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    FAQ 110

    The Legalities of
    Getting Foreign Wives

    Q. How do you overcome the problem of getting wives from other countries without their passport [visas] running out? I've talked to and read forums letters where men have given up on trying to bring 2nd and 3rd wives from other countries over to the U.S.

    I am not an expert in the legalities domain, and less so when it comes to the United States, but I can say that in general this presents an almost insurmountable problem internationally no matter what country you are trying to import a wife to. Moreover, this is a problem that should be worked out before romance even starts in order to preclude disappointment. It's a problem we ourselves have had and involves more than just passport problems.

    Many missionaries visit foreign countries on tourist visas which vary in length from 3 to 6 months. This usually requires that they return home, or briefly visit another country (again, for varying lengths of time) before returning again. For a mother with children this presents an impossible situation, and for the family a vast expense. There are also issues of medical insurance. Unless you are willing to risk illegal immigration (which I strongly discourage) numerous obstacles face the migrant wife.

    The only 'safe' method is for the husband to 'legally' marry her (i.e. through the state). If he is already married 'legally' he will have to 'divorce' his first wife. This presents a number of issues on its own. It means that the first wife will lose certain legal rights and also risks her being left out in the cold, and the family ruined economically, should the marriage with the immigrant new wife not work out and she sue for support. Furthermore, there are plenty of 'economic refugees' who are more than willing to use a polygamy dupe as a means to get citizenship and then dump him when she has got it. Finally, you are limited to only one foreign wife.

    A second method is to find someone who has no intentions of ever getting married - whom you trust - who would be willing to perform a dummy marriage. This method does, of course, have several moral and ethical problems for the Christian/Messianic but may be the lesser of two evils. A paper divorce could then be arranged later. Were this to be done several times, multiple hazzards might result. What if the police decided to mount an investigation and found that the husband was cohabiting with four immigrant divorcees? Suspicions might be aroused. You never know.

    A third more drastic method - and one that is being contemplated by many - is to move country. Thus an American husband could take his American first wife to, say, a country like Kenya where polygamy is legal and then marry as many of the locals as he wishes. This usually only works if there is a real sense of mission and that it is clear this is where Yahweh wants the family to be. It also means never being able to return home permanently with your whole family and facing very different and challenging cultural and economic conditions.

    If you are lucky enough to belong to a semi-federation of nations like the Schengen countries of the European Union (EU) where borders are open and residence permits, with social benefits, are automatic for citizens of member states, then you are in a stronger position. There are somewhere in the order of 24 member nations now giving a wide range of choice, and the number are soon to expand. Thus when Poland becomes a member of the EU it will be possible for Polish polygamists to marry women from any of these countries without any sort of problem except the usual issues of keeping a low profile so as not to fall foul of anti-polygamy laws.

    Of course, if you're willing to wait for the One World Government when national boundaries are abolished, this will be a 'solution' of sorts. The trouble is that by that time Christians/Messianics may be being persecuted, polygamy may be openly persecuted, and we may all be living an underground existence in which case 'legalities' will be pretty meaningless. And it may become like the Soviet Union was, restricting citizens within certain areas. I don't recommend waiting for that, however.

    Trans-national marriages are a major complication unless, as I said, you are living in an EU-type situation. You've usually only one card to play that involves legal marriage and a new passport.

    I know a couple of families where an American or a European has, for example, married several women from one country (like Kenya) and simply moved there. The trouble is, then, that the husband can himself become vulnerable to the vagiaries of government whim and be thrown out leaving all his wives stuck behind. That could spell a potential disaster unless there is adequate church community protection for his family. In other words, don't move to a foreign country and try this alone! Make sure you have adequate church (assembly) backup. A solution to this dilemma is that the husband adopts the nationality of the country of his wives. That, however, may make him liable to military service in his adopted country and - if dual nationality is not permitted - mean he is stranded there for the rest of his life.

    What all of this means is that international polygamists like myself have to be very careful indeed. Our options are limited. There may be other solutions which vary from country to country, but usually they are only temporary. Some countries, for example, give missionary visas for 1-2 years. Wives can become au pairs (but Western governments are getting strict about the rules to prevent illegal immigration) for one year (and with high compulsory 'salaries'). None of these are permanent solutions, however. If a women is well educated, and her skills are in much demand, she may be able to get a Green Card for 5-10 years or longer. But then she would be committed to a job. Were she to get pregnant and want to stay at home, the Green Card might be revoked.

    As Christians/Messianics we can, and must, solve such problems through personal revelation. We simply have no other choice. However, we do need to thoroughly do the legal groundwork. Not a few mistakes have been made by many of us in this regard. If a man is economically mobile, creating two homes may be the only solution - one in his own country, and another in that of his new wife's. This is far from desirable for obvious reasons, and gets proportionally worse if there are several wives in different countries.

    It is unlikely that Western governments are ever likely to recognise polygamy in the near future, if at all. (Some countries, like France, now recognise polygamous marriages in the Moslem community and others like Holland have accepted bisexual polygamous partnerships). There have been some interesting cultural 'exceptions' but these are few and far between. There is the by now well known case of the Swede who went to Kenya, married two women from a polygamous tribe, and took them back to Sweden and got the government to recognise his marriage on 'cultural grounds'. But had he already had a Swedish wife it is doubtful he would have got far. And a recent case was pointed out to me of Moslem Pakistani men living in the United Kingdom having the right to bring polygamous wives to the UK and even get social welfare for them, again on 'cultural' grounds (though no doubt with a strong element of fear so as not so displease the huge Moslem minority in that country). But I doubt an Englishman marrying two Pakistanis would be granted the same privilege.

    Those contemplating international marriages should tread carefully and warily. The options are highly limited. For Americans, at any rate, that means finding wives within their own country. Given the surplass of women in the United States (some 6-7 million according to one statistic I read recently) this should not be a problem. Even if your intention is to only bring one foreign wife into the country and marrying her legally in order to get her US citizenship, you have a lot of work to do in persuading your American wife to renounce her legal marriage to you to enable that to happen. If that is your plan, she will need a lot of reassurance if she has built her security around that. She will need persuading and not forcing. Dissolving a legal contract does have the benefit of jogging first wives further out of the monogamy-only mindset but can introduce psychological instabilities in those who are spiritually weak. Consider this carefully also.

    I am not married civilly to any of my current wives (2003) for several reasons. First, so that no one wife has an advantage over another; Second, because I don't recognise the state's right to control marriage; and Third, for a wife I know is coming from outside Europe. For the others who will be a part of my family, I have other solutions lined up now that our European legal terrain is better known to me. As for Americans, they will have to do their own legal groundwork. And they should do it carefully and thoroughly.

    Author: SBSK

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    First created on 14 April 2003
    Updated on 18 May 2016

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