Are Mail Order Spouses a Human Trafficking? Learn If Mail Order Brides are Legal in Your Country

Patty Rose
7 min readMay 23, 2024

Each year, thousands of American men find love with foreign women, often leading to happy, fulfilling international marriages. In fact, on average, around 30,000 fiancée K-1 visas are issued by the U.S. every year. While sensationalized media stories often question are mail order spouses legal, the truth is much more nuanced. As someone who has studied this topic extensively, I’m here to clear up the misconceptions. Keep reading to learn mail order brides legislation in your country.

Are Mail Order Spouses a Human Trafficking?

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Let me state clearly upfront — pursuing relationships with foreign women through legitimate international dating sites is perfectly legal in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. as long as proper procedures are followed. Each country has laws in place to protect both parties and prevent trafficking and exploitation.

📌Learn More: What Are Mail Order Brides

Are mail order brides legal in the United States?

In the U.S., the primary mail order bride law is the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA) of 2005. This law requires dating sites to conduct background checks and provide immigrating foreign fiancées with information about their rights. Men must also disclose any criminal history or previous marriages. As long as the couple meets in person within 2 years prior to applying for a K1 visa, and the foreign partner enters willingly, a mail order marriage is legal.

mail order brides legal in the US

If you’re an American man pursuing a foreign bride, understanding the visa process is crucial. Here’s a more detailed step-by-step guide:

  1. File Form I-129F, the “Petition for Alien Fiancée,” with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You’ll need to provide proof of your U.S. citizenship, evidence of your in-person meeting, and pay the filing fee.
  2. Once USCIS approves your petition, they’ll send it to the U.S. Embassy or consulate in your fiancée’s home country. Your fiancée will receive a packet of information about the visa interview and required documents.
  3. Your bride must complete a medical exam, gather supporting documents, and attend the visa interview. They’ll need to prove your relationship is genuine and they’re not inadmissible to the U.S. for any reason.
  4. If approved, your woman will receive the K-1 visa in their passport, valid for a single entry to the U.S. within 6 months.
  5. Once your fiancée arrives in the U.S., you have 90 days to get married. After marrying, your spouse can apply for a green card.

The K-1 process may seem daunting, but thousands of couples successfully navigate it each year. Some key tips:

  • Be meticulous in preparing your I-129F petition and supporting evidence. Incomplete or sloppy applications can mean delays or denials.
  • Help your foreign girlfriend prepare for the visa interview. Some consular officers may be skeptical of international romance, so couples should be ready to convincingly prove their relationship.
  • Marry within the 90 day limit, but don’t rush to the altar either. Make sure you’re both truly ready for this commitment.

What about mail order brides legislation in Canada?

Canada’s mail order bride legality takes a very similar approach. Male sponsors must undergo criminal background checks and the immigrating female fiancée must demonstrate the relationship is genuine and she is entering freely. She is also informed of her legal rights. Like the U.S., Canadian law requires the couple to have met in person within the 2 years before applying for a fiancée visa.

mail order brides legal in the Canada

Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Gather documents proving your identity, relationship, and that you’re not currently married. You’ll also need to show you can financially support your future wife.
  2. Complete the sponsorship application package, which includes forms for both you and your fiancée. Pay close attention to details, as mistakes can cause delays.
  3. Submit your application to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Processing times vary but expect to wait several months.
  4. If approved, IRCC will issue your bride a conditional permanent resident visa. This allows them to enter Canada and marry you within 90 days.
  5. After marrying, your spouse must continue to live with you in a genuine relationship for 2 years or risk losing their permanent resident status. After 2 years, the conditions are removed.

Some advice for my Canadian readers considering international romance:

  • Be cautious with international dating sites and never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. Scams unfortunately do happen.
  • Visit your lady in their home country to truly understand their culture and living situation.
  • Understand sponsorship is a serious legal commitment. You’re financially responsible for your spouse for 3 years even if the relationship fails.

United Kingdom rules regarding foreign mail order spouses

The U.K. actually has some of the strictest rules, including requiring a minimum income for the British spouse sponsor and good English skills for the foreign fiancée. Couples must prove a genuine relationship, the foreign partner must be informed of her rights, and the U.K. partner cannot have certain serious criminal convictions. In-person meetings are also a must.

mail order brides legal in the UK

If you’re a British citizen or settled resident hoping to bring your foreign soulmate to the U.K., you’ll need to apply for a Family of a Settled Person visa. Here’s what the process entails:

  1. Meet the strict eligibility criteria. You must have a combined income of at least £18,600 per year, have suitable accommodation for your fiancée, and they must pass an English language test.
  2. Have your fiancée apply online for the visa and pay the hefty application fee. They’ll need to submit biometric information at a visa application center.
  3. If approved, your fiancée can enter the U.K. You must marry within 6 months of their arrival.
  4. After marrying, your spouse can apply for Further Leave to Remain, allowing them to stay in the U.K. for 2.5 years. They’ll need to continue meeting the income, accommodation, and language requirements.
  5. After 5 years, your spouse can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, allowing them to stay in the U.K. without time restrictions.

Some words of wisdom for Brits considering a foreign bride:

  • Make sure you truly understand the financial requirements. The £18,600 minimum is higher than many other countries and you must sustain this level.
  • Help your partner prepare for the English test. The U.K. takes language skills very seriously as a sign of integration ability.
  • Be ready for an extensive documentation burden and costs. The U.K. process is considered one of the most onerous and expensive in the world.

The U.K. has tightened rules around foreign spouses significantly in recent years. The government wants to be absolutely sure couples are genuine and self-sufficient. While this poses challenges, many U.K. men still find happiness through international romance. It just requires significant planning, patience, and a willingness to jump through bureaucratic hoops.

So is it legal to mail order a bride? Yes, in all three countries, mail order marriages are legal as long as everything is above board, consensual, and done through official channels. But it’s critical to avoid shady overseas marriage brokers who may be fronts for trafficking.

You may also wonder are mail order spouse illegal in some countries. Mail order unions are generally legal and popular in most Latin American, Asian, Western, and Eastern European countries. However, some Asian countries like the Philippines, Cambodia, India, and China have enacted strict regulations on international matchmaking to combat exploitation.

How to choose a legitimate mail order bride site?

With hundreds of international dating sites out there, some better than others, how can you ensure you’re using a reputable service? Here are my top tips:

  1. Look for sites that have been in business for many years and have strong reputations. Avoid fly-by-night sites making outrageous claims.
  2. Read the fine print and terms of service. Legitimate sites will clearly explain the legal process and have strict policies against trafficking and exploitation. If anything seems suspicious, steer clear.
  3. Be wary of individual profiles that seem too good to be true — a gorgeous 20-year-old model from Russia begging to marry a much older foreign man, for example. Trust your gut if something feels off.
  4. Choose sites that encourage developing real relationships, not quick transactional marriages. The best sites have strong messaging features, video chat, identity verification, and even offer romance tours to meet matches in person. Avoid any site that feels like ordering a bride from a catalog.
  5. Do your own research into the cultural norms and legal requirements for international marriage. Legitimate sites will be upfront about the legal immigration process, time frames, and any country-specific requirements.

At the end of the day, mail order brides are legal and can lead to wonderful, loving partnerships — but only if done correctly. By understanding the relevant laws, using legitimate well-established dating sites, and taking the time to develop a genuine connection with your foreign match, you can find lasting love abroad while avoiding the dark world of human trafficking. Choose reputable sites, educate yourself, and never forget there’s a real live human on the other end of that internet connection. I hope this helped.

This post contains some affiliate links, and I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the links.

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