‘State dowry’ for Maldivians who marry foreigners

A new rule requires Maldivians who wish to marry foreigners to seek permission from the Ministry of Immigration and Emmigration, and pay a deposit.

According to the new law, instituted today, the Maldivian would-be spouse must pay the deposit money to the ministry as per existing requirements for work visas.

Prior to that, a specific form designed for mixed marriages has to be completed and submitted to the immigration department for approval.

Resident permits for foreigners married to Maldivians will also be renewed only upon the payment of the deposit, meaning those already married must also pay.

“It’s horrible, it makes me feel like a worker in Maldives and not part of this country,” was the reaction of Sasha, a British woman married to a Maldivian for the past six years.

Tightening regulations

“We are not the ones giving approval, a form has to be filled out and once the family court has approved and stamped it, we will give the go ahead,” says Controller of Immigration, Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim.

Ilyas signed off on the contentious rule, but says it was on the request of the family court.

“Too many Maldivians are getting married to foreigners,” he said, adding that it was mostly done for “bad purposes.”

He cites the case of contract marriages: “Mostly it’s Bangladeshi men who get the girl to marry him, and then she is paid a monthly sum,” he said.

He also says there have been cases of Nigerian men hooking up with Maldivian girls through the internet, then coming to the country and getting married “and after a few months he doesn’t even have enough money to cover his expenses.”

Ilyas said people had been returned to their home countries after a divorce “on the government’s expense.”

The registrar of the family court Ahmed Abdulla agreed with Ilyas, saying too many false marriages were occurring “mostly for visas or other purposes.”

He said the new ruled was intended to protect Maldivian women, as ”men get married here, and just take off without divorcing the woman, or paying her living expenses.”

130 mixed marriages were registered in the Maldives last year, mostly to natives of neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Ahmed says a few extreme cases also have occurred, where Maldivian kids have been taken abroad by the foreign partner.

“Recently a Maldivian woman was divorced and sent back, while the man kept their kids and to this day she has not been able to get any news of them.”

Abdullah refuses to name the country, saying simply its located “near the Middle East”.

The deposit scheme was not “a total solution” but it was “a necessary step”, he said.

“When bad things happen we have to react.”

The family court has also brought changes to existing criteria for approving mixed marriages.

“Before a foreigner had to earn a monthly minimum of Rf5000 (US$380) to get married. Now the earnings have to be Rf15,000 (US$1150),” he said.

Such criteria were necessary, he said, “as a lot of Bangladeshi men don’t earn enough to take care of their families and this gives rise to social problems.”

Lack of Rights

Sasha’s husband says the new rule “disgusts” him.

“I did not bring her here to work for me,” he says.

Despite his unhappiness with the new rule, he acknowledges that it does offer some protection to foreign women stranded in the Maldives.

“Girls who face abuse and are victimised one way or the other in their marriages; at least they will be able to leave the country if they want to now.”

But, he believes, another way should be found to tackle the issue.

Interestingly enough, the person who implemented the rule, Ilyas, is also married to a foreigner.

“For the rights of the foreign partner one should turn towards the Majlis, there are no regulations that give them any rights on this soil,” he says.

He refers to an existing regulation whereby a foreigner can apply for citizenship after 12 years, if he or she is well versed in Dhivehi, in the religion, and supplies certificates for other criteria.

“But even with all these requirements, it still depends on the mood of the president if a person can be given citizenship.”

Ilyas cites the name of a well known doctor, among the four people who have been granted this privilege by the previous government.

“You can be married for 25 to 60 years and still live here on a resident permit.”

His wife is not eligible for health insurance, and everywhere they go they have to queue separately.

“I can’t even get her registered as a member of my household,” he notes.

However he says this rule would offer her a degree of protection, if they ever divorced.

“It’s not the status of a worker, but that of a foreigner. Here you remain a foreigner forever; the regulations don’t give them even half the rights of a Maldivian.”

Sacha’s resident permit must to be renewed in four years.

“If I remain here forever, the money will remain locked in a deposit in the ministry. Is this a way to generate interest from funds?” she questions.

She says her friends who are in mixed marriages will be furious.

