But what happens when they find one? And how do they make it work?
Mei was a 40-something divorced mother of two living in southern China when she decided to join an international marriage agency. The agency helped write her profile, and posted her photo online – on a dating site that connects Chinese women with Western men.
That’s where Barrie, a 62-year-old living on a hobby farm in coastal New South Wales, first saw her. Eight months and countless translated emails later, Barrie was flying to China to meet Mei in person. Even though the couple could only communicate through body language and an electronic translation device, they were married within the week.
Seeking out a foreign husband or wife is nothing new – hopeful singles have long looked overseas for a suitable spouse, and maybe a better life. But thanks to the boom in online and mobile dating, for those disenchanted with the available singles in their area, it’s never been easier to look for love further afield.
While local dating sites and apps mean you’re only ever one swipe away from your next hookup, the stakes are considerably higher when you’re wooing someone in a foreign country that you’ve never met and don’t share a language with.
Lin Lan, 51, had been single for over 20 years when her friends convinced her to join a similar agency. Disappointed by the Chinese men she’d met after her first marriage ended, Lin Lan had focused on her career instead – but she’d heard western men were gentlemen.
Six months after joining she met George, a 64-year-old builder who found her profile after clicking on a pop-up ad. “I was looking for a companion, in due course a wife, somebody that I could share the rest of my life with,” George says.
Not all is fair in love and visas. Marrying someone after a short period of time can be a big risk, and it can be difficult to know if you’re being taken advantage of. And getting to know your new partner when you don’t have a common language can be a problem that persists for years.
With international dating sites reporting growing subscriptions each year – along with the rising number of couples meeting and marrying through them – Insight asks: Why do people look for a partner overseas? What happens when they find one? And how do they make it work?
Tuesday 6 March at 8.30pm on SBS.