An international marriage, or transnational marriage, is a marriage between two people from different countries. A variety of special issues arise in marriages between people from different countries, including those related to citizenship and culture, which add complexity and challenges to these kinds of relationships.
Culture and language differences are often encountered as obstacles, although there are exceptions. Where ethnic groups are divided between multiple sovereign states (irredentism or stateless nations) or places which once shared common citizenship are separated by borders of newly-independent nations (decolonisation), transnational marriages do not necessarily infer different cultures.
In an age of increasing globalization, where a growing number of people have ties to networks of people and places across the globe, rather than to a current geographic location, people are increasingly marrying across national boundaries. Transnational marriage is a by-product of the movement and migration of people.
Transnational marriage may occur when someone from one country visits or lives in another country for school, work, political asylum, refuge, or due to their family relocating.
In general terms, reasons for transnational marriage include:
- A visitor may become attracted to a citizen of a host country, marrying them. This is usually a cross-cultural marriage, although there are times in which that citizen may be from the same culture. Marrying a citizen of the host country may help in becoming a citizen of that land and staying there permanently. Sometimes the host culture is the one with which the person identifies, and thus desires to marry someone of that culture rather than someone from their "home" culture.
- A soldier, while posted abroad, may fall in love with a local citizen. See war bride, war children and lost Canadians.
- A computer user possessing an account on an internet social network may become attracted to another user holding an account in another country and the two may unite by means of travel arrangements.
- A traveller may be attracted to a citizen of a third country who is also visiting or living in the host country, marrying someone who has the shared experience of living amidst different cultures regardless of citizenship.
- Having become a citizen of the host country, a recent immigrant may go back to their homeland temporarily to find a spouse, sometimes through arranged marriage. This may come as a result of missing home, family, and culture, and desiring to have such in one's life. Another variant is to choose a picture bride from the homeland due to inability to marry a local citizen. One may then bring one's spouse to their new country of citizenship through family reunification provisions in immigration law.
- Historically, colonists would espouse mates from their respective home countries, such as King's Daughters in francophone Lower Canada.
- Members of linguistic or cultural minorities may espouse someone from that same group by crossing international boundaries. While Madawaska, Maine is heavily francophone, the French language in the United States is spoken by a tiny minority. Cross into Acadian New Brunswick or into Quebec and the French language becomes commonplace.
- The territory of a cultural or language group often does not align with national boundaries; for instance, a German-Austrian or German-Swiss couple might share a common language and freedom of travel in the Schengen Area while holding legally-different nationality. A linguistic or cultural group often extends beyond the territory of its nominal home state (irredentism) or a group may be arbitrarily split between multiple legal political entities as a stateless nation. Territory inhabited by indigenous peoples of the Americas often is not aligned with current official political boundaries.
- In rare instances, both members of a transnational couple are from the same town or village, but live in different nations because a community has been divided by an international boundary. The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, itself divided by the border, was built by one such couple in the divided village of Rock Island-Derby Line.
Obstacles to transnational marriage include:
- Citizenship of two or more nations - one or both spouses must change citizenship or become a dual citizen or permanent resident. Changing one's citizenship can be a long process, and for some it is an ordeal of negotiating the laws and language of a new country.
- Culture - Learning how to live with a new spouse where cultural assumptions and norms may vary greatly.
- Language - From mere Dialect differences to totally different languages.
In some cases, an ethnic group has no difference in culture or language but is artificially divided for geopolitical reasons. Places which once shared common nationality may have lost this status to decolonisation, but still share language or other identifiers.
In these cases, cultural or language barriers do not apply, aside from the possibility of dealing with the influence of a distinct dominant culture of the host country or countries. Depending on the countries, there may still be major issues in terms of legal status.
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In more 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. 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.
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The Bible and the Laws of Manu are two religious historical documents which give some insight into the views on transnational marriage in antiquity. In the Bible, Abraham's God warns the Israelites not to marry people from seven nations residing in the land of Canaan for fear that they would then proceed to worship the gods of the other nations.