“I have a baby, would I have to pay a 50 per cent deposit for him also since he is half-foreign?”

Her business is also registered in the name of her husband: “I can’t even own anything here, I have no rights and now I have the status of a foreign worker.”

Sasha’s name changed on her request.


55 thoughts on “‘State dowry’ for Maldivians who marry foreigners”

  1. A really good move by the government. And I'm glad no discrimination is made between European and Asian people here.

    I hope now some people will think twice before they think of marriage as a means to get visa in Maldives.

  2. what is this country coming to now? finding new ways to squeeze the last cent from the citizens. does this mean marriage is also like a business transaction now.
    u cannot even marry the person you love anymore because you don't earn enough. happiness is the right of the rich.
    when will we ever be freed of this tyranny and be treated equally. i curse the day i voted for anni

  3. Disgusting! The constitution gives the right to equal treatment for all; in this case two Maldivians are differentiated based on "who" they marry. This is blatant disregard for human rights.

    It is unacceptable to cite that this law prevents phony marriages. Why not castrate foreign would-be husbands to ensure they are truly serious in marrying the Maldivian woman!

    Someone ought to sue the Immigration & Family Court to kindom-come!

  4. I believe that this rule only applies to those wishing to marry Maldivians, but not those who are already married. So Shasha need not worry as that is how law works. It does not go retrospectively. While the rights of a few 'love birds' might be affected, it is in the best interest of the general public. This has nothing to do with the equal rights granted in the constitution. Even in the US the visa and citizenship requirements are different for people from different countries.

  5. The reason for such a law is to stop the rising number of Maldivians marrying Bangladeshi and Sri-Lankan laborers.

    RF-15000 a month, even the locals here don't make such money and One would think there is no discrimination in this law.

    "May Allah have mercy on us. Ameen"

  6. @Shaya.. there is definitely an unsaid discrimination here between Asians and Europeans and between Asians and Asians.. How many Bangladeshi workers can earn a monthly income above $1500? Also, a Bangladeshi worker has to keep Rf 8000 as a security deposit, a Sri-Lankan 4000 and an Indian 3500.

  7. It is wrong to apply this rule retrospectively. But the law itself is a step towards protecting more vulnerable individuals. One good thing about this is that it does not discriminate whites from coloured. Sasha should be the last one to speak about Human rights. Her own country UK by law discrimanted between whites and Asians. At least the Maldivian authorities deal with foreigners with some respect. In UK The Border Agency officials are like a bunch of grade 6 kids who don't even know how to speak someone over the phone.

  8. hehehe it is the same if you try to create prostitution business.also you have to pay rufiya for work perition and visa.every day more and more crazy idea from government.but try to see what is of that hidden in shadow part of the new stupid regulation.it is step not to democracy,it is step to the nazi and Hitler theory.so for Maldivians who marry foreigners next regulation will be about Blue blood group?Aries rase permition?skin colour and skull size?
    it is democracy?

  9. Pil - the article clearly states that the rule will also apply to those who are already married:
    "Resident permits for foreigners married to Maldivians will also be renewed only upon the payment of the deposit, meaning those already married must also pay."
    I personally find this new rule pretty offensive - and I am struggling to understand it. Does anyone know of any other country which make it impossible for its citizens to marry who they want, unless they can afford to do so? Certainly, visa and immigration restrictions apply in many countries in order to try and prevent fake marriages - but to insist that the foreigner must not only have a job but also earn an amount that is considerably more than the national average wage before they can get married to a local is simply ridiculous. Imagine if the same rule was applied to anyone who wanted to get married... Although, actually, I suppose that might do something to encourage the large numbers of voluntarily unemployed Maldivians to stop being so lazy and find themselves a job! Which in turn would reduce the demand for cheap foreign labour... and thus the number of foreigners wanting to marry Maldivians would fall... Problem solved!

  10. Aww. This is like a slap over my face! My dreams .... Im 30yrz and all im waitn is to mary my non maldivian boyfriend! Nw wot to do?? Wil i die lyk tis or...

  11. Good move by the government. Most countries do have such regulations, for good reason. It is high time we make them too.

