be required. This process is intended to prevent would-be immigrants from abandoning their sponsors immediately after obtaining residency and fraudulent marriages solely for the purpose of immigration. There are exceptions. For example, a woman who is determined to have been a battered wife can self-petition under VAWA provisions. Exemptions are also granted if a woman shows that the marriage was bona fide and her spouse died.

The parties can also marry before the fiancée enters the United States in which case the spouse must retain her residence outside the United States and her U.S. citizen spouse (or permanent resident alien) can apply for a permanent residence visa for her, in which case the visa is processed at the consulate and she is issued a "green card" valid from her date of entry into the United States, though she may also be subject to the two year condition as stated above if the date of entry is less than two years after her marriage date. A K-3 non-immigrant visa can be issued to the overseas spouse to reunite her with her husband while the permanent residency visa (green card) is being processed. The average wait for a K-3 visa (12 months to 2 years), is usually a little longer than the wait for a K-1 visa (8 to 12 months).

Comparison with other matchmaking forms

Classified and online matchmaking services

Classified listings were a common matchmaking practice for many years. With the advent of the internet, online matchmaking websites have proliferated and largely replaced traditional paper-based classifieds. Thus, online matchmaking is only an updated form of the American mail-order bride tradition, with the sole difference being the method used for broadcasting the personal ad.[citation needed]

Arranged marriage

An arranged marriage is one in which the marital partners are chosen by others, usually parents, based on considerations other than the pre-existing mutual attraction of the partners. Note that this is not necessarily the same thing as a forced marriage.

Legal issues

Marriage agencies and mail-order bride publications are legal in almost all countries. Certain notable legal issues are:

Australia

Since 2003 Australian Federal Government's resolve to decrease what was deemed 'inappropriate immigration' by then-Prime Minister John Howard has gained momentum. Initial reactions to the program were mixed. However, during the January 2004 visit to Eastern Europe by Australian Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, Australian-Russian relationships were strengthened while both nations committed to a timetable for reductions in Russian human trafficking into Australia. The Australian public further embraced their government's new policies following the media frenzy of the Jana Klintoukh case. This case first exploded into the public's view when current events program, Today Tonight, aired footage of a young Russian-born Australian, claiming she was imported via an Internet site and was used as a sexual slave by her 'husband' while being confined to his Sydney home.[citation needed]

Belarus

In 2005, President Alexander Lukashenko attempted to regulate "marriage agencies" in Belarus and make it difficult for them to operate. He believed that Western men were draining his country of all the women of child-bearing age.[48] (the reference cited does not actually say this, plus the fact there are more Southeast Asian women going with Western men, than in Eastern Europe altogether) However, as most agencies are being run from outside Belarus (either in Russia, European countries or in the United States), he has been unable to stop or otherwise regulate this activity.

Philippines

The Philippines prohibits the business of organizing or facilitating marriages between Filipinas and foreign men. The Philippine congress enacted Republic Act 6955 or the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Law in 1990 as a result of stories that appeared in the local press and media about Filipinas being abused by their foreign husbands. Because of this, Filipinas often use "reverse publications" – publications in which men advertise themselves – to contact foreign men for marriage on behalf of the Filipina women.

South Korea

Though South Korean men regularly marry Chinese (largest group) and Vietnamese and Thai women through dating agencies, the below focuses primarily on the trend with respect to Filipina women, and the recent reports of South Korean men abusing their Filipina wives.

The Frequency of South Korean men marrying Filipina wives
The Korea Times reports that every year thousands of Korean men sign up for matchmaking to Filipina brides through agencies and mail-order. Based on data from the Korean government, there are 6,191 Filipinas in South Korea who are married to Koreans.[27] This is only the women from the Philippines.

How South Korean men meet and choose Filipina wives
After contacting a mail-order agency, the majority of Filipina mail-order brides met their husbands by attending "show-ups," a meeting whereby a group of Filipino women are brought to meet a Korean man who is looking for a wife. In the show-up, the Korean man picks a prospective wife from among the group, and in just a matter of days, they get married.[27]

Why South Korean men choose Filipina Wives
An anthropological study on Filipina wives of Korean men by professor Kim Min-jung of the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Kangwon National University, found that these Korean men find it difficult to marry Korean women, so they look for girls in poorer countries with inferior qualifications and difficult circumstances.[27] The Korean men feel that because of the difficult circumstances out of which the Filipina women come, along with the major cultural differences and the language barrier, they "will not run away."[27] Further, she said, Korean men characterize Southeast Asian women as girls who are friendly, work hard because they come from agrarian societies, and are "docile and obedient, able to speak English, and are familiar with Korean patriarchal culture."[27] A gender imbalance of a majority male population in South Korea is also a reason for Korean men finding mail order brides, because of the difficulty finding a local woman.[27]

