File No. 894.4054/11

The Assistant Secretary of Labor to the Secretary of State

Sir: Referring to your letter of the 18th instant,1 with which you transmit copy of a memorandum from the Japanese Ambassador with an excerpt from the Japanese Civil Code bearing on the subject of marriage, I beg to state that the purpose of the request, made informally by the Bureau of Immigration of this Department, with respect to this subject was to ascertain, not only what the exact terms of the law of Japan with respect to marriage may be, but also whether the laws of Japan provide for and make legal a marriage contracted under such laws while one party to the marriage is actually in a foreign jurisdiction and the other party is living in Japan on the date the marriage takes place. In other words, does the law of Japan provide for and recognize as legal the marriage of a couple one of whom, at the date of marriage, is in a foreign jurisdiction and the other of whom is in Japan, in the same sense and to the same degree as though both parties to the marriage were actually in Japan at the time the marriage was contracted.

A provision of the immigration law becoming effective May 5 excludes from the United States illiterate aliens, with certain exceptions, one of which is that an alien residing in this country may send for his wife and the latter may be admitted although illiterate, if otherwise admissible. In preparing regulations putting this law into effect, there is no intention to permit the said exception to be availed of by an unmarried woman who comes to a United States port and claims [Page 849] upon arrival that she has been sent for by a man in the United States who is desirous of marrying her at the port before her admission; that is, it is not intended to permit an illiterate woman to qualify for admission, on the claim that she is the wife of a man in the United States, by marrying a resident man after such woman has applied for entry, or by claiming that she is the wife of a man in the United States when in point of fact the laws of the country whence she comes do not provide for and make legal and binding the kind of marriage claimed to have taken place.

In view of the above, it is necessary for the Department to reach a definite conclusion as to whether or not the so-called “picture” or “proxy” brides who come to this country from Japan are regarded in that country and under the laws thereof as actually being the wives of the men to whom they claim to have been married while they were residing in Japan and the men living here, under the provisions of existing laws providing therefor. The excerpt from the Japanese law furnished by the Ambassador contains nothing, so far as this Department has been able to determine, that would justify, of itself, the conclusion that these marriages are provided for by existing laws and recognized as complete, legal and binding in Japan.


Louis F. Post
  1. Not printed.