5 Documents You Need to Marry a Foreigner in SA (& save time) | Legal Articles


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5 Documents You Need to Marry a Foreigner in SA (& save time)

Getting married to a foreigner in South Africa is a complicated process if you don’t have all the necessary documentation in order.

Marrying a foreigner in South Africa is relatively straight forward if you have a local marriage officer on your side. However, if you are a South African marrying a foreigner outside of the country, you will need to pay special attention to the advice in this article.

registration of foreign marriage in south africa

Documents Needed to Marry a Foreigner in South Africa

To make this process as easy as it possibly could be, it’s important to start planning months in advance. If your marriage is an impromptu decision, you may have to brace yourself for a 6-month period of waiting to get all the documents you need to finalize your marriage.

Below is a breakdown of the procedure you should follow if you are a South African marrying a foreigner and want to avoid unnecessary delays.

  1. Check your marital status
  2. Obtain a letter of no impediment
  3. Get married
  4. Register your marriage with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA)
  5. Obtain an unabridged marriage certificate

Check Your Marital Status

Although you think you know what your status is, many South Africans have fallen victim to corrupt officials who have married them unknowingly to foreigners who are eager to get into South Africa.

Therefore, before you do anything else, it’s important that you check what your marriage status is. This is especially important if you have changed your status before.

In South Africa, there are six statuses:

  • Single
  • Married
  • Divorced
  • Widow
  • Widower
  • Deceased

You will need to provide your full name and identity number in order to check your status. Our attorneys can assist you with checking your marital status.

Letter of No Impediment South Africa

Before you are allowed to get married in another country, you will need to prove that you are not already married.

A Letter of No Impediment is a document issued by the department of health which confirms that you are not currently married and ultimately nothing prevents you from getting married.

If you were previously married and are now divorced, some countries will require a copy of your divorce decree.

Additionally, most countries which are part of the Hague Convention will request that your Letter of No Impediment is apostilled. Some may even request that the document is translated.

Get Married

Each country has it’s own legal requirements for getting married so it’s important to find out what is required from you to make it happen.

In addition, it’s advised to keep all documentation that you receive during the process of getting married in a different country so that you can later on prove that you did in fact get married abroad.

The most important of these is your marriage register which must be signed by your marriage officer and two eligible witnesses. Without your marriage register, the DHA will not be able to generate your marriage certificate later on.

Register Your Marriage in South Africa

When you get married in a different country, you will be recorded as married in that specific country. This status does not automatically get updated in South Africa.

Therefore, you will need to register yourself as married at the South African Department of Home Affairs.

South Africans who have married a foreigner and want to register their marriage in South Africa through an international South Africa consulate may need to wait 12 months or more.

Alternatively, our marriage attorneys in Cape Town and Johannesburg can assist you with this process which may fast track it slightly, provided we have all the necessary documentation.

At this stage, it’s also important to know what surname you will want to have. Below are the three options available in South Africa:

  • Assume your husband’s surname
  • Add your surname to your husband’s (double barrel)
  • Keep the surname you had prior to your marriage

Obtain Unabridged Marriage Certificate

Once newlyweds have registered their marriage, they must apply for and unabridged marriage certificate, which is a document that proves their marriage to each other and includes other important details of the marriage as well.

Once again, South Africans who have married a foreigner abroad will need to apply through the relevant South African consulate which can be an extremely lengthy process.

Unabridged marriage certificates can be obtained for:

  • South Africans who have married another South African
  • Non-South African couples
  • Couples where one partner is not a citizen of South Africa

This applies to all couples described above, regardless of whether the couple lives in or outside of South Africa.

It’s extremely important to note that abridged or handwritten versions of unabridged marriage certificates are not valid overseas and also cannot be apostilled.

Van Deventer & Van Deventer Incorporated – Notary Public South Africa

Our attorneys in Johannesburg and Cape Town are experts in marriage law. Additionally, we offer professional notarial services in South Africa and can assist with the process of registering your foreign marriage in South Africa.

To find out more about our legal services which include marriage and matrimonial property notarial services, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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