Transnational marriage

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A transnational marriage, intermarriage, or international marriage is a marriage between two persons from different countries.


Transnational marriages occur when one individual marries another individual from another country.

Reasons for transnational marriage include:

  • Love - an individual from one country has fallen in love with an individual from another country and both chose to marry.
  • Barriers to love - such as visas and residency permits. Marriage may help the couple stay together in the same country.
  • Marriage of convenience - is entered into without intending to create a real marital relationship.[1]

A transnational marriage is not necessarily a cross-cultural marriage. It is possible that two individuals of different nationalities share the same culture, cultural characteristics, tastes, and/or interests.

Transnational marriages can occur through many different scenarios, such as:

  • Travelling abroad
  • Working abroad
  • Transiting
  • Studying abroad
  • Social networking
  • The internet
  • Globalization

Potential obstacles to transnational marriage:

  • The government of the respective countries may have extensive bureaucratic procedures for the processing of transnational marriages, and certain visas or documents may be required.
  • Citizenship of two or more nations - in some cases, one or both spouses must change citizenship, apply for a long-term visa if they plan to live together in the same country, or become a dual citizen or permanent resident.
  • Culture - Learning how to live and work within a different culture, tradition, clothing, expectations, languages, behaviors.


In ancient times, some marriages between distinctly different tribes and nations were due to royalty trying to form alliances with or to influence other kingdoms or to dissuade marauders or slave traders, see also Marriage of state. Two examples, Hermodike I c.800BC[2] and Hermodike II c.600BC[3] were Greek princesses from the house of Agamemnon who married kings from what is now Central Turkey. These unions resulted in the transfer of ground-breaking technological skills into Ancient Greece, respectively, the phonetic written script and the use of coinage (to use a token currency, where the value is guaranteed by the state).[4] Both inventions were rapidly adopted by surrounding nations through trade and cooperation and have been of fundamental benefit to the progress of civilization.

More recently, transnational marriages are due to globalization, with migration of labor, increased communication, and many more situations where foreigners come into contact with each other. It is also more common in some areas where class and tribal separations are becoming less strict. If one shares values that transcend culture, then it is easier to get married across cultures.

However, there are many barriers and restrictions to cross-cultural, inter-tribal or racial, and particularly transnational, marriages. People tend to marry those similar to them, some even preferring to marry first cousins, whom they trust. In an interesting twist, transnational arranged marriage between cousins or relatives occur more often in some places with migration and family reunification policies, as some people still want their culture and family when marrying, even in a distant place.

In the United States, data on intermarriage rates of immigrants has been collected since the early 20th century. Sociologist Julius Drachsler collected data on 100,00 marriages in New York City between 1908-1912. He found that less than one in ten foreign-born grooms married a bride who was born in America to American-born parents. In 2007, about one in four married immigrants who had a spouse born in the United States. There are higher rates of intermarriage for immigrants from more developed nations, which reflects cultural assimilation in other aspects.[5]

Historical and religious attitudes[edit]

In the Bible, Abraham's God warns the Israelites not to marry people from the seven nations residing in the land of Canaan for fear that they would then proceed to worship the gods of the other nations.[6]

Intermarriage with other nations was permissible. There are several instances of transnational marriages in the Bible, such as Joseph being given an Egyptian wife by Pharaoh,[7] Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho, marrying Salmon - becoming an ancestor of Christ,[8] Ruth the Moabite married Boaz - also becoming an ancestor of Christ,[9] and King Solomon marrying Pharaoh's daughter.[10] King Solomon was punished by God for facilitating his wives' worship of their own gods in Israel and then worshipping alongside them.[11] Samson married a Philistine.[12] The book of Ezra tells the Jewish exiles to separate from the foreign wives they had married in Babylon.[13] Moses' sister, Miriam, criticizes him for marrying a Cushite but is then cursed by God because of her criticizim.[14]

The Laws of Manu,[15] a religious document for the Indo-Aryan Brahmins invading India, speaks of how to keep oneself clean but also intermarry with the indigenous peoples in order to create a caste system. A Nepali anthropologist writes on how a Brahmin man might marry four wives of different castes, and keep all the eating and living quarters of his different caste wives and children separate. His children and grandchildren, born to women of lower castes, will have even lower status and not be taught the laws. The only social mobility is downward.[16]

