Marriage of US Citizens Abroad
American citizens 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 of October 5, 1961 it is possible to at least prepare the majority of documents needed.
Marriage Documents in the USA (To Marry Overseas)
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.
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:
Contact us and we will provide you the specific list of the documents that you will need to get married abroad.
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).
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):
Valid U.S. passport (original)
Copy of the U.S. passport
Parental consent (for people under a certain age - e.g. 18)
Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry (where does it need to be executed)
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.
Canada Legalization Services© and our USA branch WDC Apostille & Legalization Services dealt with many marriage documents for all countries except North Korea. Nonetheless, it is difficult to list universal and standardized requirements, as each case is unique!
Usually, we offer our clients either apostille at the U.S. Department of State or authentication at U.S. Department of State with subsequent legalization at a foreign Embassy/Consulate.
To better assist you, when you contatct us please answer for the following questions:
When and where (country) do you plan your ceremony?
Were you born in USA? If yes, please indicate the state, if not please indicate the country. What about your fiancé?
Where are you physically located right now (country, province, state, etc...)? What about your fiancé?
Were you married before?
What type of ceremony are you planning? Civil or religious?
How old are you?
Are you planning to change your maiden name after the marriage?