Claims that South Korean Men are Violent toward Mail Order Brides
In November 2009, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Luis Cruz warned Filipina women against marrying Korean men. He said in recent months that the Philippine Embassy in Seoul has received complaints from Filipino wives of abuses committed by their Korean husbands that caused separation, divorce and abandonment.[27][49] As language and cultural differences become an issue, the Filipina women are regarded as commodities bought for a price.[27]

Turkmenistan

On June 4, 2001 Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov, also known as Turkmenbashi, authorized a decree that required foreigners to pay a $5,000 fee to marry a Turkmen citizen, regardless of how they met, and to live in the country for one year and own property for one year. Authorities indicated that the law was designed to protect women from being duped into abusive relationships.[50]

In June 2005, President Niyazov scrapped the $5,000 requirement and the property-owning requirement.[51]

United States

Due to stringent U.S. immigration laws, there have been adaptations of the law and immigration process to provide regulation over immigration flow into the country, as well as protection for the brides once they arrive. “In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act... Section 652 of this legislation specifically addresses the mail-order bride industry.”[3] The Congress finds as follows:

  1. There is a substantial ‘‘mail-order bride’’ business in the United States. With approximately 200 companies in the United States, an estimated 2,000 to 3,500 men in the United States find wives through mail-order bride catalogs each year. However, there are no official statistics available on the number of mail-order brides entering[52] the United States each year.
  2. The companies engaged in the mail-order bride business earn substantial profits.

On January 6, 2006, President George W. Bush signed the "International Marriage Broker Regulation Act of 2005" (IMBRA) as part of the H.R. 3402: Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005.[53] The requirements of the law are controversial, and some commentators have claimed that it presumes that American men are abusers.[54]

The law requires that before a foreign woman's address or other contact information may be sold to a US citizen or resident by an international marriage broker:

  1. The man must complete a questionnaire on his criminal and marital background.
  2. The man must be screened from all mental illnesses and/or disorders.
  3. The seller must obtain the man's record from the National Sex Offenders Public Registry database.[55]
  4. The questionnaire and record must be translated to the woman's native language and provided to her.
  5. The woman must certify, for each specific individual, that she agrees to permit communication.

In enacting IMBRA, the Congress of the United States was responding to claims by the Tahirih Justice Center (TJC), a woman's advocacy group, that mail order brides were vulnerable to domestic abuse because they are unfamiliar with the laws, language and customs of their new home. The TJC insisted that special legislation was needed to protect them.[56] The TJC asked the United States Congress to consider several notable cases mentioned in the Congressional Record. Critics of IMBRA claim that the TJC failed to ask Congress to consider the relative amount of abuse between mail order bride couples and regular couples, including the thousands of spousal murders that occurred inside the USA over the past 15 years.

Two federal lawsuits (European Connections & Tours v. Gonzales, N.D. Ga. 2006; AODA v. Gonzales, S.D. Ohio 2006) sought to challenge IMBRA as unconstitutional. The AODA case was terminated when the plaintiffs withdrew their claim. The European Connections case ended when the judge ruled against the plaintiff and found that the law was Constitutional with regards to a dating company.

On March 26, 2007, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper dismissed, with prejudice, the suit for injunctive relief filed by European Connections, agreeing with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and TJC that IMBRA is a constitutional exercise of Congressional authority to regulate for-profit dating websites and agencies where the primary focus is on introducing Americans to foreigners. Additionally, the federal court specifically found that: "the rates of domestic violence against immigrant women are much higher than those of the U.S. population." The judge also compared background checks on American men to background checks on handgun buyers by stating, "However, just as the requirement to provide background information as a prerequisite to purchasing a firearm has not put gun manufacturers out of business, there is no reason to believe that IMBs will be driven by the marketplace by IMBRA."

Mail-order bride murders in the US

There are four incidents of mail-order brides being killed in the US over the past decade.