A slightly different perspective of interracial or transnational marriage is from those who marry their cousins. They do so in order keep the family together socially and economically. Recently, this practice has become technically transnational due to differences in citizenship. An example of transnational marriage that kept the family together was among European royalty. Queen Victoria had grandchildren in many European states, connecting royal dynasties, and she was referred to as the "grandmother of Europe."[citation needed] However, some of the resulting alliances brought nations into the Great War (World War I) which otherwise could have retained neutrality. More recent examples derive from mass migration from the less developed regions of the world to the more developed regions, helped by the policies of family reunification. A fairly common practice among South Asian immigrants to the UK or USA is to have arranged marriages to someone back "home," in order to keep the culture and traditions within their family.[17][18]

Modern attitudes[edit]

Today, there is a mixed reaction to transnational marriage in some areas, especially as it continues to spread. Family reunification policies have upset some people in host countries, as people are less likely to assimilate if they continue to marry people from their home countries, thus keeping their cultures alive in the host cultures.[19] Others are suspicious of transnational marriages, as they think the non-citizen spouse may use their marriage only to obtain legal status in the host country.[20] Still others find their families torn apart if one spouse is detained or deported for legal reasons.[21] There are many legal barriers and hurdles to cross in transnational marriage, as well as being allowed to remain living together in the same country.

International marriages and Internet[edit]

The Internet has contributed over the last decades to the increase of transnational marriages and registered partnerships of international couples.

Internet based services, be they marriage agencies or mail-order bride sites specialized in international weddings and marriages can be regrouped in two main categories:

a) Country-specific sites and applications, where persons from other countries are looking for partners from a particular country covered by the service. For instance, there are several sites proposing brides from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia, specific countries in South East Asia and in Latin America. These sites can be a good fit for grooms having a profound affinity with a particular country, with its culture and its language and also with a good reason to exclude for example neighboring countries.

b) Non-country-specific sites where people have a chance to meet persons from various countries.

Third culture kids[edit]

Gold croeseid of Croesus c.550 BC, depicting the Lydian lion and Greek bull - partly in recognition of transnational parentage.

Immigrants may also take their families with them, meaning that their children grow up in different lands, learning a different culture and language often feeling more at home in the host country than their "home" country. These children, called third culture kids, often tend to feel affinity to those who have also lived in more than one country and culture, and tend to marry people of diverse backgrounds, regardless of nationality and citizenship.[22]

Others decide on a transnational marriage without having lived long in their new country. Traveling has resulted in transnational relationships, marriages, and even families, although it is not known how common such results are.


There is some debate about whether national laws should discourage or encourage transnational marriage. Currently, it can be legally difficult to have a transnational marriage. There are many barriers, for example in Indonesia it can be very difficult for the married couple if the husband is not Indonesian.[23][24] As a result of increasing transnational marriage, policy makers in various countries are starting to consider whether they should discourage or encourage transnational marriage.

The grounds given for discouraging transnational marriage are that:

  • False marriages occur to gain citizenship or conduct human trafficking.[20][25]
  • The marriages are cross-cultural and thus children or spouses may not be as loyal or patriotic to the new country.[citation needed]
  • There is a lack of assimilation and creation of ghettos if second and third generation immigrants are still marrying persons from the country of their ancestors.[19]

The grounds given for encouraging transnational marriage are that:

  • Transnational marriage reconnects extended families or even persons of similar backgrounds that are living all over the globe.
  • In a more and more globalized world, they contribute increasing cultural and professional diversity and creativity.
  • It helps relations between countries by strengthening trade and contact, or in case of war, enables one country to know more about the other (case of Kibei or Japanese-Americans during WWII).
  • People are increasingly marrying across national boundaries and harsh laws just tear families apart.[21][26]

By country[edit]

Pakistan, Afghanistan[edit]

Frequent among Pashtun and Baloch tribes near the Durand Line where marriage between transborder corresponding their cultures are frequent. The straddling of people between the border has been a contentious ongoing issue between the two countries.


Approximately 2.25% of Japan's residents are foreigners.,[27] many of whom have married with Japanese nationals as a result of spending time living and working in Japan.


