Are Mail Order Brides Illegal? How To Make Your Marriage Legal

For hundreds of thousands of men drawn to foreign women, the possibility of marrying a foreign bride looks very attractive. However, they all ask the same question: “Are mail order spouse illegal?” This question does not come out of the blue, as even if you have never come close to marrying a mail order bride, you may have heard about the legal issues surrounding this matter.

With this article, we decided to answer every question of mail order bride legality once and for all. So stop guessing whether mail order brides are illegal. Simply keep reading, and you will find out everything about the legal status of mail order brides in modern society and how to marry a mail order bride without any legal repercussions.

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The short version of the answer to this question is yes, mail order brides are absolutely legal, but on one condition: they are not actually mail order brides. It means that if you marry a woman who you’ve selected from a catalog, who you’ve never met in person, and who you’ve paid money to someone to marry you, then this marriage is certainly illegal.

However, if we use the modern definition of a mail order bride as a woman who posts information about herself on online dating services, then both mail order brides and mail order marriages are perfectly legal.

The reason why they are fully legal is that they work exactly like regular online dating. Western men and foreign women meet online, foster a connection, and decide they want to be together. They then meet offline one or several times, and if things go well, they decide to get married. They are not forced into marriage or paid to tie the knot, and there is nothing illegal about two individuals from foreign countries marrying each other.

mail order bride

What laws regulate mail order marriages?

In most Western countries, there is at least one legislation concerning mail order brides and their marriages to the citizens of those countries. The United States is no exception, as there are currently two acts regulating marriages between American citizens and mail order spouses:

  • IMBRA, or International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, passed in 2005. This act requires American visa sponsors, as well as marriage brokers, to undergo background checks, and prohibits serial visa applications from the same visa sponsors.
  • VAWA, or Violence Against Women Act of 1994. This act prohibits violence against foreign spouses of US citizens and allows those spouses to apply for a Green Card independently of their spouses.

Are there countries where mail order brides are illegal?

Yes! And, surprisingly enough, the country where mail order marriages are illegal is the country that gives the world thousands of mail order brides every year—the Philippines. The Republic Act No. 6955, which is informally known as the Anti Mail-Order Bride Law, has been around since 1990.

It prohibits the business of arranging marriages between foreign citizens of Filipino women, or mail order brides. Since 2013, there have also been attempts to extend the same prohibitions to internet services, although they haven’t been successful to date.

What to do when you can’t legally marry a mail order bride?

Given that the Philippines is one of the world’s biggest producers of mail order brides, and yet mail order marriages are prohibited there, you can’t help but wonder: how do all these lucky Western guys marry Filipino brides?

The answer is pretty simple! The Filipino government can prohibit mail order marriages within its borders, but its authority does not extend overseas. This is why couples consisting of a Western man and a Filipino mail order bride can safely tie the knot in Japan, South Korea, other Asian countries, or the US.

Why do some people think that mail order brides are illegal?

The misconceptions about mail order brides being illegal stem from the times where mail order marriages were a form of human trafficking. Women often married men without meeting them even once, the marriages themselves were abusive, and there was no way for the woman to get out.

Modern mail order marriages don’t work like that anymore. Modern mail order brides are completely free to choose who to marry, and a mail order bride in the 21st century will never marry someone without a long period of online correspondence and at least once in-person meeting. So the only situation where someone may think that mail order brides are illegal is when they don’t really know how these relationships work.

How to legally marry a mail order bride

mail order brides

As an American citizen who wants to marry a foreign mail order bride, you have two options to make your marriage legal and bring your bride to the US: you can either marry her in her home country or invite her to the US as your future spouse. Here are both options explained in detail.

K1 visa

Obtaining a K1 visa is probably the most popular way for American citizens to marry non-American citizens and it’s the perfect option if you met your bride online and are now ready to take the next step.

A critical condition for getting this type of visa is to have a valid relationship and meet each other in person within the last two years. You will need to supply proof of that—it can be photos, emails, plane tickets, or even affidavits from your friends. As a US sponsor of your fiancée’s visa, you will also need to meet certain income requirements. The actual process of applying for a K-1 visa consists of the following steps:

  1. File Form I-129F with USCIS to prove the validity of your relationship. You will need to attach certain documents, such as proof of US citizenship, proof of relationship, intent to marry within 90 days, copy of fiancée’s passport, and so on.
  2. Wait for the form to be approved and for the fiancée to get notified by the US embassy.
  3. The fiancée needs to file Form DS-160. At this stage, the required documents will include a birth certificate, two passport-style photos, a completed medical exam, as well as tax returns for the US sponsor of the visa.
  4. The foreign fiancée will undergo an interview at an embassy approximately a month after filing an application. The decision to grant a visa is typically made on the same day or shortly after that.
  5. The fiancée will have 6 months from the approval date to arrive in the US, and the couple will have 90 days from the arrival date to get married and start their new life together.

Consular processing

Many couples prefer to get married in the fiancée’s home country—for example, if her family wants to be present for the wedding—and come back to the US already as a married couple. In that case, the couple should go for something known as consular processing. Here is how it works:

  1. You get legally married in your bride’s home country.
  2. You file Form I-130 and Form DS-160 at the US Embassy or consulate in the country where your bride lives, followed by a medical exam and an interview for your new wife.
  3. After a waiting period, your wife is granted a visa and you can enter the United States with a new legal status.

From the legal standpoint, there isn’t any difference between the two types of ways to make your marriage legal, so you may go for the one that fits your current situation and, most importantly, is what your bride really wants.

How to make sure a dating service is not scamming you

Perhaps, one of the first rules of international online dating you need to remember sounds like this: you can only find legitimate mail order brides on a legitimate dating service. But how to find a dating site that won’t violate your trust? Here are the 5 most helpful tips.

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  1. Only choose sites with a proven reputation. LatinFeels, EasternHoneys, LatamDate, AmourFeel, Jolly Romance are just some of the sites that have proven time and time again that they have real women, honest policies, and strong customer support.
  2. Watch out for big promises. When a site promises that you will find a wife in three or six months or that hot and single women already cannot wait to meet you, take these claims with a grain of salt—real long-term relationships don’t happen just as easily.
  3. Analyze women’s behavior. Women on dating sites surely can be more active than in real life, but they still have their limits. When a woman is overly eager for you to notice her or when her messages are getting explicit, it’s a common red flag.
  4. See what kind of words the site uses. A legitimate dating service will hardly ever use the term “buy a bride” because of the negative connotation. These sites facilitate relationships, not transactions.
  5. Beware of money claims. Whenever a woman on a dating service or a service itself tries to get you to send money, there is a chance it’s actually a scam. You shouldn’t have to pay more than it takes to cover a membership, extra communication tools, and gifts to the ladies.

Final thoughts

The desire to only marry a legit mail order bride is absolutely natural, since you want your marriage to last for a lifetime and don’t want to run into legal trouble instead. Hopefully, our guide resolved any doubts you may have had about this issue, and you are now ready to embark on the most exciting romantic journey of your life.