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Living in China
Getting Married in China
A wedding should be a joyful occasion, but for expats in China it is often stressful and confusing. We tell you which documents you need, which steps you have to take, and address the legal impact and concerns. With a little preparation, nothing stands in the way of the happiest day of your life.
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Not every expat chooses China for the various career opportunities it offers. Some move to the country to be with their partner, others want to settle down and fall in love with a Chinese local. In any case, you might, sooner or later, decide to get married to the person you love. In this article, we will list the steps you have to take and the paperwork you need to submit in order to get married.
How to Get Married in China
The Civil Affairs Bureau of your city or your district (if you are living in a bigger city like Beijing) is responsible for processing the paperwork regarding your upcoming marriage. It is essential that at least one of you is a registered permanent resident or a Chinese citizen, and that both partners are getting married voluntarily and aren’t married already. The legal minimum age for getting married in China is 22 for men and 20 for women. The fee for a marriage certificate is usually about 9 CNY.
The partner who is a Chinese resident has to submit the following paperwork:
- Residence booklet (the original and a certified copy of the first page, stamped by the responsible authority)
- Resident ID
The foreign national who has agreed to enter into the marriage in question has to provide the following:
- A certificate of marriageability issued by the responsible authorities or an embassy of their home country (valid for 6 months from the date it was issued)
- An authorized translation of the document mentioned above
- A valid passport
Some cities or districts might require you to get a health check-up at a designated hospital in China and submit a health certificate to prove it. Always make sure to inquire at your local Civil Affairs Bureau about which documents are required, as this is subject to change and can vary between different districts.
Once you have collected all the documents you need, you can complete the Statement of Marriage Registration Application which is provided by the registration authority. The marriage registrar will make sure that your paperwork is complete and valid, administer the oath and sign it. If they find that you are eligible to get married, you will be registered right away and your certificates will be issued to you.
A Word of Advice
If you move to China solely for the purpose of getting married, it makes sense to get as many documents translated and certified as possible before you leave. Otherwise, you may have to plan for a lot of time at your embassy. All in all, it might be cheaper and less of a hassle to simply take care of these things beforehand. You should also factor in enough time to have your documents translated.
Not every country provides a certificate of marriageability (commonly known as a Single Status Certificate, Certificate of No Record of Marriage, or Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage) to their citizens. In this case, you have to write up an affidavit (a formal statement), stating your name, address, occupation, employer, and passport number. Point out that you have never been married, or that you are divorced or widowed. This document has to be notarized. Please get in touch with the responsible authorities at your embassy or in your home country to find out more about the process.
If Both Partners Are Expats
If you and your partner are both expats, then you can only marry in China if at least one of you is a permanent resident in China. Otherwise you will not get the permission to marry and, if you insist on a ceremony, your marriage will not be recognized by the state.
So, unless you are about to gain permanent residency in China, we advise you to get married in another country or wait until your assignment ends and you are ready to return home. That way, you can avoid all the paperwork. Your embassy should also be able to provide you with further information.
Legal Impact and Concerns
If you and your partner are both expats and want to get married, you can, of course, try to apply for permanent residency. This can be quite difficult and might not make sense if you plan to stay for only a limited amount of time. Please refer to our section on “Visas and Administration” to find out more about residence permits.
If your new spouse is Chinese, the marriage entitles you to an L-visa. All you have to do is present your marriage certificate, registration certificate, passport, and fee at a local visa office. The visa is valid for one year and, while it allows you to reside legally in China, it does not allow you to study or take up gainful employment during that time.
It is not customary for the female spouse to legally change her name after getting married in China. However, while their name remains the same in legal terms, they are often referred to by their husband’s name.