Getting married in another country is an exciting experience. But for many immigrants, a pressing question looms – will my marriage be legally recognized when I move to the United States? Can I get marriage certificate translation services and use my foreign marriage certificate for immigration, taxes, banking, and other official purposes?
The good news is that marriages performed legally abroad are typically valid in the United States of America. However, you must take steps to properly document the marriage, translate the marriage certificate, and follow all necessary processes.
Table of Contents
In this article, we’ll provide an overview of what’s required to ensure your foreign marriage meets U.S. standards for validity. We’ll also explain how to translate a marriage certificate so that it’s valid for official use.
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Are Foreign Marriage Certificates Accepted in the U.S.A.?
Typically, yes. You can generally use a certified translation of a marriage certificate from another country for official purposes in the U.S.A. But we’ll share the nuances and exceptions and the “how to” in the sections below.
I Already Got Married Abroad; Do I Need to Register My Foreign Marriage in the United States?
The fast answer is “no,” but there are other relevant details to know.
Many couples who were married abroad are concerned that they may need to register their marriage as soon as they get back to the U.S.A.
In fact, this author, after getting married abroad, actually went to a Marriage License Division of the Probate Court in the U.S.A. to get a U.S. marriage certificate, in other words, to get legally married “again” in the U.S.A. However, the U.S. marriage license official stated that there is no need to get “remarried” in the United States after getting married abroad because foreign marriages are recognized in the U.S.A.
Further, this is key, there is no U.S. national database of marriages with which you need to register your marriage.
Therefore you don’t need to “register your marriage” in the U.S.A. after getting married abroad.
However, at times for particular reasons, you may have to prove that you are married, such as if you are:
- applying for a spousal visa, such as a CR1 or IR1 visa
- buying life insurance
- changing your name at the Social Security office
- doing certain things with your bank accounts or credit cards
- doing taxes with the IRS
- and other such tasks
If you need to do any of these tasks and have a foreign marriage certificate or marriage license in a foreign language, then you will need to get a certified translation of your marriage certificate.
We’re Not Married Yet but Want To: How Do We Get Married Abroad?
People say that you can go to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and get married by a consular officer. However, that’s a myth.
The State Department website says:
U.S. embassy and consulate personnel cannot perform marriages in foreign countries. Depending on the law of the foreign country, local civil or religious officials generally perform marriages.
In other words, if you want to get married abroad, just follow the laws of the foreign country in which you currently reside in order to get legally married in that jurisdiction. Then, that marriage should be valid in the U.S.A. as well.
Obviously, you are going to need to research the laws in the particular country where you are, but we can give a hint of the kinds of requirements for foreign marriage that you may need to complete.
Depending on the country, you may need to:
- Prove residence in that country for a certain period of time before you can get married there,
- Do blood tests,
- Have a physical exam done,
- Be a minimum age for marriage,
- Demonstrate parental consent,
- Show translated documents that establish the status of any previous marriages, such as a divorce certificate or a death certificate,
- Get an Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry from a U.S. embassy or consulate, which typically declares that you are currently single and thus able to marry someone in countries where polygamy is illegal.
Again, you will need to research the requirements of whatever country you are in in order to get legally married in that location.
Then as long as you are married there, you should be able to use that marriage certificate along with a certified translation of the marriage certificate for official matters in the U.S.A.
Comity: Is My Foreign Marriage Valid in the U.S.A.?
Most likely your foreign marriage certificate is valid in the United States of America for official use.
When one country recognises some of the certificates, laws, and licenses of another country, it is known as comity. According to the principle of comity, your marriage certificate should be recognized in the U.S.A.
Are there exceptions?
Well, it’s always possible that there could be exceptions to comity, so it’s worth researching to see whether the way you are getting married in the foreign country will be valid in the U.S.A.
To oversimplify, if the type of marriage is legal in your place of marriage but is not legal in the U.S.A., then it won’t be acknowledged as valid in the U.S.A., and if the marriage is simply a marriage to get a green card, then it won’t be accepted. (In fact, getting married simply for a green card is considered criminal fraud.)
Requirements for Proof of Foreign Marriage: How Can I Prove I’m Married?
In the U.S.A., you must be able to provide proof that the marriage was legal where it took place. The applicant has the burden to establish that he or she has a valid marriage with a U.S. citizen spouse for immigration purposes.
Exact requirements vary, but you will typically need:
- An original certified copy of the official marriage certificate. Make sure it has the proper stamps or seals.
- A certified translation of the marriage certificate if it’s not in English. Use a reputable translator and have them certify the translation.
It’s a good idea to get multiple certified copies of your marriage certificate and certified translations, as you will need to provide these to various government agencies.
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Advice for Americans Getting Married Abroad
If you are a U.S. citizen planning to get married outside the country, follow this guidance:
- Research the country’s marriage laws to ensure you meet all requirements. This may include medical exams or minimum time of residency.
- If having a local ceremony, obtain multiple certified copies of the marriage certificate and certified English translations.
- Consult an immigration attorney about sponsoring your foreign spouse for U.S. residency or citizenship.
- Note that your marriage itself does not grant your spouse any U.S. immigration rights or status. You must still complete the full visa application process.
Validating your foreign marriage in the U.S.A. takes effort but provides important legal protections. Always consult with licensed attorneys and local government agencies for guidance on your individual situation. With the proper steps, your international union can be legally recognized in the United States.
Foreign Marriage Certificate Translation Services: Is a Translation Valid?
As explained above, in the vast majority of cases, a foreign marriage certificate is accepted as valid in the United States of America for all official purposes. But what if your marriage certificate is in a foreign language? What kind of marriage certificate translation services do you need for an officially accepted translation?
In short you need to get a certified translation of your marriage certificate.
What is a Certified Translation of a Marriage Certificate?
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ USCIS Policy Manual briefly explains what a certified translation of Foreign language documents is:
All documents submitted in support of an application or petition must include complete translation into English. In addition, there must be a certification from the translator indicating that the translation is complete and accurate and attesting to his or her competence as a translator.
In other words, a certified translation is a translation from a professional translator that is accompanied by a signed certificate swearing that the translator is competent to do the translation and that the translation is accurate and complete.
If the certificate is on a separate piece of paper from the translation, then the certificate should indicate which translations it certifies. It should also list the translator’s address and telephone number in case the translator needs to be contacted to confirm his or her work.
A certificate accompanying a certified translation is typically published by a translation company, even if the translator is the owner and sole employee of the company. Officials should be able to do an internet search and confirm that the translator or translation company actually exists and is legitimate.
The certificate is also typically printed on company letterhead, which further indicates its validity.
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Do I Need a Notarized Translation of Marriage Certificate?
A notarized translation is exactly like a certified translation except when the translator signs the certificate, a notary public observes the signing and then adds his or her notary stamp.
Whether you need to get the translation certificate notarized or not depends on your use case. Usually customers have not required us to notarize marriage certificate translations, but your case may be different.
Check on the documentation or ask the officials requiring your marriage certificate translation whether it needs to be notarized.
Can I Translate My Marriage Certificate Myself?
No, you can’t translate your marriage certificate yourself even if you are a professional translator.
In fact, it may be frowned upon if it is found out that the translator was your cousin or friend.
Depending on the office requiring the translation, it may be required for the translation certificate to state that the translator is not a family member, friend, or business associate of the owner of the translated document.
Typically, the translator should not be yourself or someone you have a personal relationship with, but rather someone you have a professional client–translator relationship.
But again, check on the requirements of the office requesting the translation from you.
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