Here, I would like to explain the practical side of tying the knot in China and obtaining a notarised version so that the certificate is recognised abroad.
Perhaps you are at a stage in China where you are thinking about this step, or maybe just want to satisfy a curiousity on how a foreigner can marry a Chinese man or woman here.
My post won’t focus on the preliminary stages, like finding a partner in the first place. Nor will I describe the wedding ceremony, but rest assured, I will certainly cover these topics in due time!
Unlike many other countries, where the wedding and marriage registration take place on the same day, couples in China first register their marriage on a auspicious day calculated by a fortune teller, and hold the ceremony itself on another future date, sometimes even more than a year later.
The little red book
Based on personal experience, the registration process is surprisingly quick and easy.
The basic requirements is that the woman is at least 22 years old, and the man 20. They should be free of serious illness, and marrying of their own free will, of course.
The foreigner will need to produce a valid passport and Chinese visa along with a photocopy. Just as importantly, a affadavit or affirmation that he or she is free to marry is needed from your nearest diplomatic representative.
In the days I went through the process, people needed a ‘Certificate of no-impediment,’ where you had to complete a form at the embassy or consulate, then wait three weeks while they and the public had the window to expose you an international bigamist Casernova.
This all changed for British nationals in 2014, when the certificate of no impediment was replaced by an affadavit, where you swear you’re single with hand on a bible or something, or a straight affirmation confirming your eligibility. The advantage is that you can go the diplomatic mission and come away with your certificate on the same day and visit.
The Chinese partner will only need their ID card身份证(Shen fen zheng) and household booklet户口簿(Hu kou bu). Their marital status is easily confirmed on their electronic records.
After 21 days, the British Consulate in Chongqing issued me two classy looking identical A4 certificates, one in English and the other in Chinese, bound together in the top left corner with a pretty dark blue silk ribbon.
Beyond that, all that remains is to attend an appointment at a registration centre, complete the application form together, hand in personal 2 inch photos and documents, pay the fee, have your photo taken together with the red background at the centre there and then, wait for the registrar to work his magic, and Bob’s your uncle! After a short time, without pomp nor ceremony, you will be handed a marriage certificate each, in the form of a thin red booklet, after which you may leave to hopefully enjoy a life of marital bliss.
There may be slight variations in the process depending on where in China you are. As an example, here is a link to an English webpage for the ‘Chongqing Marriage and Adoption registration Administration Centre,’ a real mouthful of a name.
And don’t worry, this is not an affiliate for any online matchmakers or anything!
In my case, it happened the mother in law had a close aquaintance at the registrar. We gave her the documents in advance, and come the day, the whole process probably took no more than twenty minutes.
I would recommend finding a public notary公证处 (Gong zheng chu) to translate and certify the authenticity of the Chinese marriage certificate.
This has been handy, particularly with visa applications for my wife and birth registrations.
All they do is photocopy the original, and attach a translation behind each page, and finish with separate Chinese and English statements confirming the certificate is not a skillful forgery.
The notarys in your city will know what to do, so it’s just a question of locating their office, battling it out to the front of the queue, and paying your dues. It normally takes a few days before your document is ready for collection.
And that’s all! Stay tuned for my blogs on dating and weddings.