    I think they should also make regulations to make sure of the following.
    1. Maldivians married to foreigners cannot be a Maldivian President.
    2. Maldivian President cannot marry a foreigner.
    3. People born to two Maldivian parents only can be eligible for the post of Maldivian President.

    We are Maldivians. We do not want a man or a woman with a foreign spouse to rule our beautiful country. Nor do we want to see a foreigner as our president's mother or father.

    We are talking about the royal family. There cannot be anyone less than 100 percent Maldivian in our royal family.

  12. Individual rights should not be squashed under the guise of "best interest of general public". A "public" ceases to exist when individual rights ceases. Sorry but US is not the role model! When did it become the natural law of equality & justice by stating "even in the US..."?

  13. this is against the human rights. another way to sqeeze the maldivians. is this " heyo veri kan".

  14. I encourage as many Maldivians as possible to either emigrate away from this hell-hole or rise up against the government.

    A few bad apples does not make Maldivian women your property or give your dumb government the right to take money from me for marrying the woman I love.

    Reality WILL take it's course and your country WILL tank. Leave it while you can, while there's still some money coming in from tourism. And be thankful for that because soon those resorts will be taxed to death and you won't even have that economic support.

  15. It does affect those already married - the article says :

    "Resident permits for foreigners married to Maldivians will (also) be renewed only upon the payment of the deposit, meaning those already married must also pay."

  16. Maybe they should better investigate the people getting married, heavily fine such couples once they're undeniably caught, etc. I don't know, take some time to analyze and refine the system before just taking the easy way out and simply charge more.

    So I guess Maldivians can only fall in love with and marry really rich foreigners then huh.

  17. Isn't it possible that Bangladeshi men and Maldivian women fall in love just like Maldivian women and men fall in love with each other? This is pure discrimination. What about all the married Maldivian men/women who cannot support themselves and their spouse let alone make Rf15,000 per month? I wonder what percentage of Maldivian work force actually makes over Rf 15,000 per month. How can we expect a foreigner to make that much money working and living in the Maldives? It is not only foreign spouses who might not support you financially or might divorce you and take your children away from you. As a Maldivian woman I would be better off marrying a Bangladeshi man who actually works hard to make a living than marry a Maldivian who chooses to be unemployed because he will not do any work where he cannot wear a nice shirt or spend his work day on coffee breaks but rather chooses to mooch off his family.

  18. So now a foreigner is not only forced to change his/her religion (!) for a Maldivian if the couple wants to live in the Maldives, now he/she also has to earn sufficiently in order to get married.

    While this regulation may indeed, in some cases, prevent exploitative marriages, it discriminates people.

    What is a - loving - couple's alternative then? Not being married but living together? Also against the law. So they have to leave the country.

    Things are going terribly wrong... Maldives still having the highest divorce rate in the world.

    Curious to see if this new law really prevents phony marriages...

  19. "I think they should also make regulations to make sure of the following.
    1. Maldivians married to foreigners cannot be a Maldivian President.
    2. Maldivian President cannot marry a foreigner.
    3. People born to two Maldivian parents only can be eligible for the post of Maldivian President. "

    I'm pretty sure this already exits in the constitution, as it should. People with loyalties to two (or more) countries shouldn't be in key political positions in either of them.

    Additionally, women can't be president although I'm pretty sure this was changed recently/is about to be changed

  20. Personally, I think this is ridiculous - how about a test for people wanting to have children, based on the number of halfwit parents around?

  21. cashing in on marriages is not the solution obviously. Perhaps we should educate the poor girls about Spam emails and chat ups they get online from Nigerian who has inherited some large amount of money or want to do a business etc.. such a pity that nothing is done to educate and inform the girls. valuable TV time is wasted on some sermon or bollywood news...

    Agree with Hidham on the "US does it"...
    anyway, i think Govt should, if they must, keep the same standards for local getting married to locals. the $1150 minimum salary and PHD certificates. i mean afterall foreigners divorcing and leaving the wife and kids is just a fraction of what locals do.. the kids that belong to so called 100% maldivian parents also deserves this protection and security.

