Mail-order brides work with "international marriage agencies".
An international marriage agency (also called an international introduction agency or international marriage broker) is a business that endeavors to introduce men and women of different countries for the purpose of marriage, dating, or correspondence.
There are at least two historical roots of the mail-order bride industry that emerged in the 1800s in the American frontier: Asian workers in the frontier regions (although Asian workers were scattered throughout the world), and American men who had headed west across the United States to work out on the frontier.
European American men found financial success in the migration West, but the one thing that was missing was the company of a wife.
As immigration of unmarried Japanese women to America was effectively barred, the use of "picture brides" provided a mechanism for willing women to obtain a passport to America, while Japanese workers in America could gain a female helpmate of their own nationality.
Women in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other Eastern European countries are common mail-order bride candidates.
The majority of the women listed in the twentieth-century and twenty-first-century services are from Southeast Asia, countries of the former Eastern Bloc and (to a lesser extent) from Latin America.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union large numbers of eastern European women have advertised themselves in such a way, primarily from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.
Courtship was conducted by letter, until a woman agreed to marry a man she had never met.
Many of these marriage agencies are based near women in developing countries (such as Ukraine, Russia, Colombia, Brazil, India, China, Thailand, and the Philippines).
International marriage agencies encourage women to register for their services, and facilitate communication and meetings with men from developed regions of North America, Western Europe, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Many women wanted to escape their present way of living, gain financial security and see what life on the frontier could offer them.
Most of these women were single, but some were widows, divorcées or runaways.
However, many consider the term "mail-order bride" derogatory and feel it demeans foreign women by comparing them to commodities for sale and by falsely implying that (unlike local women), they exercise no judgment over the men they meet and would marry anyone from a relatively wealthy country.