Social and Legal Aspects of NRI Marriages in India

In today’s time, people are fascinated by the idea of settling outside India. Everyone dreams of having a job or business in other developed countries at least once in a lifetime. Those who get successful in the process of settling outside are called Non-Resident Indians. After settling outside, many Indians especially males tries to find Indian women for marriage.

Some of them think having the same root in the family is important, some of them find prospect for extraction of dowry and they think that their status of being an “NRI” will add the amount of dowry. Some people’s family doesn’t approve another religion marriage. The list is on and on.

Before independence, Indian citizens usually went abroad for higher studies and came to their motherland to settle down but after independence, Indians started settling down outside our motherland.

This started the influence and dreams of migrating outside India, which led to NRI marriages popular in India as many women’s families thought that their daughter would live a happy life outside India. This thinking of having a fairy tale lifestyle outside India especially in western countries like America, the U.K, Russia, or any other European countries has led to the popularity of such marriages.

But the greed of such a fairy tale lifestyle has led to many crimes and mental and physical suffering for women in India. Moving to a different place where everything is almost different has its own hardships.


The reasons for attraction towards NRI marriages:

  1. People have a mindset that they can get more opportunities or they can earn more from those who work in India. This in turn gives a fairy-tale idea of marrying such a person who is Indian and works overseas. This leads to consequences as this makes them vulnerable in front of their husband to fraud and mental or physical abuse or both such as fake marriages, domestic violence, or dowry.
  2. There is this misconception that the groom is an NRI so he has loads of money and marrying the girl to such a person will lead to happiness to her only. However, one needs to understand that money does not always bring happiness and a woman is not a property that will be sent from one household to another on the basis of the income of the husband.
  3. Staying abroad is another idea that attracts people to get their daughter to marry an NRI person thinking that they will get a better life out there. However, what they forget is the daughter is just going far and further away from there parents and when she is not independent and totally depends on the husband then the situation worsens for the woman.
  4. The magnetism of marrying an NRI and living in a foreign land also, added pride of Indian family gets leads to the fascination of NRI marriages. This is just a social norm that people are ready to do anything to retrieve. NRI groom often extracts huge amounts of money or so-called gifts from the Indian bride’s family in the name of NRI citizenship.
  5. The idea that getting the daughter to marry an NRI will increase the value of the parents in the society and for that sake, the woman/daughter is been married to the NRI.


“Of the 900 women who responded to a survey, over half of them say they dream of exploring their talent and having a great career. If 26 percent want to make a difference to the world, only a meager 13 percent want a loving relationship.

This is the great shift — from home to herself. This is one of the revelations of a survey conducted by Sheroes — a social networking platform for women with about 2 million members — exclusively for ET Magazine. The typical profile of a Sheroes member is an urban woman between the ages of 20 and 35”.


  1. With the development in today’s world, it can be understood that woman wants to have an independent life with financial independence. They want to settle in their life before marriage. But in NRI marriages it is not possible as wives are completely dependent on their husbands due to a lack of overseas experience.
  2. The husband doesn’t give them space and does not usually allow them to work. There is no much say of the woman as she is alone out there in a new and different country where the only person she knows is her husband who is not allowing her to work.
  3. Many of the times it gets harder for the wife to get used to the foreign culture and face challenges in the adjustment while the groom has already adjusted after living for a long time overseas. This also leads to problems in a marriage.
  4. The women are also unaware of the frauds these marriages bring into their lives like leaving the bride in India just after marriage or lying about their status and property in order to extort huge amount of dowry and con women into marrying them or even in certain cases children are taken away from their mother.
  5. Mental and physical abuse on the women and lenient ways of getting a divorce from them where they have nowhere to go.


Earlier marrying an NRI wasn’t very common. But after this became a trend, many men and women want to marry an Indian who is from a foreign land and desires a good quality of life. Even the parents want their daughter to settle outside for a good quality of life and status for their family.

However, some of the marriages end up in divorce. To seek divorce in a foreign land, everyone in India should know the laws and provisions provided by the Indian law for NRI Marriages and Divorce. Under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, if both the husband and wife want to end their marriage or want to seek divorce mutually then Indian law has given them an exception to filing the divorce in any country, they are residing in. But the Indian legal system will only recognize this divorce if it is with consent. There are certain situations where one of the spouses filed for ex-parte proceedings for divorce. Here are some sections and case laws that will elaborate on this concept.

