Mail-order bride

Mail-order bride is a label erroneously applied to a woman who publishes her intent to marry someone from another - usually more developed - country. Although the label is widely used, it may have derogatory connotations and may be offensive.

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.

Mail-order brides traditionally hail from developing countries, major examples being Colombia, Venezuela, Thailand and to a lesser extent from Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, India, China and Malaysia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union however large numbers of eastern European women also advertised themselves in such a way; primarily being from Russia, 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 may be referred to as mail-order husbands. Nations that often receive mail-order brides are the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Germany, and Australia.

Academic research

The most thorough study of international marriages that has been published to date is a 2003 book entitled Romance on a Global Stage, Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and "Mail Order" Marriages, by Nicole Constable, Professor of Anthropology and Research Professor at the University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh. Professor Constable spent two years interviewing hundreds of American men, Chinese and Filipina women, domestic and international NGOs and women's groups and many owners of international dating companies.

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." 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."

Pop culture

Immigration issues by country


Canadian immigration laws have traditionally been similar to but slightly less restrictive than their US counterparts; for instance, Canadian law does not require the Canadian citizen to prove minimum income requirements such as in the United States.

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

In 2002, the Canada immigration law was completely revised. One of the major changes was conjugal partner sponsorship, which is available between any two people (including same sex couples) that have had conjugal relations together for at least one year. However 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 some serious reason can demonstrate why the couple is not married.


In Taiwan, mail-order brides come primarily from Mainland China and Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam. The ages of the girls from Vietnam range from 15 to 18 years of age. They cost either NT$1,000,000 or a custom built home for their families.

Brides who come from Mainland China are known colloquially as dalu mei (???, pinyin: dl mi, literally: mainland sister). 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 considered members of the Mainlander minority on Taiwan. There are also mail-order grooms from Mainland China who immigrate 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 President Chen Shuibian of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party made a particular point of welcoming these brides at his campaign activities in 2004. Also, there was a poll that suggested that Mainland Chinese brides tend to vote for the same political party for which their husbands vote.

Many commentators have pointed out that the immigration of foreign brides from Mainland China and Southeast Asia is already changing the ethnic composition of Taiwan, in that 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 that are operated by Vietnamese brides. Taiwan's Ministry of the Interior has also published domestic violence-prevention materials in Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Thai, as well as a general guide to life in Taiwan in Khmer.

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.

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 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:


On June 4, 2001 Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov, also known as Turkmenbashi, authorized a decree that required foreigners to pay a $50,000 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.

In June 2005, President Niyazov scrapped the $50,000 requirement and the property-owning requirement.




United States

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.
  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. 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 is 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 three 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. Retrieve PagesMan accused of stabbing his mail-order bride to death - - Trials
  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.
  3. Anastasia King, a young woman from Kyrgyzstan, was found strangled to death 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.Retrieve PagesMail-order bride's dream of a better life ends in death

Murder by mail order bride in the US

Lawsuits in the US involving Mail Order Brides

External links



United States

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