    And what is with 100% Maldivian? can there be a 100% maldivian? we are all decendents of early sri lankan and south indian settlers:P

  22. why does everything has to be so negative. There is this kind of 'discrimination', if u can call it discrimination, 'every where' in the world. Its the poor and the vulnerable that needs the most protection, not people like Sasha who is well off and can enjoy life to its limit. Think of poor (stupid maldivian women)who becomes the victims.

  23. I'd like to know the government's motive behind this. Is it yet another money-making scheme or just to annoy the down-trodden?

    How low can they get?

  24. @Mohamed
    What about the poor and vulnerable Bangladeshi worker who spends all his adult life working in the Maldives? Does he not have a right to marriage? What about the rights of the Maldivian who is unfortunate enough to fall for a poor/uneducated foreigner? Can she no longer reside in her own country? Is she now a second class citizen?

  25. This is an excellent move made by the government.

    The article and the comments it has received high lights the value of education. Being 99.99 percent literate is not enough. We need to be well educated. If we have more and more educated people, few people will fall in love with the Bangladeshi labourers.

    For all those who say marrying a foreigner who cannot earn that much is okay, I would like to say why do we need to import labourers?

  26. how can a new 'law' be just passed down on us? without public participants and without approval from Majlis? Family Court is so Supreme these days..now these guys are using the laws to discriminate foreigners and undermine maldivian unity and culture..who is behind this?

  27. This can't be a "law", can it? Or is it a regulation?

    Sounds a bit harsh to me...and yes discriminatory too. It looks like a way to make the foreign labour population from marrying Maldivians... or maybe the men who travel to India or Thailand to have their 2nd, in secret wives... oh wait the "secret" wives r not usually registered in Raajje.

    Yes we do have issues with people, esp Maldivians taking marriage to be some kind of joke, or even business transaction...OR for men...a pleasure vehicle solely geared to satisfy their every whim and fancy...

    i think it is far more important to dive into the abyss of Maldivians not registering their marriages to foreigners after getting married in foreign countries... cos this means he ends up taking Maldivian women on a blind ride when they marry them. Often times such women have no clue that their husbands have wives in other nations...this is a sure way of breaking the spirit of the family unit. and damages the children emotionally...on both sides. Cos the secret wives children r kept hidden, and that is not fair on then either...

    many problems with Maldivians finding respect for the sanctity of marriage

  28. Wy this government is so greedy ?
    No money, no love, no marriage?
    Freedom is dead?

  29. This about the most racist thing we have started yet in this country of ours. We have at least half of your youth that will not work, so we have to supplement their laziness by allowing so many foreign workers into the country.

    Why don't we start a firihenkulhi tax too, because that could be the reason so many Maldivian women look to the outside to marry. To the person who said that the President cannot marry a foreigner, maybe we should also stop any more presidents from taking so much of OUR wealth abroad to be enjoyed by a few, especially the last one...

    This new regulation is scandalous and a sign of corruption and greed from an outdated useless system that is utterly devoid of any decency or expertise.
    What the hell are we doing?

    The inmates are taking over the asylum

  30. This is against the ethics of the Islamic teaching, no Islamic country is in a position make any rule or regulation or law that goes beyond the boundaries if shariya.

  31. I support this statement" how can a new ‘law’ be just passed down on us? without public participants and without approval from Majlis? Family Court is so Supreme these days..now these guys are using the laws to discriminate foreigners and undermine maldivian unity and culture..who is behind this?"

  32. As a woman I feel offended by this. Not only is this racist, but also sexist. Do not like how in all the "evidence" provided by the authorities as justification puts women in a "natural" state of victim-hood and dumbness.
    By all means this is a violation of the most basic human right- the right to marry the person you want. Yes. Agreed that all countries in the world has restrictions in terms of visas and permits and stuff, but never a condition that says that your foreign spouse has to be employed or even have to earn a certain amount of money. While this may prevent people who get married for the wrong reasons from doing so, it is a burden for those couples who genuinely love each other. I do not think this is the solution to this problem. Education and awareness is. If Maldivian girls are being conned by Nigerian men over the internet, why not teach young girls in the country to be smarter about using the internet and trusting people you meet over the internet. If women from Bangladesh & Sri Lanka are being exploited by Maldivian men, why not provide a certain level of indemnity and security for foreigners in the Maldives.
    I would like to think that the Maldivian constitution and us as "Maldivians" are better than this- that we value all human lives equally and will not necessarily think less of someone just because he/she is different from us. Just because there is racism and discrimination in other countries does not mean that we have to follow suit. Why can't we try to be the exception. So far we have the advantage of being a relatively homogeneous society where "race" has not yet become a big issue- if we have more people from outside coming into our country- why can't we make the effort to be the outlier.