  1. In September 2003, 26-year-old Ukrainian engineer and mail-order bride Alla Barney bled to death on the floor of her car after her American husband Lester Barney, 58, slashed her throat in front of the couple’s four-year-old son, Daniel. Lester fled with Daniel from the scene in the parking lot of the boy’s daycare center, but after an Amber Alert was triggered, he turned Daniel over to a friend and was himself taken into custody by police. Alla had been granted a restraining order against Lester a few months before and had been given temporary custody of Daniel.[57][58]
  2. Susanna Blackwell met her husband through an international marriage broker called Asian Encounters and left the Philippines to settle with him in Washington state in 1994. The husband, Timothy Blackwell, physically abused Susanna, including one incident in which he choked her the day after their wedding. Susanna reported the abuse to the police and obtained a protection order against him. While awaiting divorce/annulment proceedings in a Seattle courtroom many months later, Susanna and two of her friends were shot dead. Blackwell was convicted of murdering all three women.[citation needed]
  3. Anastasia King, a young woman from Kyrgyzstan, was found strangled and buried in a shallow grave in Washington state in December 2000. At the age of 18, Anastasia had received an email from a 38-year-old Seattle man, Indle King, from a mail order bride website. He flew to her country and they were married soon after. Two years later, after considerable strife, Indle wanted another bride. He was allegedly unwilling to pay for a divorce so he ordered a tenant in their Washington home to kill Anastasia. Weighing nearly 300 pounds, her husband pinned Anastasia down while the tenant strangled her with a necktie. Both were convicted of murder. King’s previous wife, whom he had also met through an IMB, had a domestic violence protection order issued against him and left him because he was abusive.[59][60]
  4. Nina Reiser was a Russian-born and trained obstetrician and gynecologist. She was murdered by her husband, Hans Reiser, a businessman and computer programmer. She had a restraining order against him during their divorce. She had been reported missing on September 5, 2006. In the same month, Hans was detained by Oakland police due to the suspicions surrounding the disappearance of his wife. He was later arrested for suspected murder. On April 28, 2008 Hans Reiser was found guilty of first degree murder, and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. On July 7, 2008, Hans led Oakland police to his wife's remains with an agreement to only be charged for second-degree murder instead.[61]

Murder by mail-order bride in the US

  • In 2002, Tessie Buhawe Spotts, a native of the Philippines,[62][63] was charged with the slow poisoning murder of her husband, Alfred Spotts, in Newberry, South Carolina. The couple met through an international magazine advertisement.

Lawsuits in the US involving mail-order brides

  • On November 18, 2004, a federal jury in Baltimore, Maryland awarded Ukrainian mail-order bride Nataliya Fox $433,500 ($341,000 of which were punitive damages) against international marriage broker Encounters International and its Russian immigrant owner, Natasha Spivack. Spivack arranged Nataliya's marriage to an American man with a history of violently abusing women and who, after being matched with Nataliya, abused her over the course of their marriage. The jury found the marriage broker guilty of fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices, willful and wanton negligence, unauthorized appropriation of Ms. Fox's name and likeness, and defamation. The jury found the mail order bride company (Natasha Spivak) liable for failing to tell Nataliya about a federal law that allows foreign nationals to escape abusive marriages without fear of automatic deportation, and for actively misleading her about her legal options. The jury also found EI (Natasha Spivak) liable for misrepresenting that it screened male clients when it did not; and publicizing Nataliya’s marriage to Mr. Fox as an EI “success” story, without her permission, even after she fled to a domestic violence shelter.[64][65][66] On April 14, 2006 a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the jury's verdict in full, noting that Spivack's conduct involved "moral turpitude".[67]
  • On March 26, 2007, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia upheld IMBRA against constitutional challenges brought by an international marriage broker, European Connections and Tours. After initially issuing an ex parte temporary restraining order against the law, the federal judge was persuaded after hearing argument, that entering the restraining order was wrong. Rather, he found that "IMBRA is highly likely to reduce domestic abuse – and may actually save lives."[68]
  • In 2006 an ad-hoc group of dating companies sued the federal government to overturn IMBRA in the Southern District of Ohio. After a period of litigation, the plaintiff group withdraw their lawsuit prior to trial.[citation needed]

International marriage process

The most successful form of international marriage agency today is the internet dating site. This site may offer various services such as email, translation, gift services or simply sell addresses of women interested in meeting men. Men either pay a monthly fee for membership to contact as many people as they would like, or pay a per-address charge.

