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.
Here is some information on marriages from the US Department of State.
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.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):
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Canada Legalization Services dealt with many marriage documents for various countries. Nonetheless, it is difficult to list universal and standardized requirements.
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.