How to Determine if a Foreign Marriage is Valid

Written by tammy dray
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Foreign marriages are becoming more and more common. People travel more, take jobs overseas, meet online, increasing the chances of meeting a foreign partner considerably. Marriages between people of different nationalities or marriages happening overseas do present some complications. Once back home, the legality of the marriage may be compromised if the proper steps haven’t been taken in time.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look at photos. If you want to determine whether the marriage is real or arranged, ask for photos of the couple. Two people who get married will have not only photos of their wedding and honeymoon, but would usually also have photographs of times spent together long before the wedding.

  2. 2

    Make sure your marriage certificate is in English; if it’s not, have it translated. If you are American but got married overseas, you don’t need to do anything upon your return to the US, as marriage certificates are valid automatically. However, having the certificate translated is important if you plan to do things that require proof of marriage.

  3. 3

    Verify that the foreign marriage complies with the US marriage laws. This means both people in the couple are over 18, legally single and agree to marry. While the rules may differ in other countries, the marriage may not be recognised as valid in the US if these basic regulations are not met.

  4. 4

    Ask for proof of marriage. Depending on the country, this may be only a paper certificate or it may be a small booklet or a series of papers. Again, look for a notarised translation.

  5. 5

    Have the local embassy or consular service notarise your marriage certificate. This is not needed but it can help speed up immigration papers if you’re planning on bringing your partner back to the US with you.

Tips and warnings

  • Some foreign countries may require that you are a local resident before you can get married there. Make sure you get a list of the rules before tying the knot.

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