The older form of dating website is the catalog agency. Women in foreign countries or recruited by an Agency. The women a contacted through the answering of advertisements is ran in local newspapers. The agencies will then photograph the women and place her picture and a short description of her in a catalog with other potential brides.[40]
After reviewing the catalogue a man can usually identify several women he is interested in then proceed to purchase their addresses from the agency, and begin writing the women. Once he narrows down his list he will usually visit the country and meet several potential brides. If he finds a match he will return home and apply for a fiancee or marriage visa and sets a wedding date.[40]

The mail-order bride industry and the 21st century

Although the mail-order bride industry has been established for centuries, many changes have been made in the way that the mail-order bride industry operates.

Increase in the number of international marriages

In 1970 34 Asian brides were issued fiancee-petitioned visas for entry into the United States, by 1983 the number of fiancee-petitioned visas issued to Asian brides increased to 3,428.[40]
The number of marriage agencies increased as well. In 1986 there was an estimated 100 mail-order agencies in the United States, that number increased to an estimated 200 agencies by 1992.[40]

Visa regulations

In order to bring a spouse into the United States a Form I-130 must be filed as an Immigrant petition on behalf of a relative. Subsequent to that form, a K-3/K-4 & V-1/V-2 Entry Visa for Spouse must be filed.[69]
The Immigration and Nationalization Service agency advises that “in some cases, it may be to a couple's advantage to pursue a K-1 fiancee visa before getting married. In other cases, applicants may find that it is more cost effective to get married abroad and then apply for an immigrant visa overseas. In many cases, the K-1 visa application process takes just as long as the immigrant visa process.” Regardless, it is a long process of paperwork, investigation and fees. Couples must stay together at least two years.
There were 715 female naturalized citizens between the ages of 20 and 29 and 2,057 women of the same age living without US Citizenship according to the 2010 US Census, accounting for 11.3% of the female population of that age bracket.

“Despite well over 2,000 mail-order marriages a year, there is no information on the amount of mail-order brides entering the US. The purpose of this law is two-fold: to protect the safety of mail-order brides and to prevent fraud.”[3]

Rights of foreign brides

Foreign brides are often dependent on their husbands for citizenship status, which can lead to the abuse of the brides by their husbands, as their husbands could have them deported. Foreign brides entering the United States on fiancee visas have 90 days to get married; if they don’t get married the visa expires and they must return to their home country; this has led to men using this 90-day period as a “trial run”.[40] Once married, the bride is considered a Conditional Permanent Resident (CPR). The CPR designation is an attempt to prevent marriage fraud. After two years of marriage the bride can petition to have the CPR designation removed; however, if she divorces while a CPR she is subject to deportation.[40]

See also

References

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  2. ^ "Microsoft Encarta Definition of Mail Order Bride". Encarta. Microsoft Incorporated. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. http://www.webcitation.org/5kx8Pw2gR. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
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  4. ^ uscis.gov
  5. ^ AM D'Aoust (2009), "Love Stops at the Border": Marriage, Citizenship, and the "Mail-Order Brides" Industry, http://www.sas.upenn.edu/dcc/workshops/documents/DAoust_DCC_Grad_Workshop_paper.pdf 
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  8. ^ Enns, C. (2005) Hearts west: the true stories of mail-order brides on the frontier. Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press.
  9. ^ Jameson, E. (1976). Imperfect unions class and gender in cripple creek. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 1(2)
  10. ^ S Sinke (1999), Migration for labor, migration for love: marriage and family formation across borders, Magazine of History, JSTOR 25163323 
  11. ^ Itta C. Englander, The Search for June Cleaver, http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=itta_englander 
  12. ^ a b Waldo R. Browne (ed.), "Picture Bride," in What's What in the Labor Movement: A Dictionary of Labor Affairs and Labor Terminology. New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1921; pg. 375.
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  15. ^ So, C. (2006). Asian mail-order brides, the threat of global capitalism, and the rescue of the u.s. nation-stat. Feminist Studies, 32(2)
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  57. ^ Retrieve Pages
  58. ^ Man accused of stabbing his mail-order bride to death - Courttv.com - Trials
  59. ^ Retrieve Pages
  60. ^ Mail-order bride's dream of a better life ends in death
  61. ^ Reiser deal ultimately hinges on judge's OK
  62. ^ Lowcountry NOW: Local News - Wife charged with poisoning husband 04/12/02
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  64. ^ Mail-Order Misery: Imported Brides - Newsweek Society - MSNBC.com
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  • "Romance on a Global Stage" 2003 anthropology study by Nicole Constable, Professor of Anthropology, University of Pittsburg

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