Want to get married? First, have an American green cardMore and more Nepalis are flocking to marriage bureaus to find partners—and their biggest requirement is permanent residency in a first world country.
Gone are the days when matrimonial advertisements would seek “a fair skin, sanskari girl, who can do household chores”. Today, requirements for a life partner are different. Of course, people still want to have their own love story with all the elements of a romantic movie: wooing each other, going away for romantic getaways, and finally marrying each other—the happy ending of their story. But along with wanting a partner ‘who’s everything you ever wanted’, people now have added a new requirement: they want someone who is a permanent resident in a first world country.
More and more Nepalis, particularly the urban populace, seem to prefer to get married to Nepalis who have permanent residency in Australia or are green cardholders in the US—the two countries being the most sought-after destinations. And playing cupid for these people is a pool of marriage bureaus.
“The primary requirement of most of our clients is they want a Nepali who is based in Australia or America,” says Rajendra Prasad Poudel, manager of Bihebari, a Kathmandu-based marriage bureau. Currently, his company handles more than 500 clients who can freely register through their website and fill the forms to let his team know about their requirements. Bihebari has an office in Baneshwor, Kathmandu, where one can inquire about the bureau’s services firsthand.
For a certain cost, Poudel provides a host of “marriage-able” options from his database—which is collected mostly through social media. After two people take a liking to each other, a meeting is set by the bureau—which can be either physical or digital. Then the reins are handed over to the couple; whether they want to pursue further meetings or not is completely up to them.
This obsession over the West is not a new phenomenon in Nepal, and in many other developing South Asian countries, say marriage bureau operators. In fact, Bollywood even made a movie recently, Motichoor Chaknachoor, which centres around this very issue, with its central character’s only purpose in life is to find a foreign-settled groom.
Many people in this South Asian region, especially younger generations, have been flying to western countries for years with their own aspirations. The number is increasing so rapidly that even some of the host countries are worried about the swift growth of the migration.
Most people who want to get married to a Nepali with residency from countries like the US or Australia see the marriage as an opportunity for them to settle in foreign lands with their spouses through the dependent visa process.
“I joined the bureau so I could find a suitable life partner who has settled abroad,” says a 23-year-old client of Bihebari who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The client says that the main reason she wants a husband who’s settled in the West is for her future security. “Struggling in a foreign land is more fruitful than struggling here in Nepal. There’s much hope that you’ll be more successful abroad than here. That’s why I want a Nepali man living in the West for marriage,” says the client.
Poudel says that sometimes his clients are so adamant on finding Non-residential Nepali (NRN) partners that they tell him to match them with anyone as soon as possible—forgoing all their other requirements. “There was a female client who wanted a partner living in Australia because all her sisters were there. She said that she wanted to settle there so she could have a fun life like her sisters,” says Poudel.
Laxman Singh Timilsina, manager of Lami Nepal, another online matrimonial site, says the case is the same at his bureau too. “The number one priority my clients have is to find someone who’s settled outside Nepal,” says Timilsina. He believes that it’s the likelihood of them settling in the West that makes them find NRNs as desirable partners.
However, the services of marriage bureaus are limited only to match-making. They do not make arrangements for the dependent visa process. “Our job is just to provide the match they’re looking for. It’s their personal choice if they want to pursue the match further,” says Timilsina.