Process for South Africans marrying a foreigner

If you are South African and planning to get married in future, it is never to early to verify that you have the right documentation. While getting married within SA is easier with a local marriage officer, South Africans marrying a foreigner abroad will need to heed the below advice to avoid any pitfalls.

South Africans marrying a foreigner

The process is easy enough to understand, but if you are not prepared, you will waste a great deal of time and money pursuing the documents mentioned below. Just imagine booking and paying for your wedding in a month’s time, only to find out you can’t marry without documents that take six months to get!

The simple procedure for South Africans marrying a foreigner are as follows:

1. Check your marital status
2. Obtain a Letter of No Impediment for the relevant party
3. Get married!
4. Register your marriage on the DHA system
5. Obtain an Unabridged Marriage Certificate

So, before you book your wedding venue, let’s take a look into how each of these steps can be achieved.

1. Checking your marital status in South Africa

Citizens and those who have previously registered a status in South Africa at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), will have one of the six (6) statuses on their name. These are SINGLE, MARRIED, DIVORCED, WIDOW, WIDOWER and DECEASED.

To find out your status, the DHA used to have an SMS line and other options. These are now either defunct or the service is spotty, and do not work at consulates or for South Africans overseas. Apostil.co.za is able to acquire and send you your status within 1-5 working days using only your full name and ID number (get in touch here).

Many South Africans have fallen prey to corrupt officials marrying them unknowingly to foreigners desperate to get into SA. Therefore, before applying for the next document, it is often essential to be sure that your status has not been tampered with.

2. Securing your Letter of No Impediment to marry

To marry in another country, that country needs to know you aren’t married already. In every country in which you hold citizenship, which includes South Africa, you need to prove this. Thus, you need a document from the DHA stating you are single or divorced.

This document is called a Letter of No Impediment (LNI) to marry, meaning that nothing impedes you from getting married. In other countries, it has a different name, such as a Declaration of Single Status document or Certificate of No Impediment.

Please note: If you were married before and are now divorced, some countries require a copy of your divorce decree as well. Should you need assistance with this, contact us here.

Most countries which are part of the Apostille (Hague) Convention will require you to have the document apostilled, possibly translated as well. Apostil.co.za can assist you with all of this (click to contact us).

After obtaining your LNI, most countries require you to register this with them, but this is usually an easier step and naturally has nothing to do with South Africa DHA procedures, thankfully.

3. Getting married!

Since there are so many variations, we cannot give definitive advice on what you need to do in the country you are marrying in, however we can advise emphatically to keep any documentation you receive during the process or wedding.

Especially your marriage register (see SA example) is a key document in proving later that you actually got married. In South Africa, this document is vital. Your marriage officer and two eligible witnesses have to sign the marriage register in SA, which is usually labelled BI-27 or DHA-30. Often, without this marriage register, the Department of Home Affairs cannot generate your marriage certificate later.

4. Registering your marriage in South Africa

While you will be recorded as being married in the country you married in, if you registered it, South Africa has no way of being notified about it and you’ll still be single (or divorced) in SA. Therefore, you need to let them know.

For South Africans marrying a foreigner, to register your marriage yourself through an overseas South Africa consulate can take 12 months, if lucky. Apostil.co.za can have the registration done effortlessly and remotely (just email or phone us to start).

We will require, as mentioned above, various documents including your marriage register. What is also important to note is that you make sure what surname you want or not, since SA requires more documentation if you do not follow the DHA’s marriage name convention, which states that only the woman may:

– Assume her husband’s surname;
– Add her surname to that of her husband (Double barrel surname); or
– Resume a surname she legally bore at a prior time (Retain her surname)”

(taken from the DHA website)

In addition to this, Apostil.co.za has successfully had marriages registered where a man also needs a name changed.

Unabridged Marriage Certificate sample

5. Getting your unabridged marriage certificate

After registering a marriage, newlyweds should (or must) apply for an unabridged marriage certificate. Their status will have changed on the DHA system and this document now proves their marital status to each other. Other details of the marriage are included as well (click on the example to enlarge).

South Africans marrying a foreigner abroad will need to apply for their official DHA marriage certificate through a South African mission (consulate, embassy, etc), again taking many months. Apostil.co.za can assist in well under a month, remotely and without having to receive couriered documentation (contact us through this form).

Unabridged marriage certificates can be obtained for South Africans who have married another South African, to non-South African couples and couples where one partner is not a South African citizen, whether or not the couple resides in SA or outside of South Africa.

Make sure to obtain an unabridged marriage certificate (full details of the marriage), since abridged or handwritten versions are not valid overseas and often cannot be apostilled either.

Advice for South Africans marrying a foreigner

The basic advice is to plan ahead and keep all documentation that you receive. Later, you’ll know what to throw away. Be sure to make a digital copy of every document and store it safely.

Most importantly, be aware of the above-mentioned documentation challenges and plan your wedding far enough into the future to obtain the relevant documents.

Get in touch with us for any document you may need in order to embark on the next step in your relationship, and your life!

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