Islam allows a man to have up to four wives (pending certain conditions are met). Therefore, if anyone has been in Saudi Arabia for even a limited amount of time, eventually one will become acquainted with a Saudi man or woman who is in a polygamous relationship.
While you would think that the increased costs across the economic spectrum would put a decrease on the number of polygamous marriages in the Kingdom, that’s not necessarily the case. Saudi men are continuing to have multiple wives and not according to the conditions which are to be met in Islam. These men taking additional wives are not always from the older generation either.
The Saudi Embassy in Ottawa, Canada was very frank in acknowledging that it routinely receives request from Saudi men who wish to bring more than one wife into the country. These Saudi men are generally wealthy enough to afford bringing multiple wives to a country outside of Saudi Arabia. They are businessmen, officials or perhaps even a student. But in spite of their wealth, there is a “technical” problem. Polygamy is against the law in many countries, including Canada and most of the 50 United States.
As a result, a Saudi man with multiple wives generally has to select which wife will be formally recognized as his wife when traveling. She will be the one to receive the visa which identifies her as a wife. Additional wives must submit a visa application independently. After all, the wife of a Saudi does not carry his family name; she retains her own family name. As a result it would be difficult to validate that she is a second, third or fourth wife coming to join her husband. Her visa application may state she is traveling to visit family. Children, regardless of from which wife, automatically have the family name of their father.