Marriage Requirements for Foreigners

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There are two situations involving marriage requirements for foreigners: 1.) when both people are foreigners of the country they are getting married in and 2.) when only one person is a foreigner of that country. 

One version of the first situation is when two U.S. citizens desire to get married somewhere exotic, tropical, or romantic.  Popular choices include the Bahamas, various Pacific Islands, and countries in Europe like Italy and Spain.  The Department of State offers marriage information for U.S. citizens on the most popular of countries.

The United States recognizes all marriages abroad so long as the marriage is done in accordance with all local laws and procedures of the foreign country.  This may include lengthy residency requirements, unusual documents such as an “affidavit of eligibility to marry,” and the translation of documents.  A U.S. Consular Officer abroad will verify and authenticate the marriage document of the foreign country. 

The next version of the first situation is when two foreigners come to the U.S. to be married.  A common example is getting married in Hawaii.  A minority of states have a residency requirement; however, the key element is whether the foreign country recognizes U.S. marriages. 

The second situation is when a U.S. citizen marries a foreigner – either in the U.S. or outside of the U.S.  If married outside of the U.S., the non-U.S. citizen may wish to begin the process of obtaining a “green card” from that foreign country.  However, if the non-U.S. citizen plans on getting married to a U.S. citizen within the U.S., he or she should come to the U.S. on a fiancée visa, not a tourist visa. 

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Last Modified: 01-13-2011 11:02 AM PST

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