Are Mail Order Spouse Illegal?
The concept of US men marrying foreign women known as mail order brides has existed for centuries. During this time, people have never stopped asking themselves: are mail order spouse illegal? International laws give a definitive answer: marriages between men and mail order brides are fully legal no matter where the wedding takes place. The only exception here is the Philippines, where transnational marriages were made illegal in the early 1990s.
However, the law hasn’t stopped Filipino women from marrying foreigners. The only difference is that the marriage ceremony involving a Filipino bride needs to be carried outside of the Philippines. Out of 35,886 foreign women who entered the US in 2019 on fiancée visas, over 7,000 brides were Filipinas. So, are mail order brides legal? Those marriages are fully legal and today, you have several ways to meet your ideal foreign bride, whether it’s by visiting the target country or by signing up for an international dating site.
The legal aspect of marrying a mail order bride in the US
The US is one of the top countries by the number of transnational marriages with mail order brides, so it makes perfect sense that the rights of foreign spouses are protected by law. The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, which passed in 2005, regulates all sides of a relationship between foreign and potential US spouses. IMBRA includes provisions on background checks for visa sponsors, prohibits marriage to underage women, limits the number of visa sponsorship to 2 per one US citizen, and prohibits applicants with a criminal record from repeatedly filing petitions for fiancée visas.
Another important legal document that protects the interests of US women in general and fiancée visa holders, in particular, is VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. VAWA includes all kinds of provisions on violent behavior and crimes against women, from stalking and domestic violence to rape and the rights of immigrant spouses who are mistreated at home.
Are mail order spouse illegal and how to legally marry such a bride?
When you want to marry a foreign mail order bride and you have already met the woman you want to make your wife, you have two options. The first one is to visit her home country, get married there, obtain a marriage certificate, and bring it back to the US along with your new wife, who will then be recognized by the US government as your legal spouse. This option works in all kinds of situations, provided that you don’t mind getting married abroad. The only exception there is the Philippines where you cannot legally marry a local woman: you need to bring her to the US or a third country to undergo a legal marriage procedure.
The other option is bringing your mail order bride to the US on a fiancée visa. Once your foreign mail order bride enters the US on a fiancée visa, you will have just 90 days to marry her. If, after 90 days, you are still not married, the mail order bride may be deported from the US and may no longer be eligible for US immigration programs.
Types of visas for fiancées and how to get one
Are mail order brides legal to get a visa? There are two types of visas available to foreign fiancées and spouses, K-1 and K-3. The K-1 visa is the fiancée visa, meaning the woman entering the US on a K-1 visa must be unmarried and willing to marry a US citizen within a 90-day timeframe. The K-3 visa is designed for foreign spouses of US citizens. A K-3 visa is intended to shorten the waiting time for the foreign spouse to enter the US before the US spouse’s immigrant visa petition is approved. The foreign spouse of a US citizen must make an application for a K-3 visa in their own country of residence.
The K-1 fiancée visa, on the other hand, is granted solely after the US citizen’s immigrant visa petition is filed. As a US citizen intending to marry a foreign bride, you need to file the Petition for Alien Fiancée (Form I-129F). In addition to being legally bound to marry within 90 days after the K-1 visa is granted, you also need to supply proof that you have met your intended spouse within 2 years prior to filing the petition. Interestingly, people use the K-1 visa to enter other countries much more frequently than the K-3 visa: in 1994, only 5 out of 8,430 Latin brides have entered the US using a K-3 visa. All the other women preferred to obtain K-1.
Although mail-order marriages are a somewhat controversial topic in our society, from a legal point of view, men are completely free to marry foreign women, whether in their home country or after bringing them to the US. When done right, marriage to a mail order bride is 100% legal, safe, and able to give you a lifetime of happiness.