In the case of Y. Narasimha Rao & Ors. vs. Y. Venkata Lakshmi & Anr, both the parties married in Tirupati as per Hindu customs. The appellant filed the petition for dissolution of marriage in the Circuit Court of St. Louis Country Missouri, the U.S.A on the ground of irreversible breakdown of the marriage. The respondent sent her reply in protest against the petition. The Circuit Court passed the decree for dissolution of marriage without the respondent.

The appellant married another woman. The respondent filed the criminal charge on the appellant for bigamy. The Supreme Court held that irretrievable breakdown of marriage is not the ground for divorce and both the appellant and responded married according to Hindu custom so, according to Section 13 of Civil Procedure Code, divorce in a foreign land is only acceptable when it is mutual consent. Hence, the Supreme Court of India rejected the decree of Circuit Court St. Louis County Missouri, USA.

Another section related to divorce is Section 44A of The Civil Procedure Code, which applies to those countries with whom India has reciprocal enforcement (Reciprocating Territories). Sec 44A allows the enforcement of judgments outside the Indian territory as if it is passed in India. This can be obtained by filing a duly certified copy of the said judgment in the appropriate court, which will then be executed in accordance with the laws on enforcement and execution of Indian judgments and orders.

When such a marriage ends up in a divorce then, it gets difficult for the wife and her children to survive on their own especially when the wife is a homemaker. Indian law has given provision for the maintenance of the wife and the children. Section 18 of the Hindu Maintenance and Adoption Act, 1956 provides some conditions so that the wife can get the maintenance. Some of the conditions are:

  • If the husband has treated the wife with cruelty.
  • If the husband is living with another wife.
  • If the husband has changed the religion without the consent of the wife.
  • Or, if the husband has died, then the wife is entitled to get maintenance from the estate of her husband.

Section 125 of The Code of Criminal Procedure provides maintenance to those women who can’t maintain themselves irrespective of religion. The maintenance right is given to women during marriage, divorce, post-divorce, divorce proceedings. This section gives rights to the magistrate to impose a maintenance order.

In Deepak Banerjee v. Sudipta Banerjee, it stressed the proposition that ‘residence’ for the purpose of conferring jurisdiction for maintenance includes the residence of the wife since she cannot be expected to travel long distances, to foreign jurisdictions to obtain justice when she is claiming destitution.

So, the meaning of maintenance is giving financial aid to the wife and children by the husband.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has proposed that a woman marrying an NRI should also be issued a second passport for her safety and security. Such a passport is to remain with the parents of such a woman who can help her return in case her original/first passport is taken away from her in her matrimonial home. However, bring such a step for the protection of the woman need great attention to bring it into effectiveness but is not impossible.


Due to all these frauds and allure of NRI marriage and foreign visa, the Indian Government has taken steps for providing justice to women who have been the victim of NRI marriage or deserted by their husband in the foreign land. The legal system has taken several preventive and corrective measures for it. The government agencies like The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs and The National Commission of Women are creating awareness in population to women and their families to prevent themselves from such frauds and not risking into getting into an NRI marriage without a proper background check.  The Indian legal system is also in favor of registration of marriage to ease the process of getting relief.

The National Commission of India has useful suggestions for dos and don’ts regarding this issue. The unawareness of the social and legal aspects of these marriages also makes the wife prone to abandonment and abuse. As “all the glitters are not gold” similarly, not every NRI is stable and secure and such unawareness leads to various crimes against the wife.


  • Information Technology Act, 2000 available at
  • Information technology Act, 2000 available at
  • Official website of the National Commission for Women
  • Strong laws needed to curb fraudulent NRI marriages; NGOs estimate nearly 50,000 such cases to be pending- by Mahasweta Das
  • Sham Marriages: Revenge of the Bride:
  • The NRI Wives: The Plight of Abandoned Brides

[1]Malini Goyal, “What do urban women want? Here are some answers”, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, Last Updated: March 04,2018; 11:25 AM,

[2] Avani Mishra, “How Can An NRI Seek A Divorce?”, VAKIL SEARCH, Last Updated: October 20, 2020,,a%20divorce%20in%20another%20country.

[3] 1991 SCR (2) 821

[4] 1988 CriLJ 1627

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