I would like to clarify certain aspects of the processes and opinions involved in the mail-order bride industry in the United States
In general, the men involved buy more than one address, and women's addresses are purchased multiple times, so correspondence occurs with multiple partners at once.
If a corresponding couple decide to marry, there are certain hoops they must jump through
In order to bring a spouse to the United States, you need one of two kinds of immigration visa:
1. A K-1 fiance visa. This takes about 4-6 months, and then the foreign national comes to the States to marry one person in particular. If they marry anyone else or fail to marry the chosen spouse within 90 days, their status becomes illegal and they can be deported.
2. A spousal visa. This takes a few months more and is generally considered more of a hassle. It also entails getting married in the foreign country.
For both of these, the INS requires some proof (usually a photograph) that the couple has met in person before it will grant the visa.
As kamamer says, the former Soviet republics and the Philippines are by far the largest exporters of mail order brides. However, there are no official statistics on the numbers of mail order brides who enter the States, because the industry is unregulated.
kamamer's characterization of the men involved is only partially correct. What data there is indicates that more than half the men are highly educated (2 or more years of college), divorced, and politically conservative. It is true that they are in general much older than their foreign wives, but I do not believe that their choice has to do with desirability to the American woman. These men, according to their own websites as well as several studies conducted in the last decade (Glodava, 94 and Scholes, 96 and 99 have some useful references), are looking for traditional women who do not want careers, who have no "strings" attached (e.g. kids, debt), and who will in general take the '50s housewife role. They believe that they cannot find what they want in any American woman, so they turn to other localities to get it. One other attraction they cite is the "beauty and mystery of the Oriental woman." Some people would argue that this is an exoticizing and harmful basis on which to marry.
Women's rights NGOs such as the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women hold that because money is changing hands and because of the built-in economic inequality, this is a form of prostitution and a violation of human rights. They believe that what DMan calls Passport whores are victims of trafficking. The men hold that this is the women's free choice and that to restrict it is a violation of their individual liberty.
Other interesting items:
-Most Filipinas speak English. Some estimates range as high as 90% having some degree of fluency.
-Solicitation of Filipinas to emigrate as mail-order brides is illegal in the Philippines and carries a mandatory prison sentence of 6-8 years, as well as a fine of up to 8000 pesos (only $150) and deportation if the perpetrator is not a citizen.
-There is no evidence on either side of the oft-stated contention that these relationships are more prone to abuse. In 1996, Congress ordered an investigation on this, and the results, reported in 1999 by the INS, were inconclusive (they used a convenient sample and had too small a sample size). Interestingly, the women's rights NGOs are not very interested in conducting any studies on this. They argue that logically, the abuse rate should be greater in these relationships. That is enough for them to call for public and private money to go to specialized abuse services for these women in particular.
I am not an apologist for the men who acquire mail-order brides, but I do think a full understanding of the issue, including the subtleties and ideologies of the arguments involved is important to understand for someone with a serious interest in this subject.