Are International Dating & Mail Order Brides Illegal? Regulations In The UK, US & Canada

The online dating industry is growing, and the mail order bride business remains one of the most popular and therefore the most profitable segments of the market. However, some aspects related to this business are a bit confusing. In particular, it is not clear if governments regulate it, and if so, how they do it. So, are mail order brides legal or illegal in the US, UK, and Canada? If they are illegal, why do governments allow citizens to marry these women? Are there any restrictions? You’ll find all the answers below.

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It is important to know

It is important to understand the difference between dating websites and mail order bride services. The dating sites are usually used by girls and guys who just want to chat, flirt, and have a good time with their partner. Whereas mail order bride platforms are used to find a soul mate for life, get married, and build a happy family. So when choosing a suitable service, you should rely on your desires and preferences.


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Are international dating & mail order brides illegal in the U.S.?

First, we’d like to emphasize that there are regulation acts related to the mail order bride industry. Surprisingly, they have nothing to do with the prohibition of particular dating services. On the contrary, they are aimed at protecting all parties, especially foreign brides that come to the US. So, let’s take a look at these acts in more detail.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

A few decades ago, brides faced a serious problem. Their future husbands seemed well-mannered, kind, and just charming before girls married them. After they found out that a man was not that good, they couldn’t even return home or stay in the US because they couldn’t apply for a green card without their husbands. That was a dead end. That’s why the government created this act — it was supposed to turn the trap into new opportunities for women.

Now ladies who turned out to be victims of domestic violence can apply for green cards independently. This actually had a positive impact on the industry — now ladies are protected, and more and more foreign women start looking for a foreign husband without fear or hesitation.

The International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA)

However, VAWA is not the only act that protects brides. There is also IMBRA that forces men to provide truthful information about them, including their marital status, info on finances and credit, criminal records, information about kids, and so on and so forth. Simply put, marriage service providers have no right to hide any important data from the bride. Otherwise, all the actions they take are considered illegal.

How can brides obtain citizenship?

If you choose the right service providers and then meet the right woman, you can get married and live in the US. In this case, the process of obtaining citizenship will be exactly the same as for any other foreign citizen. Note that you’ll have to prove that you were really dating, that you met in person, so we’d not recommend throwing away your tickets and deleting your photos from your bride’s country. If you want to avoid mistakes and any surprises, just hire the attorney — they will tell you which form to fill in, what to do, and what are scenarios to avoid.

Are international dating & mail order brides illegal in the UK?

No, they are legal, too. However, there are a few things you should know about visas. Generally speaking, a foreign bride can obtain a Family visa or a Marriage visitor visa. How are they different? Let’s take a look.

  • Marriage visitor visa. Works for those who want to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK. A foreign citizen can stay in the UK for 6 months but cannot live in the UK for extended periods, in particular, through frequent visits.
  • Family visa. Allows a foreign citizen to live with a family member in the UK for more than 6 months. However, you will need to prove that you are in a long-term relationship with your bride: in particular, you’ll need to prove that you met in person and preferably lived together for a long period of time. Foreign citizens with this visa can live in the UK for 2,5 years.

Yes, bringing someone to the UK for more than 6 months is likely to be tough, but it’s absolutely possible. Check the official website (you can find the links above) to learn more details.

Are international dating and mail order brides illegal in Canada?

Canada is the most “hospitable” country on our list. This industry is not regulated in Canada, which, however, doesn’t mean that anyone can come to this country and marry a Canadian citizen. Local laws are just less restrictive than laws in the United Kingdom and the United States. Still, just like in the UK and US, a sponsor must provide evidence of income, and you should provide evidence of having a relationship for at least a year. Now the authorities even encourage cross-national couples to get married before a non-Canadian spouse moves to Canada. Nevertheless, it’s pretty easy to bring a partner to this country.

Why are international dating sites and mail order brides legal?

Obviously, they are legal in most countries of the world. But why? Isn’t it offensive, immoral, just wrong? No, it’s not. The thing is calling a foreign wife a mail order bride is just a stretch. People used to use this term to describe girls who were literally bought and delivered to a man’s doorstep (yes, this really happened a few decades ago) and they keep using it despite the meaning has drastically changed.

Nowadays, it is nothing but an overseas matchmaking service. There is nothing unlawful about dating and getting married, and that’s exactly what we have here. A girl somewhere abroad is looking for a husband. A guy is looking for a foreign bride. They meet on a dating site, get closer, talk, keep in touch, start a long-distant relationship and then they can decide to get married. As you can see, no one buys anyone, no one has sex for money or privileges or green card, which is why it is legal.

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How to find a foreign wife and protect yourself from any threats

So, are mail order brides legal? Yes, they are. However, you should also consider that your marriage still must be a valid marriage. Keep in mind that the best thing that can protect you against any threats is your common sense. Yes, international matchmaking works. It’s increasingly popular because it works. However, it doesn’t mean that you should choose a random marriage agency or a dating website and then marry someone without knowing this person. Your safety should be your top priority, and that is why you should ensure that the marriage broker (agency, website, etc.) is legitimate. The services are supposed to be high-quality ones, and they should not be overpriced.

As for a lady herself, you need to meet her at least a few times before you get married not only because of safety reasons or because the government pays more attention to such marriages but also because you two should be sure about your decision. It is a big step to take, and nowadays, marriage brokers provide the services that allow you to get closer to your foreign wife, so why miss this opportunity?