Getting married overseas
If you're going overseas to get married, you must work within the legal systems of Australia and the country you're getting married in. This page provides general advice about:
- proving you're free to marry
- getting your marriage recognised in Australia
- becoming an Australian citizen though marriage
If you need advice specific to your destination, contact their embassy, high commission or consulate.
Proving you're free to marry
The foreign government may ask you to prove that you're free to marry. Each foreign government determines what evidence they will accept.
We can't tell you what you need to do for each destination. You must find out the foreign government's laws about getting married. There may be different laws locally and nationally.
The most common documents foreign governments accept are:
- a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) to Marriage
- certificates from an official registry of births deaths and marriage
For country specific information, contact your destination's embassy, high commission or consulate.
Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage
Some foreign governments won't let you get married in their country until you prove you aren't already married. Many accept a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI).
DFAT can issue a CNI in Australia. However, some foreign governments will only accept CNIs issued by the Australian embassy or consulate within their country. Ask the foreign government:
- if they require a CNI
- if the CNI can be issued in Australia before you go, or only in their country
- If the CNI also needs an authentication or apostille
Contact the destination's embassy, high commission or consulate.
Certificates from a registry of births, deaths and marriage
You may have to provide more proof that you're free to marry. Your Australian State or Territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages can provide:
- a statement that there is no record that you have been married before
- a Single Status certificate
- a No Record Result certificate
Depending on your circumstances, overseas authorities may also ask for:
- divorce papers
- the death certificate of a deceased spouse
- your original birth certificate and passport
Foreign authorities may also have further requirements. For example, they may not let you marry unless you've lived there for a certain a length of time.
To find out what you need, contact the destination's embassy, high commission or consulate.
Australian recognition of overseas marriages
While you can't register an overseas marriage in Australia, in most cases, the marriage will be legally recognised in Australia. The rules governing whether a marriage is valid under Australian law are in the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth).
- The marriage must be recognised as valid under the law of the country at the time it was entered into.
- The marriage would have been recognised as valid under Australian law if the marriage had taken place in Australia.
The Attorney-General's Department administers Australia's policies on family law and marriage. This includes who can get married and who can perform marriages. It also includes which overseas marriages Australia recognises.
A foreign marriage certificate is usually accepted as evidence of the marriage, but you may not be able to use this as evidence of a change of name. For more information, contact your local registry of births, deaths and marriages.
To confirm if your overseas marriage certificate is valid, seek legal advice. A legal practitioner can advise if your overseas marriage is valid in Australia.
When a foreign marriage isn't recognised in Australia
Not all marriages performed overseas are recognised by the Australian Government. The Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) recognises most overseas marriages, with the following exceptions:
- Where one of the parties was already married to someone else.
- Where one of the parties at the time of the marriage resided in Australia and either of the parties was not of marriageable age (as defined by the Marriage Act).
- Where neither of the parties resided in Australia at the time of marriage, the marriage won't be recognised as valid while either party is under 16 years old.
- Where the parties are too closely related under Australian law (including relationships traced through adoption or an adoption that has ceased to have effect). That is, either as ancestor and descendant, or as brother and sister. This includes half-brother and half-sister.
- Where the consent of one of the parties was not real due to duress or fraud, a mistake as to the identity of the other party or the nature of the ceremony performed, or mental incapacity.
Becoming an Australian citizen though marriage
Marriage to an Australian citizen does not guarantee entry to Australia or Australian citizenship. Foreign citizens must comply with Australia's immigration laws to enter and live in Australia.
- What you need to get a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI)
- Understand how and when consular services can help.
- If you're a party to a forced marriage overseas, you can be arrested in Australia.
- Information on legalising documents in Australia and overseas.
- See information about getting married overseas (Attorney-General's Department)
- For information on whether a marriage is valid under Australian law see the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) (Federal Register of Legislation)
- Contact your state or territory's registry of births, deaths and marriages
- Find out about Australian visas from the Department of Home Affairs
At any time there’s around one million Australians living and working overseas. Properly preparing for a long stint will make the transition less stressful.
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