Marriage Abroad: International Marriage for US Citizens

Whether you are dreaming of a destination wedding or wish to marry closer to the family of your fiancé who was born in another country, you are not alone. Getting married abroad is an increasingly more popular choice among US couples.

However, if having a wedding in another state can at times be challenging, things can become even more complicated for international weddings. As it is often the case, planning is key to avoid bureaucratic nightmares.

In this thorough guide, you will get the key facts on getting married in another country and the documents you may need to gather in advance so that you can live happily ever after.

Can US Citizens Celebrate their Marriage Overseas?

There is no US law preventing American citizens from getting married abroad, so yes, you can go ahead and start planning your overseas wedding.

To get married in another country legally, you will need to follow the local laws. It is important that you check these well in advance so that you can prepare (and if necessary, translate) all the documents you may need and find an authorized local citizen who can officiate the ceremony.

If you abide by the local law, the marriage will be considered valid in the country where you choose to wed.

Getting married abroad at the embassy

US diplomatic personnel cannot officiate weddings abroad and normally, ceremonies cannot be carried out at an American embassy/consulate. Local civil or religious authorities will be able to assist you with the officiation instead.

US diplomatic missions can help you authenticate local documents like the foreign marriage license. The authentication carries a fee, and you may need to obtain a notarized translation if the original marriage certificate was not written in English.

Overseas Marriages: Documents Needed

As explained above, the documents needed to get married abroad depend on local regulations. It is important to familiarize yourself with these documents in advance as obtaining them can be time-consuming. The embassy or consulate of the country where you wish to wed is a good place to start looking for information.

Here are some common requirements that US citizens may need to meet and documents they may need to provide to get married abroad:

  • IDs like your US passport
  • Vital records, especially birth certificates and apostille birth certificates
  • Documentation regarding previous marriages, such as a divorce certificate or divorce decree
  • Parental consent for minors
  • Blood tests and other health certificates
  • Marital status affidavit
  • Some countries have residency requirements in place that may result in longer waiting periods

The marital status affidavit

The affidavit is a document that can be used as proof of your legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract. This is usually a statement from the authorities of your home country declaring that there is no legal impediment to the marriage — basically, the affidavit is evidence of your marital status.

Unfortunately, a single status certificate does not exist in the United States so many couples who wish to wed abroad find this requirement particularly challenging. Usually, the local US consulate is aware of this difficulty and will be able to assist you.

Do I Need to Register My Marriage in the US If I Get Married Abroad?

If you married following the legal requirements of the country where you celebrated the union, then the marriage is recognized under US law too. That is, as long as your marriage does not break federal or state laws.

There is no such thing as a national registration of marriages in the United States, whether they have been officiated abroad or on national territory. That is because marriage is regulated by state law and state and county authorities issue marriage licenses.

Although many newlyweds do not have to complete bureaucratic processes when returning to the United States with their authenticated foreign marriage license, others have to jump through a few more loops. This is especially true for same-sex couples and foreign citizens who married a US national abroad.

It is essential that you get in touch with state authorities to find out what steps you need to follow to see your union recognized by the state.

Marrying a foreign citizen abroad and moving to the US

If your partner is a foreign national and you plan to live in the US after the wedding, you will need to consider immigration law and visa policies.

There are 3 options available to you. If you decide to marry abroad, your fiancé can:

  • Remain outside the US until an immigrant visa is issued and they can enter the country as a permanent resident
  • Obtain a non-immigrant visa (K-3 visa) to enter the US after the wedding and then apply to become permanent resident while already in the country

Visa requirements and fees may vary so it is important that you choose the option that works best for your circumstances and needs. Either way, your fiancé will be required to pass background and health checks, fill out some forms and gather supporting documents, and attend a visa interview.

Some couples choose a third option — obtaining the non-immigrant visa to enter the United States as a fiancé and then getting married in the US. The foreign spouse can then apply to become a permanent resident.