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- The Quest for the Latin American Green Card
Well over a year ago more or less, I was sitting down in a bar in Mexico City with a friend of mine named Angie.
She is a Mexican chick that I used to hookup with quite often and go out for drinks a bit.
However, we hadn’t seen each other for quite a bit up until this point as circumstances like moving out of Mexico City to Pachuca made it more difficult to see each other.
Among other things…
Anyway, we were sitting down in a bar catching up and all.
She was telling me about her life since we last met…
Including things like how she has a boyfriend named Diego if I remember right and other things.
From there, she ended up mentioning about job opportunities she saw in the US.
Being a computer programmer, she knew she could made quite a bit more money in the US than in Mexico City.
And asked me (perhaps jokingly) if I could get her a green card to live in the US.
“Dame un green card!” she said jokingly.
To which I replied “how about we exchange green cards? You give me one to have Mexican citizenship and you can have American citizenship.”
“Deal!” she said laughingly.
Anyway, the idea isn’t that absurd, now is it?
I would like a Mexican green card!
Would make it easier to live in this country without having to do visa runs every 6 months.
And Angie can go make her millions programming in the US somewhere in California or wherever.
Maybe start her own Mexican version of Facebook and become a billionaire.
Wealthier than Carlos Slim and El Chapo combined.
Regardless, it’s actually a serious topic some foreigners get into.
This idea of marrying their way into Latin America for the “Latin Green Card.”
And once they get it, maybe they look as happy as these guys from Scarface here below…
It’s a topic that I have thought briefly about sometimes while down here.
And recently got reminded of it again after reading an article on another website called Expat Chronicles that touched the subject.
Having thought about it again and with the free time I have right now…
I figured I might as well touch the subject in more serious fashion by doing some research…
Are there foreigners who pursue the “Latin Green Card?”
Which countries does this happen in?
Let’s find out together based examples I could find online!
The "Chinese Mafia" in Costa Rica
First we have this article here that I found…
Where basically you have these Chinese migrants who look for Costa Ricans of poor financial background offering money for marriage.
How much do they pay?
In one example they provide, a 46 year old Costa Rican woman named Maria was offered about 175 bucks to marry this Chinese guy.
From her perspective, she agreed to marry the guy as she didn’t have any money while living in one of the poorer areas of San Jose.
With having a family to feed, she agreed to it.
And in Maria’s case, all she had to do was sign a marriage certificate in her neighborhood to get the money.
That was it.
From what the article says, she didn’t even know the guy personally.
Only had a photo of him by the middleman and that was it.
From there, she and some of her daughters ended up marrying other Chinese men down the road.
At any rate, the article goes into greater detail about how Costa Rica was investigating about 1,000 cases of sham marriages in 2018 and that number is “just the tip of the iceberg.”
Ultimately, many of the Chinese folks doing this do end up staying in Costa Rica but apparently many others aim to get into the US from Costa Rica as apparently Costa Rica is seen as a “gateway.”
For those curious, here's a video on this subject.
Cuban Love for Mexico!
Funny enough, there seems to be quite a few Cubans looking to marry Mexicans in order to be in Mexico.
At least based on all of the articles I accidently came across regarding this topic.
For example, this article here goes on about how Mexican women are charging Cuban guys 40,000 Mexican pesos or roughly 2,000 USD for marriage.
In this case, many of the Cubans marrying these Mexican chicks are trying to make their way into the US also.
Then this article here goes into some interesting details about how the Mexicans and Cubans doing this don’t even need to prove that they have had an intimate relationship for months prior to the marriage happening.
It also brings up an interesting example where a 27 year old Mexican woman named Rosalba met some Cuban dude named Dainier.
Ultimately, the dude agreed to pay her about 30,000 Mexican pesos or roughly 1,500 USD more or less.
From there, he promised that he would help her get into the US also being her “husband” and to carry out the necessary divorce also at a later point.
Funny enough, here’s a website where some Mexican person claimed that someone from Cuba wanted to sign papers for a sham marriage with them and this Mexican person is asking for legal advice.
Finally, this article here explains that apparently 30,219 Cubans legally arrived to Mexico between January and September 2017 with many of them also arrive to Honduras before trying to get through Mexico to the US.
Also, obviously not all of those Cubans are arriving by sham marriages to be fair from my understanding.
But when it comes to marriages…
Apparently about 10.3% of Cuba’s citizens who arrived to Mexico did so through marriage with a majority arriving to Mexico City to live there first.
Of course, it also begs the question as to how many of those in the 10.3% were part of false marriages since I imagine there are probably some genuine couples in there also.
Either way, those numbers are quite old reaching back well over a decade but were the latest numbers I could find for the moment in regards to Cubans arriving to Mexico.
But it also begs the question how many other foreigners from other countries apart from Cuba are doing this.
Well, this at least gives us an idea of how many could be doing this from Cuba to Mexico…
For those curious, here's a video on the subject.
Cuban Love for Ecuador!
Similarly, there seems to also be plenty of Cuban love for Ecuador!
