Marriage of British Citizens abroad

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For British citizens wishing to marry a foreign national overseas, the paperwork involved can be confusing and the variations from country to country can make the whole overseas marriage process seem rather daunting. A good place to start is your local Register Office in the UK or, if based outside of the UK, a regional British Embassy in the country in which you are living or planning to marry. The British Embassy will be able to advise you on what paperwork you need and how to ensure your marriage is legally recognised in the UK.

There is a British Embassy or Consulate in most countries, although some small countries that are gaining popularity as wedding locations may be represented by a nearby High Commission, such as the Maldives, which is supported by the High Commission in Sri Lanka. A full list is available on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office website and you are advised to consult this list prior to making your marriage arrangements.

A key piece of documentation that you will be required to obtain is widely known as the Certificate of No Impediment, or CNI. Please note that the CNI is called a Nulla Osta in Italy and a Certificate of Custom Law in France, both popular wedding destinations for British citizens.

If you are in the UK, you can obtain a CNI from your local Register Office, which deals with all births, deaths and marriages in your town or district. If you are outside the UK, you can obtain a CNI from a British Consulate. Please be aware that this may need to be legalised or translated as appropriate for the country in which you are to married. The ‘legalisation’ comes from an office stamp by the Consulate.

Prior to obtaining your CNI you must have publicly announced your intention to marry for at least a week, such as making an announcement in your local paper, and you must swear an affidavit in front of a Commissioner of Oaths. Further advice can be gleaned from your Register Office.

The fee for obtaining your CNI is currently GBP63.00, made payable to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with processing times of around 20 days, although it is recommended that you allow as much time as possible to gain your documents. As CNIs cannot be given in person, all such applications are dealt with by post.

In addition to obtaining the CNI, in most instances British citizens are subject to the residency requirements of the country in which the marriage is to be performed. It is advisable to contact the local registering authorities for information about any residency requirements that may apply to you prior to making any marriage arrangements. Most countries require that a valid British passport be presented as part of the marriage registration process. In addition, original birth certificates, divorce decrees, and death certificates are frequently required.

When a British citizen marries a foreign national overseas, they are not issued with a British marriage certificate, although they are most likely to be given a marriage certificate from that country. While you cannot then obtain a British marriage certificate, you can register your foreign documents with the General Register Office in the UK so that your marriage is legally recorded. It is worth noting that marriages in some countries are not recognised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

After your marriage overseas, your husband or wife may be eligible to apply for a settlement-class spouse visa for entry into the UK. Our family immigration experts will be able to advise you on your UK settlement visa application providing help and support throughout your entire marriage visa process. We encourage you to start your visa journey by familiarising yourself with the basic spouse visa eligibility requirements and contacting our team of knowledgeable and highly experienced immigration consultants to determine whether you are likely to succeed in sponsoring your loved one for a family visa to immigrate to the UK.

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