    The president of the Maldives can be a woman! No reason why a woman cannot run for president in the Maldives. We have highly educated, qualified, committed women in the country. Maybe our country would be in a better position today if Anni had kept the gender ministry, if Anni had at least one woman in his cabinet....

    The country is moving backwards. It's sad that this has to happen after what we call " the revolution"! The "revolution" happened because we had people out on the streets fighting..we need the liberal minded, progressive youth of the country to come out and demand certain things from our government.

    We have always been an open minded relatively liberal society..but the news recently surprises me. Its like I am hearing news from Waziristan.

  33. most likely this has something to with our
    mullah's and the growing number of radicals....
    if only we had elected the democrats...NO WAIT, we did....grrrrrr

  34. I guess it's a regulation complementing the law... just like the regulation that stated "all foreigners that marry Maldivians have to become Muslims" was once implemented without much public concern (or knowledge?).

    The state dowry, if paid by the local for his/her foreign wife/husband is a great thing - since marriages in the Maldives usually don't last very long, the spouse - once divorced - gets an air ticket back home! What is so wrong about it??? Why should the government pay for a foreigner's air ticket?

    Nevertheless - the requirement of earning at least 15,000 MRF is of course discriminating without any doubt.

    However, I think there should be a body that looks deeper into a couple's objection to get married... both local-local and local-foreign.

    As can be seen in other countries and also mentioned in this article, e.g. Nigerians hooking up with locals is an immense problem for the society, since these people are very often involved in drug dealing.

    There could be a time frame of - let's say 6 months, be given for the foreigner who intends to marry a local, to find a job (and survive the probation period) and settle down, before he or she can get married/registered. I think only genuine people who really intend to settle down in another country should be permitted to permanently live there.

  35. Maldives is a nation formed through inter-racial marriages. Maldives was on an ancient trade route. People travelled freely here, and people from different countries and races settled in the Maldives, to create a multi-cultural nation. Our language has traces of Sinhalese, Tamil, Arabic, Urdu, Farsi. You can see features of Africans, South Indians, Sinhalese, Tamils, Malaysians, Indonesians and Arabs on Maldivian faces. The Arab traders stopped over in the Maldives and waited for the winds to become favourable before they could sail back from Aceh and Malaysia with spice. They stayed for two or three months and married Maldivian women. The people from East African coast visited the Maldives and married Maldivian women. People from South India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Oman settled in the Maldives. People who originated from Sinhalese and Tamil races married freely in the Maldives. Maldivian men took wives from distant places such as Egypt and Lucknow. Abdul Majeed Ranna Badeyri Kilegefaanu married an Egyptian woman. Hassan Fareed married a French woman. Maldivians had trade links with Bengal dating back to several centuries. Even the legendary Rehendhi Khadheeja was a descendant of a Bengali family. The African slaves brought by the Sultans settled in the Maldives and their descendants remain till today. Former president Gayoom's lineage can be traced to Salimi, an African slave. One of the daughters of the former president Gayoom married a Bangladeshi. The famous Maizaan family in Male' are descendants of Africans. Dr Hassan Saeed, a former Attorney General, married a Malaysian woman. Mauroof Khaleel, the official photographer of the President, is married to a British woman. The daughters of vice-president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan are married to foreigners. Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim, the Controller of Immigration, is married to a Bangladeshi woman.

  36. @ ainthu and Shihab,

    I agree that everyone has the right to marriage, whoever he/she wants but within the bound of Islam and for the right reason. and my comment is not for those who get married for its honest reasons, BUT to those who get married for VISA in Maldives and cheap SEX.