When it comes to marriage, foreigners in the country don't face too many legal restrictions. Both residents and non-residents in Switzerland can get married with relative ease.[28]

United States[edit]

In the United States federal law, International Marriage Broker Regulation Act regulates international marriage, primarily to restrict misuse of the institution of marriage to immigrate to the country.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Marriage of convenience", Wikipedia, 2022-06-06, retrieved 2022-07-08
  2. ^ The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by John Boederman, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pg 832
  3. ^ Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology, Martin Nilsson, 1983 Univ of California Press, p. 48.
  4. ^ Amelia Dowler, Curator, British Museum; A History of the World;
  5. ^ Vigdor, Jacob L. (2009). From immigrants to Americans : the rise and fall of fitting in. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 9781442201385.
  6. ^ (Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3-4)
  7. ^ Genesis 41:45
  8. ^ Matthew 1:5
  9. ^ Ruth 4:13; Matthew 1:5
  10. ^ 1 Kings 9:16; 2 Chronicles 8:11
  11. ^ 1 Kings 11:7-10
  12. ^ Judges 14:7-20
  13. ^ Ezra 9:1-12
  14. ^ Numbers 12:1-10
  15. ^ Buhler, Georg (1969) The Laws of Manu. Translated with extracts from seven commentaries by Georg Buhler, Volume 25 in the Sacred Books of the East edited by F. Max Muller volume XXV, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. pp. 75-83, 401-429.
  16. ^ "There are also special differences in socialization for the children of mixed Bahun-Matwali marriages, the source of most of those in the Chhetri caste. ... The mixed household may include at least three castes, if not more, having wives from Bahun, Chhetri and Matwali castes, who must remain restricted to their appropriate areas. The father, then, eats in a separate area from the children, who eat in a separate area from the mother. ... The family is thus strongly divided along caste lines. The mother, here, is even more disparaged than in the purely Bahun family. She is Matwali; not only a source of potential pollution, but the cause for lowered, Chhetri, status of the son of a Bahun (1992: 74-75)" Bista, Dor Bahadur. Fatalism and Development: Nepal's Struggle for Modernization Hyderabad or Calcutta, India: Orient Longman Limited. 1991, Reprinted 1992.
  17. ^ Shaw, Alison (June 2006). "The arranged transnational cousin marriages of British Pakistanis: critique, dissent and cultural continuity". Contemporary South Asia. 15 (2): 209–20. doi:10.1080/09584930600955317.
  18. ^ Charsley, Katherine; Shaw, Alison (October 2006). "South Asian transnational marriages in comparative perspective". Global Networks. 6 (4): 331–44. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0374.2006.00147.x.
  19. ^ a b "Transnational marriage and the formation of Ghettoes". Migration Watch UK. 2005-09-22. Archived from the original on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  20. ^ a b Ex-US Immigration Employee, Sister Admits Fake Marriages Scheme Immigration Link Fall 2007 Vol. 3 No. 3 Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein Archived June 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ a b Police Officer, Wife Live In Fear, Uncertainty About Deportation Immigration Link Fall 2007 Vol. 3 No.b 3 Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein Archived June 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Pollock, David C.; Van Reken, Ruth E. (2001-05-25). Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds (2nd revised ed.). London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85788-295-7.
  23. ^ Faist, Thomas; Ozveren, Eyüp, eds. (2004-08-30). Transnational Social Spaces: Agents, Networks and Institutions. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7546-3291-7. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  24. ^ "Mixed Marriages: Indonesians and Expatriates". Living in Indonesia. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  25. ^ Cohen, Erik (2003). "5". In Bauer, Thomas G.; McKercher, Bob (eds.). Transnational Marriage in Thailand: The Dynamics of Extreme Heterogamy. Sex and Tourism: Journeys of Romance, Love, and Lust. Haworth Press. pp. 57–80. ISBN 978-0-7890-1203-6. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  26. ^ Constable, N. (April–June 2003). "A Transnational Perspective on Divorce and Marriage: Filipina Wives and Workers". Identities: Global Studies in Power and Culture. Routledge, Part of the Taylor & Francis Group. 10 (2): 163–80. doi:10.1080/10702890304328.
  27. ^ "Demographic Shift Sees Japan's Foreign Population Rise to 2.25%". 2020-08-18. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
  28. ^ "Marriage in Switzerland".

19. By Choi Soung-ah, The Korea Herald(2004-04-12) 20. The Korea Herald(2006-08-04)

Further reading[edit]