How to Make Sure Your Marriage Abroad Is Valid

By Julia at Legal Language
Posted on 12/01/2011
In Family Law



Having a destination wedding abroad in Paris or Rome or Istanbul (or really, anywhere!) can be an incredibly romantic and exciting way to start a marriage.

Although it may be unpalatable to let the formalities of the immigration system intrude upon your big day, it’s absolutely necessary. You must be sure that your marriage abroad counts in the eyes of the law.

Validity of Marriages Performed Abroad

Marriages that are legally performed and valid abroad are generally also valid in the US. Since requirements for marriage ceremonies differ by location, however, you should contact the embassy or tourist information bureau of the country in which your marriage will be performed to find out about local marriage laws and procedures. American embassies and consulates in your destination country are also likely to have information on marriage requirements.

Before performing a valid marriage ceremony, most countries require a valid US passport and any other relevant documents, such as birth certificates, divorce decrees or death certificates. Be sure to check your destination’s particular document requirements, as some countries require documents to first be authenticated by a US consular officer, which can be both expensive and time consuming.

If you have questions about the validity of your marriage abroad, you can also contact the attorney general of the state in which you and your new spouse intend to live.

Eligibility for Marriages Abroad

If you are getting married in one of the romantic civil law countries, such as France or Italy, you must submit proof of your legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract. This proof usually takes the form of a certificate from a competent authority confirming that you are free and eligible to marry. Since this document does not exist in the US, you must execute an affidavit of eligibility to marry at the American embassy or consulate in the destination country. To execute the affidavit you must pay a fee, and the presence of witnesses may be required.

Immigration Concerns

If you are marrying a national of the country abroad where you are getting married, you may want to check the nationality policies of the country. In some countries, for example, marriage to a national will automatically and expeditiously make the spouse a citizen. Although automatic acquisition of citizenship will not affect US citizenship, applying for citizenship may cause the loss of US citizenship. Be sure to contact an American embassy or consulate for further information.

If your future spouse is not a US citizen or permanent resident, you may need to obtain a visa for him or her to return to the US as your new spouse.The first step is to file a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130, with the Department of Homeland Security for your spouse to immigrate to the United States.

Don’t Forget Your Document Translations!

Another concern is getting translations of important documents, such as your birth certificate or divorce certificate. You will also need a certified translation of your marriage certificate in English when you return to the US from abroad.


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