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The Implications Of Using Marriage To Move Abroad

  • Written by Dave

Because I no longer live in the US, I’ve been called a traitor more than once. This is generally from people who probably give amusing definitions of what a traitor is. Were my French wife to live with me in the US, I wonder if they would call her a traitor too? Probably not. But at the end of the day, if you marry someone from another country, at least one of you is going to wind up living in a different country. Damned traitor.

In the years of writing this blog, I have never specifically written a post about moving abroad via marriage. Though it may come as a surprise to some, this lack has been deliberate. Not only did I assume that most people knew about this route, but I also didn't feel the need to write on some rather unsavory topics in this area, but I think the time has come to talk about it.

Recently I was contacted by someone living in the US who wanted a better understanding of the job market for IT in Europe. He has read my post about how to get a job in Sweden and as it turns out, he and his wife are particularly interested in the possibility of moving there, but they have a child, and a home, and he has a secure job. The concern expressed is that he is worried that such security won't last in the US. It's a common theme that I often hear from people contacting me (though to be fair, I hear this about residents of many countries).

After sending him a lengthy reply, he dropped a bit of a bombshell statement: his wife has Spanish citizenship, so moving to Spain is always a fallback position.

What? Hold on there! If your spouse has EU citizenship, things change dramatically! If your spouse is an EU citizen, you have the legal right to live and work anywhere in the EU that your spouse lives! Your children also have the right to public education. No work permit is required. No residence permit is required. You only have to go through some pro forma paperwork and bam, you're in! Of course, there is also an assessment of whether or not your marriage is a sham, but  assuming it's not (or you're good liars), you're good to go.

Even if your spouse is not a citizen of another country, they still might be able to claim citizenship via ancestry. Getting married doubles your chances of moving abroad!

Well, sort of. Countries are quite happy to find all sorts of restrictions. For example, if you've met the love of your life and she lives in a small town in Cumbria and you marry her, the British government may very well tell you that you're not allowed to move to the UK. That's because the UK restricts the marriage visa with financial requirements and she will have to earn, at minimum, £18,600 to allow you to live with her. There are many jobs in Cumbria which pay less than this amount (particularly if you live in countryside) and you can survive just fine on that amount. However, even though this restriction violates EU law, many UK politicians are throwing their toys of our the pram once they realize that joining the EU meant cooperating with other countries and thus said politicians are quite happy to ignore EU law. Sadly, real people are getting hurt by the UK marriage visa restrictions.

If you do find yourself falling in love with someone from another country, though, just remember that if you get married, you probably have the right to live together (though there are often severe restrictions for gay couples), but be careful if you decide to go looking for someone from another country.

Many years ago when I was still living in the US, I was on a dating Web site when I stumbled across the profile of a British lady who seemed interesting, attractive, and wrote that she desperately loved American men and wanted to settle down with one. I sent her a message. She sent me a reply. "Deposit $50,000 in my account for marriage."

Sigh. From the opening paragraph of the U.S. State Department's warnings on marriage scams:

U.S. citizens should be aware of individuals they meet on internet dating websites who feign friendship, profess romantic interest, and/or express marriage intentions over the internet. Scammers commonly claim to be U.S. citizens who are engaged in international business, requiring them to frequently travel overseas. In fact, these individuals are not U.S. citizens. Many scammers also claim some sort of connection to Europe.

This is insanely common. Many people wanting to explore the world fall victim to this, though some voluntarily pay money for sham marriages. I was recently reading an article  (which I can’t find right now) claiming that after the discovery that 100% of Tunisians marrying Norwegians ended their marriages after the Tunisians got permanent residency in Norway, the marriages dropped to almost zero after Norway made it illegal to pay for marriage. If you do choose to go this route, be careful. It’s generally illegal and can easily get you deported and banned from a country.

That being said, the "mail-order" marriage route is still out there. Listverse has an interesting summary of some misconceptions, including the interesting tidbit that sometimes the brides are legitimate and want a husband to move to their country. Divorce rates for mail-order marriages also tend to be lower than the US average, something that would surprise many.

And then there is Cherry Blossoms. Once a print magazine for mail-order brides, it's now a Web site for them. There's considerable controversy around mail-order marriages, but so long as there is mail/internet, the practice will continue.

Getting married is certainly one way of moving abroad, but there are definitely pitfalls. You'll also have to consider the case of what happens if you separate/divorce too early. You may just get deported, so you had better read up on the law and make sure you understand it. And it's not a step to be taken lightly, so unless you're in dire straits or in love (possibly the same thing), I would not recommend it.

Dave Lister

The world's most sought-after consultant on international tax planning, investment immigration, and global citizenship. Dave has personally lived this lifestyle for over a decade, and now works with entrepreneurs and investors who want to live free.

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