Getting Married In China

02/08/2012 03:54 pm ET

Some couples are content to tie the knot at the courthouse down the road. But for those who are more adventurous, a destination wedding -- and an international marriage -- are a must. The Huffington Post's guide to international marriages will tell you everything you need to know to get legally married in China. Read on to ensure all of your paperwork is in order before booking your ticket. --Marnie Kunz

Residency Requirement And Waiting Period

China requires all marriages to include at least one partner who is a Chinese citizen or long-term resident of China. The marriage application must be filed in the county in which the resident resides. Long-term residents must have a resident permit. There is no official waiting period, but acquiring the necessary documents -- a certificate of marriageability and marriage license -- can take a few days.

Intent To Marry

All marriage license applicants must have clearance for marriage by obtaining a certificate of marriageability. U.S. embassies offer marriageability affidavits, which require an appointment. To receive the affidavit, applicants must swear before a consul that they are eligible to marry and also provide proof of termination of any past marriages, with death certificates, divorce decrees or annulment decrees. The originals or certified copies of these documents will also be required by Chinese officials at the time of the marriage license application. There is a $50 charge for the affidavit.

To apply for a marriage license, applicants must go to the local marriage registration office of the local civil affairs bureau in China. Partners should apply at the office of the locality in which one applicant resides. Each locality may have its own regulations, so applicants should prepare for the process by visiting or calling the office in advance.

The Ceremony

Weddings are officiated according to Chinese laws. American diplomatic and consular officers are not authorized to perform marriages in China. See the local office of civil affairs for any specific ceremony requirements in the area.

The Marriage Certificate

After obtaining a marriage license, a marriage certificate is usually issued the same day. The marriage will be recognized by the Chinese and U.S. governments, and couples do not need to file any more paperwork for the marriage.

Legal Documentation

To apply for a marriage license, Americans should be prepared to show a valid passport with a Chinese visa and an affidavit of marriageability. One partner must show proof of residence in China or be a Chinese citizen. Previously married applicants must provide proof of all terminated marriages, with either divorce decrees, death certificates or annulment decrees. Three photos of the couple together are also required.

Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriages are not allowed in China and no efforts to pass a gay marriage amendment have succeeded. The Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China states that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Additional Information

Most Chinese government officials do not speak English, so a translator is often necessary for American couples. All documents in English must also be written and signed in Chinese. The U.S. Embassy's affidavits of marriageability include an English and Chinese version of the document.

The Consulate General of the United States in Shanghai offers online scheduling for obtaining an affidavit of marriageability.

View the full set of laws and regulations regarding marriage in China.

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