The short answer is: Yes, for most countries! But there’s an additional step of getting an Apostille.
The validity of U.S. marriage certificates internationally depends on the requirements of both the originating country and the receiving nation. Typically, this entails proper documentation such as a marriage license and certificate and potentially an apostille. The union must satisfy the recipient country’s criteria for a lawful marriage regarding age, gender, and other factors. In some cases, the marriage must be recognized by the receiving country’s embassy or registered with its government. All documents must be properly translated and filed per the recipient nation’s laws before submission.
Marriages performed outside a country are usually considered valid there if they follow local rules. However, the acceptance of such marriages relies on the specific laws of the country recognizing them.
Marrying abroad can be costly and time-consuming, with requirements and procedures varying significantly between countries. Those intending to wed in another nation should research its requirements before making any arrangements.
For many, marrying in the U.S. is simpler than doing so abroad. Couples often wed in America to avoid complications, even if one or both partners are foreign nationals. They may then register the marriage in their home country using an apostille if needed.
Another common scenario is destination weddings, where U.S. citizens typically marry legally in America first rather than navigating foreign marriage laws. On the other hand, foreign nationals immigrating to the U.S. may find it beneficial to obtain an American marriage certificate to avoid registering a foreign union during the lengthy visa process.
Whether obtaining a U.S. marriage certificate is advisable depends on the couple and their circumstances. The legal status of a remote or virtual wedding and necessary recognition documents are best determined by consulting officials in the relevant jurisdictions or an immigration and family law attorney.
An apostille is a special certificate issued by a state Secretary of State or Lieutenant Governor allowing a legal document created in one country to be recognized in another. An apostille certifies a marriage certificate is legally valid, verifiably authentic, and acceptable in any nation party to the 1961 Hague Apostille Convention.
The Hague Apostille Convention simplified authenticating documents for international use. Enacted October 5, 1961, it provides that documents issued by authorities in signatory countries will be recognized in all other member nations without further authentication. In America, the State Department authenticates documents for apostilles. An apostille certifies the signature, capacity, and identity of any stamps or seals on the document.
The Convention replaced the complex and costly multi-certification legalization process with a single apostille. As a member, public documents from other signatories require only an apostille for recognition.
Not all countries accept apostilles. China, for example, does not recognize apostilled U.S. legal documents. For American marriage certificates to be valid there, documents must be authenticated by either the Chinese embassy or consulate in the U.S. or the State Department through a process known as legalization. The certificate must then be accepted by China’s government to be considered evidence of a legally binding marriage.
You can view which countries accept Apostilles here.
The rules for recognizing U.S. marriage certificates abroad vary significantly between countries. Here are some examples:
•The United Kingdom recognizes marriages or civil partnerships performed legally abroad if they would also be legal under U.K. law. No apostille or registration is needed.
•Canada usually recognizes marriages performed legally overseas as valid without needing an apostille or registration. However, Canadian immigration requires online marriages meet certain criteria to be considered legitimate for spousal sponsorship. Canadians marrying abroad should contact local authorities for required documentation and authentication rules. Canadian embassies and consulates abroad can advise on local regulations and recommend legal counsel if needed.
•The Philippines recognizes marriages performed abroad as valid if also legal where celebrated. Since online marriage is legal in America, it should be recognized as valid in the Philippines.
•For same-sex couples, U.S. marriages will only be valid in countries where same-sex unions are already legal. As of January 2023, same-sex marriage is legally performed and recognized in 29 nations.
The validity of an American marriage abroad depends on many complex factors. Those with questions should consult an expert family law attorney, likely both domestically and in the relevant foreign country. contacting the U.S. embassy’s website for that nation, the U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions worldwide. Select the applicable country to access contact information for more information on an American marriage’s legality there.
To get married legally online, you can sign up at VirtualMarriage.com