[ Question ]

Could an international marriage (historically mail order bride) be considered an effective "initiative"?

by adamaero1 min read14th May 202114 comments



Yes yes, bed nets and deworming initiatives are the go-to . But what about directly helping someone out of poverty or at least an unwanted living circumstance to come live in a Western country? They could also get a job and potentially provide a huge ROI; here is a story from an anonymous Quora user:

The one who became my wife wanted me to pay for college in the USA. I was like no problem; I felt putting her through college was a great way for her to make her own circle of friends and integrate into my country. I stashed away 50% of my senior engineer paycheck in preparation. Then I fly in and visited her twice. First trip was 2 weeks and we kind of went of vacation together.

That was to learn about each other. Second time was to get married after she had taken the college entrance exam and gotten accepted to a university in my city and the fiancée visa was issued. I showed my wife her budget (around $20K) and let her choose how much to apply to the wedding and how much to her schooling. She put most of it towards schooling (had to pay foreign student tuition the first year….ouch).

Anyways, 4 years later she graduated Summa Cum Laude and eventually lands a great job that pays six figures. Did I mention she graduated with no student debt?


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I think the answer is going to be 'no', but I was pleasantly surprised by the next line in the Quora article you linked, which I think represents the real happy outcome:

We are still married 17 years later and have two rowdy boys.

Having children would be a significant factor against such an arrangement not being effective. Children cost something like $500,000.But I suppose that's neither here nor there. Such a pair would likely have children regardless. 

I suppose I'm really just narrowing down dating to a significantly less inefficient process (defining what one wants: no kids) and having potential partners who are much more willing to move to them. It's similar to an arranged marriage. 

[+][comment deleted]1mo -15

Are you talking about marrying a romantic partner you want to live with, or about marriage solely for the purpose of helping someone obtain legal residence in the US? The latter is illegal, and authorities subject suspected Green Card marriages to a high degree of scrutiny to prove the couple has actually combined finances, spent a lot of time together, etc. Some of my friends in "real" marriages between a US citizen and non-US citizen get really anxious about the interviews they have to go through and the documents they need to provide.

3adamaero21dConfused by the downvotes. People here want me to say yes??
7Lukas_Gloor20dAnswering "x or y?" questions with just "no" (or "yes") seems to leave things ambiguous (does it mean "the latter," "not the former," or "neither of those"?). It seems impolite to me (not putting in the effort to write something slightly longer to make things easier for the reader).

My opinion is no, but a related initiative I might make a more detailed post on in the future would be something along the lines of making it easier to adopt children from abroad (or even in the same country) / advocating for more adoptions

1freedomandutility1moI think it'd be harder to scale up
1adamaero21dWhat do you mean? There would be a net gain from half the rent/mortgage alone.

Earlier in our relationship, I told my wife that we should legally marry other people so they could move to the USA. She is usually quite open-minded but she very much hated the plan so we never did it. 

I am very big on living out your values. If you are a citizen of a highly desired country you can help make open borders a reality. I encourage you to consider this in who you legally marry. This is especially relevant if you are poly. There are a lot of versions that differ quite a bit in terms of risk. 

Good luck.

Initial costs

  • Traveling to see them in their country ($1k+)
  • Citizenship application fees and paperwork ($1.2k+)
  • Grocery expenses and transient living expenses

Potential cost

  • University tuition (likely)
  • Medical bills (unlikely)


Monetary gains

  • Shared housing expenses (e.g., rent)
  • Shared grocery expenses

Other gains

  • Time and effort lost in the dating game: not having to date around (most partners want children, so clearly defining that upfront)
  • Shared cooking of meals (saves time to interleave him/her cooking or just a better and more fun use of time cooking together)
  • Social aspect for single isolated people in rural areas

Long-term personal gains:

  • Higher paying shared income
    • E.g., 40k (net) annually and roughly 1.5M (net) lifetime

Short and long-term altruistic gains:

  • Remittance to their family (potentially)
  • E2G of combined income


It may depend on the man or woman looking for their respective life partner. After all, they can divorce and separate just like traditional couples. Although, it would make sense for Western paired international couples to have a significantly lower divorce rate.

Since asking this question, I've seen the huge stigma associated with international marriages. It's clear why international couples cover up how they met. For the man seeking a wife, people assume something is wrong with him: Why not local women? 

Therein lies the problem with traditional dating. Most people, the status quo, want to own a nice car, a big house, fill it with bab(ies) and golden retriever from a puppy mill. What about app dating, match.com, chemistry.com, etc--Don't they solve the not wanting children dilemma? 

Online dating is also a wash unless one lives in a populous city. And even if one eventually gets lucky with a catch, that doesn't preclude the enormous time and effort used up finding them. Contemporary dating is just highly inefficient. 

The worst case scenario of an international marriage is helping them through their university education, and them high tailing it outta there once they attain citizenship. The worse case of a traditional marriage is basically the same thing except with the added negative of playing the dating game.

Therefore, an international marriage could be a worthwhile endeavor. The tricky part is finding a legitimate website.

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Just a comment here to say that I think the existence of this post and initiative is deeply offensive to women in general.  Posts like this I think are very detrimental to the image of Effective Altruism.