According to this article here, there have been so many Cubans trying to marry Ecuadorians that the Ecuadorian government was forced in 2010 to require a temporary visa from foreigners looking to marry an Ecuadorian.
This article here also states that the Ecuadorian government passed a resolution requiring all foreigners wishing to marry a Ecuadorian to prove a stay of at least 75 days in the country.
The same article goes on about how Ecuadorian intelligence agencies have been investigating what networks exist to coordinate these marriages.
With one Ecuadorian man being arrested after being caught offering brides to Cuban citizens.
Good business ideas – I imagine the Ecuatorianas Lindas are quite attractive.
Regardless, there was also another Ecuadorian and a Cuban that were arrested after admitting to being in a “sham marriage” with the Cuban paying the other 300 bucks for the arrangement.
Similar to the Costa Rican situation, it seems that Ecuadorians in poorer financial situations are often more targeted for these arrangements.
One difference though that I am getting from comparing this to the situation of Cubans looking to get into Mexico…
Is that, from my limited perspective reading into this, it seems the Cubans going to Ecuador are less likely to be using Ecuador as a springboard into get into the US.
And, as the article above points out, many of them go into La Florida neighborhood of Quito to work or start their own business.
With no mention of trying to escape into the US.
Which makes sense also I suppose as Ecuador doesn’t seem to have a border with the US for anyone familiar with geography.
Kind of like going the opposite direction of where you’d want to go.
The number of Cubans looking to marry an Ecuadorian increased from 88 Cuban-Ecuadorian marriages in 2007 to 1,542 marriages in 2009 with 15% of those marriages determined to be sham marriages.
Of course, it makes me wonder if the number was even higher than 15% but the government wasn’t able to verify that.
After all, that’s quite an increase in such a short amount of time and I’m not confident that the government would’ve had all dedicated all the resources necessary to properly investigate each marriage.
What – did the dating website Latin American Cupid explode in popularity in Ecuador that they all found Cuban ladies in that time?
And, as I wrote here, there’s plenty of Cuban scammers on some of these dating websites…
Real Love in Panama?
According to this article here, there have been cases of possible sham marriages being done in Panama also.
Going back to that BBC article I brought up under Costa Rica here, one of the Chinese chicks that investigated said that she tried to get into Panama first but apparently Panama was stricter.
So she went with Costa Rica instead where she got in.
Now according to that first article brought up above, the National Migration Service of Panama rejected 173 foreigners interested in getting citizenship or residency from a marriage with a citizen of Panama.
Apparently most of the applicants were from Colombia, Venezuela or the Dominican Republic with some being from Nicaragua, Peru, Spain, China and Russia.
And from what I could tell from reading that article, it seems from my perspective that Panama is a bit stricter on who they approve the marriages of when compared to countries like Mexico or Costa Rica.
With a stronger application process to review the marriage requests and also officials actually visiting the place where the married couple lives to verify that they actually live together.
In 2017, this article here shows that Panama seemed equally tough on marriages between foreigners and citizens of Panama as apparently 40% of the 3,493 of the applications to get residency through marriage were rejected.
With one example they have of a couple that tried getting married but got rejected.
Where the Panamanian authorities arrived to the residence where they claimed to live together but found out both individuals lived in the building but in separate apartments with a different partner.
The article goes on anyway about how most of the applicants getting rejected are usually of Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan or Venezuelan descent.
In that case, it is interesting how Nicaraguan and Venezuelan are in that list.
Both countries being relatively poorer in Latin America and have a history of citizens leaving to find a better life elsewhere in neighboring Latin countries.
Perhaps less inclined to use these countries as “gateways” to the US in this case and more just trying to find a better life in a nicer neighboring country.
Bolivia: The Gateway to Europe
Here’s a funny little example to bring up that I came across.
When sitting down to write this article, I didn’t think that I would find anyone trying to marry citizens of poorer Latin countries.
You know – Bolivians, Nicaraguans, Paraguayans, etc.
Mostly because I would assume that foreigners trying to marry into Latin America are probably coming from a desperate point in life and would pick a wealthier and more comfortable country to settle down in.
But sometimes circumstances make it where even poorer countries like Bolivia can get some love!
According to this older article here dated in 2006, it was apparently the case that Bolivian citizens didn’t need a visa to get into Europe at that time.
Given that fact, you had citizens of specifically Ecuador, Cuba, China and Peru marrying Bolivian citizens for the purpose of getting Bolivian citizenship.
From there, they could then travel visa free to Europe.
Apparently, during that time anyway, there were a decent amount of Bolivians who had already traveled to countries like Spain for better job prospects
And so these foreigners from outside of Bolivia would try to marry their way in for that same benefit.
With apparently many of them paying upwards of 10,000 to 20,000 USD.
Compared to the first two examples I brought up with Costa Rica and Mexico…
I’m starting to see a pattern here of folks marrying their way into certain Latin countries to use as gateway to the wealthier ones outside the region like the US or those in Europe.
