Marriage of U.S. Citizens Abroad
Validity of Marriages Abroad
In general, marriages that are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States. When you are married abroad, the marriage ceremony is almost always performed by local (foreign) civil or religious officials. American diplomatic and consular officers are not permitted to perform marriages, and, as a rule, marriages are not performed on the premises of an American embassy or consulate. The validity of marriages overseas 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.
Consular officers may authenticate foreign marriage documents, but inquiries regarding the validity of a marriage abroad should be directed to office of the attorney general of the State in the United States where the parties that marry live. Marriage generally is considered a matter reserved to the individual U.S. States rather than to the federal government.
Documentation for Marriage Abroad
Most countries require that a valid U.S. passport be presented. In addition, birth certificates (and, if applicable, divorce decrees or death certificates) are frequently required. Many countries, like the United States, require blood tests. Some countries require that documents presented to the marriage registrar be translated into the native language of that country and/or first be authenticated in the United States by a consular official of that country. This process can be time consuming and expensive. Marriages abroad are also subject to the residency requirements of the country in which the marriage is to be performed, and there is usually a lengthy waiting period.
All civil law countries 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. No such document exists in the United States. Unless the foreign authorities will allow such a statement to be executed before one of their consular officials in the United States, it will 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. This is called an affidavit of eligibility to marry. Some countries also require witnesses who will execute affidavits to the effect that the parties are free to marry
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 before a notary public. Some countries require the parental consent statement to be authenticated by a consular official of that foreign country in the United States.
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. However, naturalization in a foreign country on one's own application or the application of a duly authorized agent may cause the loss of American citizenship. For more information, see Dual Nationality. Persons planning to apply for a foreign nationality should contact an American embassy or consulate for further information.
- Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.
- 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. See Foreign Embassies & Consulates in the U.S.
- General information on marriage in a limited number of countries can be obtained by calling 202-647-5225, or writing Overseas Citizens Services, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520.
- American embassies and consulates abroad frequently have information about marriage in the country in which they are located. Use our US Embassies and US Consulates to contact the appropriate U.S. mission abroad.
- Here is a start, if you would like information on marrying in these countries: Italy, Japan, Spain, Iraq, Korea.