Marriage of US Citizens Abroad
If you stumbled upon this page by mistake looking for document requirements for registering your marriage in the USA, then please feel free to navigate to this link. However, if you are a US citizen planning marriage abroad, then you may find the below information useful.
American citizens and permanent residents often marry abroad. Countries of marriage and spouse citizenships vary greatly from Russia to Phillipines. Hence, local requirements always dictate a particular set of documents needed to not only complete the marriage but also to succesfully bring the spouse back.
It is often necessary to apostille or legalize documents prior the marriage.
It is not possible to cover universal requirements due to the above diverse geography; however, within the context of The Hague Apostille Convention it is possible to at least prepare the majority of documents needed.
Marriage Documents (To Marry Overseas) in the USA
If a US citizen legally marries a person abroad, that marriage would be recognized as legal in the USA if it was legally performed and is valid per the legislation of the foreign country. However, certain legality complications may exist on a State level - e.g., due to position on same sex marriages - so you should check the website of the Attorney General of the State where you plan to live.
Here is some information on marriages from the US Department of State (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/abroad/events-and-records/marriage.html).
Many countries have different requirements which often turn marriage preparations into "jumping through the bureaucratic hoops". For example, marrying in China may be faster than in Philippines but more complicated from documentation standpoint. Even though there is no "one-size-fits-all" recommendation, the below is the suggested procedure to take into the account local country specifics in advance and to get all your necessary documents in order with less hassle:
- Using this link to all US Embassies and Consulates overseas, visit the website of the US Embassy/Consulate of the country where you intend to marry to find out local requirements. A useful time-saving tip when browsing through the website of a particilar US Embassy/Consulate, is to copy the url of the US Embassy/Consulate home page and then do a Google search using a string "site: url marriage". This will allow to do a limited and fast search within the many pages of the US Embassy/Consulate for the keyword "marriage." So, for example, for search within the pages of the US Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, the Google search string would be: search:http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/ marriage. Thus, you will need to browse through pages rendered by search specifically for the following:
Research in advance what would be needed for your future spouse's U.S. visa - you may be able to complete certain documents both prior departure and while being in a foreign country - information can be obtained from the Office of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of State Visa Office in Washington, DC (telephone 202-663-1225)
Visit the website of the embassy/consulate/mission of that country in the USA - you might need a special type of foreign visa and/or some other documents to present at the time of marriage such as Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry executed in front of their foreign consular officer in the USA (please see Item 6 and Item 7 below). In general, you may need a plan to stay sufficiently long in the country of marriage to complete all of the below documentation tasks.
Research additional information via tourist information bureaus if any of that country.
Request your future spouse to go to the relevant agency in that country in charge of marriage registrations to get the list of their local and specific requirements and to book a time for the ceremony as there may be prior residence requirements and a queue of other applications.
In particular, you (via your future spouse) need to find out exactly what documents from below list are required from you, and whether they need to be translated and apostilled/legalized (depending on that country's status per The Hague Apostille Convention):
- Marriage requirements of that country - please note that the U.S. Embassies/Consulates do not register marriages but provide other documents (please see below).
- Potential to lose your U.S. citizenship if you subsequently acquire foreign nationality based on your marriage.
- Documentation requirements for your future spouse's U.S. visa.
Prior departure, try to book an appointment or two appointments with the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in that country to execute Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry (if not done in the USA in a foreign embassy/consulate/mission - see Item 3 above) prior marriage ceremony and to authenticate your marriage certificate after the marriage ceremony. Here is the link to all US Embassies/Consulates (http://www.usembassy.gov/)
Depending on Items 2, 3 and 6 above, upon arrival to the foreign country you may need to go to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate to executive Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry - presence of your future spouse and/or witnesses may be required. The fee for the certification of the Affidavit is US$55.00.
After marrying, go back to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate and authenticate your marriage certificate. The fee for authentication of the document is US$32.00. You may need to do notarized translation of the marriage certificate if its language is not English. Additional certification requirements by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate may apply.
Upon arrival back in the U.S. and depending on your residence plans, you might need to continue this document saga so it is always best to plan in advance and to do all apostilles/legalizations at the outset so you don't have to waste money and time in the future by having to go back. For example, if you married in one country but intend to bring your spouse initially in the U.S. but then permanently live in another country, you might need to do even more paperwork.
- Valid U.S. passport (original)
- Copy of the U.S. passport
- Birth certificate
- Divorce decree
- Death certificate
- Parental consent (for people under a certain age - e.g. 18)
- Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry (where does it need to be executed)
- Blood test
How to Use Our Services
Unfortunately, we cannot obtain marriage documents on your behalf. However, we will be very happy to assist you with our U.S. Department of State apostille/authentication and consular legalization services in Washington, DC. Please contact us or receive a quote if you know what documents you will need serviced.
It is super-easy to use our services if you follow the below suggested algorithm of actions:
- You contact us preferably by email explaining your document situation. If it is urgent, you can call us 24/7. Please provide as many details as possible about your documents but the key information we usually need is: 1) who issued them, 2) where you intend to use them, 3) how many you have, 4) are they originals or notarized copies, 5) how fast you need them back and 6) the destination they need to be sent to. If your shipment destination (after processing) is neither in the USA nor in Canada, then we would need the exact address including postal code so that we can give you exact courier quote.
- We will reply by email as well as fast as we can with our comments, suggestions, questions and/or confirmation with preliminary or final quote.
- You can then write us back with additional questions, comments or concerns. Or you may just be satisfied and ready to send your documents.
- At this stage we agree on the course of action and our services. You would make the payment, ship the documents and email us the tracking # so that we can start tracking your inbound shipment and provide you interim updates.
- We will complete your service request and ship the documents back to your agreed destination either in your attached prepaid envelope with filled out air waybill or in our envelope (but we would have to charge you extra for this service). If you prefer, we can scan the completed documents and email them to you prior outbound shipment so you would know that we did indeed do everything as previously discussed.
- After shipment is sent, we will email you the tracking # so that you can monitor the arrival.
We hope to hear from you soon!