  37. @ Mohamed.. Seriously?? Cheap sex? Wrong reasons? I think thats the reason why majority of us, Maldivians get married.. and end up getting divorced.. shouldnt the regulations then be towards solving this bigger problem.. rather than coming up with discriminatory and ill-though regulations.

  38. Does anyone know where I can get a copy of this 'brilliant' regulation? plus doesn't all regulations have to be passed in connection with a legislations? and if so, which legislations is this part of?

  39. Meaninging do i have to pay my wife and kid to live hear??? thats bullocks, i'm Maldivian and its my rights, my son and my wife should be able to live hear freely doesn't matter which law comes up.

  40. Not sure how the family court can issue regulations. I am not so well versed in democracy, but I think we have three powers, the executive, the judiciary and the legislative, which need to be separated. It seems to me that the Family Court would be under the judiciary, but that a regulation would be rather under either executive and better even, legislative. If Ilyas has been pressured by the family court to issue a rule, I really don't understand where we are headed...

  41. I have been married to a Maldivian for a few years now, and even though I accept the insensitivity of the Maldivian immigration authorities, I always felt offended that on my immigration card my spouse was mentioned as being my employer! Insha Allah the authorities will go to the trouble of getting two different card formats for married people and foreign workers (alternatively the government officials could use a foreign consultant to do this for them while they go for coffee).

  42. These people who make the law are bunch of idiots...we are humans no matter which country you come from, we have to welcome the foreign mixed families, As long as they don't do anything against our religion or culture i don't understand why they have to implement such kind of stupid rules. and it doesn't make any sense for your foreign spouse to pay to the government same amount of money as working visa, to live with their partner. For god sake marriage life is not a business nor employment. Doesn't our government understand this???

  43. @Robert
    "Insha Allah the authorities will go to the trouble of getting two different card formats for married people and foreign workers (alternatively the government officials could use a foreign consultant to do this for them while they go for coffee)."

    hear hear! Nice dig at our 'sai-gadi' loving officials. Seriously - how do these people get any work done?

  44. I did not realise that policy makers in the Maldives still have an innate inability at seeing past their own noses when making laws and regulations. Other than the blatant racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination specifically aimed at Bangladeshis and other Third World nationals, has anyone thought of what would happen if the foreign husband’s monthly pay went below Rf15,000 subsequent to the marriage. Will he then be forced to divorce his wife and then be hauled out across the international border?

  45. this is absolutely discrimination. i am married to a foreigner and have kids and i don;t live in maldives.. so does this apply to me? even though we don't live in the maldives?

  46. Gidday Noosha, the long arm of the Republic of the Maldives applies to you even in Brisbane or, for that matter, anywhere else in the world. The Royal Australian Navy will have to surrender in shame when the gaazeee of the family court arrives on the Maldives Naval Ship Huravee to collect that deposit from you. If I were in Her Majesty's Australian armed forces, I'd be running for dear life now. Thankfully I'm not. (by the way Noosh... your husband isn't a foreigner. He is an Australian)

  47. 1) Where can we find this regulation?

    2) Does a couple have to pay for their mixed kids?

    3) Does a foreigner, married to a Maldivian, has to pay state dowry, even if the couple lives outside Maldives? If not paid, will the foreign spouse have to enter Maldives on a tourist visa?

    4) Why do foreign spouses have to pay state dowry even if they earn enough money to pay an air ticket back home?

    5) Not earning more than 15,000 MRF - does it mean that Maldivians can't get married to "poor" people?

    6) Isn't there any better way to control false marriages than being discriminative?

    7) Why does the Family Court have so much power? Under Gayoom's regime, Jameel ordered that all foreigners who marry Maldivians have to convert to Muslims, ignoring their basic human rights of freedom of religion. How can the Family Court issue just another such stupid regulation without consulting the public?

    8) I agree that a country's immigration rule should be strict - but it should not discriminate against the poor. Better find a way to differentiate between the genuine and the false ones.

  48. Dear Editor of Maldives Royal Family website. They will arrive in New Zealand on Maldives Naval Ship Huravee and collect tax because you are married to a non-Maldivian as well. By the way, do you know that Sultan Ghiyaasudeen is a descendant from a person from Malabar coast, who settled and married in the Maldives?


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