Intermarriage with other nations was permissible. There are several instances of transnational marriages in the Bible, such as Joseph being given Egyptian wives by Pharaoh, Rahab of Jericho marrying one of the Israelite spies she hid, Ruth the Moabite taking care of her mother-in-law Naomi, and King Solomon marrying Pharaoh's daughter, as well as many other foreign wives. King Solomon married to make alliances and keep the peace, and the others because they lived by each other. However, the difference in reaction to the transnational marriages is how the newcomers responded to the Abrahamic God. King Solomon was punished by God for facilitating his wives' worship of their own gods in Israel and then worshipping alongside them.  Samson espoused a Philistine, who betrayed him to that nation. The book of Ezra tells of the response of the Jewish exiles to either separate from their foreign wives they had married in Babylon or be separated from the community of exiles when the exiles were trying to turn back to the Abrahamic God. Moses' sister, Miriam, criticizes him for marrying a Cushite woman. She is then stricken with leprosy for criticizing Moses (Numbers 12:1-10).
The Laws of Manu, 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. Similarly, although no longer specifically due to transnational marriage, the interracial sexual contact in the Americas produced a system that defined social status by skin color, and is still followed by some people, but in particular those whom it subjugated. People would marry those with lighter skin color to keep their social status and were against marrying anyone of "lower" status, particularly around the time of belief that certain people were of a superior race than others.
A slightly different perspective of interracial or transnational marriage is from those who tend to marry their cousins, sometimes even first cousins. They do so in order keep the family together socially and economically, thus disproving of marriage outside. Recently, this practice has become technically transnational due to differences in citizenship, even though the people are still family. An example of transnational marriage that kept the family together was among European royalty. Queen Victoria's grandchildren were all over Europe, keeping the royalty together. She was referred to as the "grandmother of Europe." However, some of the resulting alliances brought nations into the Great War (World War I) which otherwise could have retained neutrality. More recent examples are from a 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.
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. 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. Still others find their families torn apart if one spouse is detained or deported for legal reasons. 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.
Third culture kids
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.
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. A New York Times article cites someone who found a partner through couch surfing. Couch surfing is a way for people to stay cheaply at another person's home, allowing the traveler to see the life of locals when visiting a new place.
One debate: should national laws 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. 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.
- The marriages are cross-cultural and thus children or spouses may not be as loyal or patriotic to the new country.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
International marriage by country
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.
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.
- Inequality within immigrant families (United States)
- International child abduction
- Interfaith marriage
- Interracial marriage
- Mail-order bride
- (Exodus 34:16, Deuteronomy 7:3-4)
- "1 Kings 9". New International Version. Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- "1 Kings 11". New International Version. Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- "Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; 1 Chronicles 23:22; Ezra 9:1-2 &12". New International Version. Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Freedman, Beno (2014). "Moses Married a Non-Jew". What the Bible Actually Says.
- 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.
- "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.
- (personal experience, anecdotes, and reading but need citation)
- 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. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Charsley, Katherine; Shaw, Alison (October 2006). "South Asian transnational marriages in comparative perspective". Global Networks: a Journal of Transnational Affairs 6 (4): 331–44. doi:10.1111/j.1471-0374.2006.00147.x. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- "Transnational marriage and the formation of Ghettoes". Migration Watch UK. 2005-09-22. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Ex-US Immigration Employee, Sister Admits Fake Marriages Scheme Immigration Link Fall 2007 Vol. 3 No. 3 Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein[dead link]
- Police Officer, Wife Live In Fear, Uncertainty About Deportation Immigration Link Fall 2007 Vol. 3 No.b 3 Law Offices of Spar & Bernstein[dead link]
- 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 1-85788-295-4.
- Green, Penelope (2007-09-20). "Surfing the World Wide Couch". Home & Garden (The New York Times). pp. Section F; p. 1. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Faist, Thomas and Ozveren, Eyüp, ed. (2004-08-30). Transnational Social Spaces: Agents, Networks and Institutions. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-3291-1. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- "Mixed Marriages: Indonesians and Expatriates". Living in Indonesia. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- Cohen, Erik (2003). "5". In Bauer, Thomas G. and McKercher, Bob. Transnational Marriage in Thailand: The Dynamics of Extreme Heterogamy. Sex and Tourism: Journeys of Romance, Love, and Lust. Haworth Press. pp. 57–80. ISBN 0-7890-1203-0. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
- 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. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
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- Amster, Matthew H.; Lindquist, Johan (April 2005). "Frontiers, Sovereignty, and Marital Tactics: Comparisons from the Borneo Highlands and the Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore Growth Triangle" (–Scholar search). Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 6 (1): 1–17. doi:10.1080/14442210500074846. Retrieved 2008-07-16.[dead link][dead link]
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