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|Visa Marriages: Going to America through Marriage|
Written By: Assma Almasmari
Article Date: April 14, 2008
Since the mid eighties, Yemeni Americans have used their daughters as a way to help other families enter the United States, in search for a better future. Fathers would bring home their Yemeni American daughter and have her choose from the many that come to ask for her hand in marriage. In most situations, the marriage stays in the family and cousins and relatives are given priority over others.
When a Yemeni American female becomes eighteen, and after high school, parents often decide to take a visit back to Yemen. Just days upon their arrival, the females are shocked with the great rush towards them from people they sometimes don’t even know. “It’s hard to get married this way. You feel inside you that he is only asking for your hand in marriage because you can give him a chance to enter America. I want to marry someone who accepts me for who I am, and not what I have,” said Ifrah Ahmad, a Yemeni American who refused to get married from Yemen when she visited the country after her 24th birthday. “From another angle, the Yemeni men in America are not as trustworthy as the ones back home, making it difficult for a person to accept their marriage proposal. It is a really complicated situation.”
The cost of marriage from a Yemeni American female can sometimes go to crazy ends, and prices have skyrocketed over the last few years. In the past, the cost of the visa would be negotiated along with the dowry of the women, and the price would not exceed $10,000. However today the price for visa marriage has more than tripled, as the price can reach as high as $50,000 in places like Juban and Ba’adaan. Places where the prices get lower is near Rada’a and Riyashiyyah, where the average visa cost slightly exceeds the $25,000 range. “When I got married seven years ago, I paid $12,000 for the cost of the visa. Last year when I wanted to get my brother married to a Yemeni American, the father asked for over $40,000. We declined the marriage agreement, because the price was too high, and with the weak American economy today, it would take him over 10 years to pay off his debts,” said Saleh Ahmad Shaarafi, a Yemeni American who is now preparing his masters degree in medicine in the United States.
Husbands who recently married Yemeni American women have found difficulties paying of their loans upon their arrival to America. Many would do anything to get a chance to enter America, but will only realize that it was not worth it after they enter the country, and suffer from numerous angles including cultural, language barrier, and the difficulties of finding a decent job.
Senior Yemeni American citizens claim that this practice started in Ibb governorate, for it having the largest number of resident who are currently living in the United States. According to Mohammed Al-Shaibi, a Yemeni leader in the state of California, an estimated 350,000 residents of Ibb currently reside in the United States. Yemeni government sources could not clarify the number, claiming that it does not have accurate numbers of Yemeni Americans from the different governorates.
Men who choose to get married to Yemeni American women often complain of having big problems in their marriage. Some say that this is because the woman has the upper hand in the marriage, as she is the reason for him coming to America in the first place. “She is not the reason I am in America. I paid tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for the visa. Her family did not give it to me as a gift for me to be grateful for what they did,” said Muneef Ali Al-Muraisi, a Yemeni who divorced his Yemeni American wife after he got his U.S citizenship. “During our marriage, she used to scream and act like god, always threatening me to take me back to Yemen if I don’t cooperate with her. After I got my American citizenship, I divorced her, because life was becoming more difficult with her.”
A new trend which seems to be spreading quickly over the last four years in visa marriages is that parents of the girl would not ask visa money from the husband of their daughter only if he decided to go to America. If he chooses to marry her and stay in Yemen, the family would not charge the husband the tens of thousands of dollars that is usually taken for the cost of the visa. “My daughter married a pilot in Yemen, and he never wanted to live in America. In the marriage agreement, he would not be asked to pay the visa money only if he traveled to the United States. I think this way is fair for both sides,” said Rashid Al-Maweri, a retired Yemeni American currently living in the capital Sana’a.
Fortunately, some families do not give this issue much importance and would give their daughter’s hand in marriage for no additional cost. Even though these families are numbered, but they are seen increasing on a daily basis. “ Wael Mohammed, a Yemeni who married a Yemeni American teacher, mentions that he did not pay a single dollar for his wife’s visa, and his in-laws even helped him more, by decreasing the dowry to less than $2000, something seen as a very rare matter in the United States among Yemenis. “I respect my in-laws even more now, because I know that they did something that most families would not do. I still believe that all families should follow these foot steps, therefore easing the way of marriage for both genders,” he said.