Europeans Escaping to Brazil
According to this article here, “visa requests through marriage increased by 95 percent to 6,303 petitions, according to Brazil's Justice Ministry. In 2011, the figures fell, with 3,479 petitions from foreigners requesting visas. About 13 percent were denied.”
Those figures were from 2009 to 2010.
Apparently a number of those marriages were sham marriages by Spaniards trying to marry their way into Brazil as jobs in Spain around that time were relatively scarce.
In one example that the article brings up, a guy named Carlos paid around 1,200 Euros to a Brazilian woman to marry him so he can stay and hopefully work in Brazil.
There is another Spanish guy named Luis who also pursued this path apparently.
Where he is gay but ended up marrying some Brazilian chick.
According to the article, he pulled it off and could enjoy being naturalized as a Brazilian citizen in a year (assuming he doesn’t get caught).
Furthermore, the article elaborates that the Spanish, Germans and Britons are the most popular nationalities to marry Brazilians.
How many of them are sham marriages?
Who knows as apparently numbers are hard to come by.
Though this article here claims that there was a 90% increase of permanent visa requests through marriage with Brazilians from 2009 to 2012.
And it seemed quite common apparently back then for it to happen in which people from certain European countries were looking to find ways to exploit better job prospects elsewhere in countries like Brazil.
This second article here also confirms just that in which it elaborates some more on the situation of Europeans looking to marry their way into Brazil.
While providing also this Brazilian source here that seemed to be the first one to talk about this issue.
For those curious, here's a video in general about Europeans looking to move to Brazil.
Bringing Drugs to Uruguay?
According to this article here, the Ministry of Interior in Uruguay has been suspicious of foreigners applying for permanent residency through marriage with Uruguayan folks.
The concern here is that apparently there might be folks associated with organized crime trying to marry their way into Uruguay so that they can more freely do their dirty work in the country.
In the years prior to 2010, thousands of applications were submitted but only 2,000 were opened in 2010.
Apparently much of the concern dates to the fact that some foreigner with ties to drug trafficking managed to get permanent residency after marrying a Uruguayan citizen.
Based on reading the article, it didn’t seem clear to me that there was much evidence of this happening outside of that one foreigner.
Though maybe there are other public examples not mentioned in that article to be fair.
Either way, it seems like Uruguay took precautionary measures after finding out a way in which criminals (such as those trafficking drugs) could get Uruguayan citizenship.
I imagine anyway that there might be some benefits to such citizenship as also Uruguay is part of MERCOSUR and having Uruguayan citizenship, from my understanding, would allow easier access into other MERCOSUR nations (like Argentina, Brazil or Paraguay).
First, as I said, I was surprised to see a country like Bolivia get so much attention in the past for sham marriages.
Similarly, as I said before, there is this example here of Ecuador having the same issue as Mexico for so many Cubans looking to have sham marriages in their country.
Though, based on my brief reading, it seemed like the Cubans going to Ecuador seem relatively more interested in staying in Ecuador than going to the US.
Second, I was thinking I would find more examples of people doing sham marriages to go to countries like Chile, Argentina or Uruguay but had difficulty finding any information on that.
Though, as you know, I did find some on Europeans going to Brazil.
I’d have thought that there would be more in general trying to make their way into the wealthier Latin countries regardless.
Third, I’d be curious if there are cases of Venezuelans trying to do sham marriages into nearby Latin countries to get the hell out of Venezuela. I did find one article of some doing that in Spain but couldn’t find any for Latin countries.
Fourth, it was interesting to see the methods people would take to use these Latin countries as springboards into wealthier countries outside of the region.
Fifth, it’s interesting also how a lot of the folks who are seeking these sham marriages are Latinos themselves from neighboring countries.
I have read (and seen) people from other parts of the world like countries in Africa arrive to Mexico looking to get into the US.
Just go into the Metro of CDMX and you might see one once in a blue moon.
So I was curious to see if there are numbers for those from Africa trying to do this but I couldn’t find anything though on that.
China though for sure!
Either way, I’d also have liked to find broader numbers as to which countries in Latin America have more sham marriages.
But those numbers don’t seem to exist.
If I had to guess, based on what I read, I’d go with Mexico since it would be the obvious choice if someone wanted to get into the US illegally.
Anyway, that’s all I could find on the topic for now.
If you have any relevant comments, experiences or questions, drop them below in the comment section.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.
Been away for awhile but great to catch up with your latest articles! Great stuff by the way, Matt.
I am sure as the world gets richer there will be more of this kind of thing, if you want to see the extreme end of the bizarre on this subject, look up ‘Chinese men marrying Ugandans’ as there are Chinese men marrying Ugandan women so they can get residency in Uganda, wherever you are in the world there is bound to be opportunity I suppose, if you have a few quid in a third world country, that would be a quick way of getting some kind of permanent residency.
When I was living in South Korea, I knew of a friend of mine who married some Korean fella so she could gain residency though when she got a good offer back in her home country (Australia…) she then divorced and left her Korean husband.
I like your idea of a beer when I am in Mexico City, I will drop you a line in a bit, hope things are well!