Who May Perform Marriages Abroad
American diplomatic and consular officers are NOT permitted to perform marriages. Marriages abroad are almost always performed by local (foreign) civil or religious officials.
As a rule, marriages are not performed on the premises of an American embassy or consulate. The validity of marriages abroad is not dependent upon the presence of an American diplomatic or consular officer, but upon adherence to the laws of the country where the marriage is performed.
Validity of Marriages Abroad
In general, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States. Inquiries regarding the validity of a marriage abroad should be directed to the attorney general of the state in the United States where the parties to the marriage live.
Foreign Laws and Procedures
The embassy or tourist information bureau of the country in which the marriage is to be performed is the best source of information about marriage in that country. In addition, American embassies and consulates abroad frequently have information about marriage in the country in which they are located.
Marriages abroad are subject to the residency requirements of the country in which the marriage is to be performed.
Documentation and Authentication
Most countries require that a valid U.S. passport be presented as identification and/or evidence of nationality. In addition, birth certificates, divorce decrees, and death certificates are frequently required. Some countries require that the documents presented to the marriage registrar first be authenticated. See our information on authentications for additional information.
The age of majority for marriage varies from one country to another. Persons under the age of 18 must, as a general rule, present a written statement of consent executed by their parents or guardian before a notary public. Some countries require the parental consent statement to be authenticated.
Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry
Civil law countries frequently require proof of legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract in the form of certification by competent authority that no impediment exists to the marriage. United States law does not provide for the issuance of such documents. Unless the foreign authorities will allow such a statement to be executed before one of their consular officials in the United States, it may be necessary for the parties to a prospective marriage abroad to execute an affidavit at the American embassy or consulate in the country in which the marriage will occur stating that they are free to marry. Some countries also require witnesses who will execute affidavits to the effect that the parties are free to marry.
Many countries require blood tests.
Some countries require that documents related to marriage that are presented to officials be translated into the native language of that country.
Loss of U.S. Nationality
In some countries, marriage to a national of that country will automatically make the spouse either a citizen of that country or eligible to become naturalized in that country expeditiously. The automatic acquisition of a second nationality will not affect U.S. citizenship.
Marriage to an Alien
Information on obtaining a U.S. visa for a foreign spouse may be found on our website.