Intermarriage: Historical Patterns of Immigration

Intermarriage: Changes following the Immigration Act of 1965

Definition: Marriage unions between citizens and noncitizens

Significance: 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 K-3 visa. This preferential nonimmigrant category has a relatively short waiting period, permits the applicants to apply for work in the United States, and provides the opportunity for permanent resident status. This category of immigration has become a major vehicle for new immigrants to the United States, thanks to the fact that family reunification has become a basic goal of U.S. immigration policy.

Cynthia J. W. Svoboda

Further Reading

  • 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. 

See also: Amerasian children; Cable Act of 1922; Child immigrants; Families; Filipino immigrants; Mail-order brides; Marriage; “Marriages of convenience”; War brides; War Brides Act of 1945.

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