Many Americans believe they have the right to marry whomever they wish and to live with their spouses in the United States, even when their marriages are to residents of other countries. This belief and the practice of intermarriage between immigrants and American citizens have helped shape American immigration policy and influenced the composition of American society.
Under early twenty-first century U.S. immigration policies, valid marriages of citizens of the United States of America with foreign-born persons give the citizens the right to petition for permission for their spouses to enter the United States. After approval is given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, noncitizen spouses may apply for a
U.S. immigration policy, and ultimately the laws pertaining to marriage between aliens and citizens, has evolved in response to the American experience with earlier immigration, fear of change, and a number of major events that have affected U.S. history. Most early immigrants to what is now the United States came from northern and western Europe. After new immigrants arrived, they, in turn, brought in family members who added more permanence to the developing society. However, many immigrants also intermingled with Native Americans and people from countries other than those from which they themselves came. The federal
During the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the pool of immigrants entering the United States grew more diversified and included large numbers of people from southern and eastern Europe. In response to this new immigration, Congress enacted a series of restrictive laws that resulted in a U.S. quota system based on early migration patterns. These laws banned members of specific ethnic groups from immigrating, including those who were spouses of U.S. citizens.
During the 1940’s, some American military personnel who went overseas during World War II wanted to return home with their spouses from other countries. Under public pressure, Congress amended immigration laws for this purpose. The 1945
During the early 1970’s, American citizens gained the right to petition for their fiancés to be issued nonimmigrant
In 2000, the
Throughout American history, men have used long-distance correspondence to find spouses, also known as
Bean, Frank D., and Gillian Stevens. America’s Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003. Study of recent immigration and its impact on American society. Constable, Nicole. Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and “Mail Order” Marriages. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Research on the practice in which American men use introduction agencies to find Chinese and Filipina wives. Cott, Nancy F. Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. Wide-ranging study of the legal and social institution of marriage in the United States. Gordon, Linda W. “Trends in the Gender Ratio of Immigrants to the United States.” International Migration Review 39, no. 4 (Winter, 2005): 796-818. Provides information on recent immigration and the immigration laws that pertain to spousal migration. Jasso, Guillermina, and Mark R. Rosenzweig. The New Chosen People: Immigrants in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1990. Analysis of marriage and family reunification among immigrants in the United States.
Cable Act of 1922
“Marriages of convenience”
War Brides Act of 1945