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Marriage with a foreigner

Sayaree Ganguly

Marriage with a foreigner

Marriage is considered as a sacred institution. It is an integral part of Indian culture. Religion and caste exert a lot of influence on the marriage institution . Parents mostly choose a potential bride / groom for their children from the same religion and caste as theirs. Until now some states forbid inter caste marriages. The caste system is very rigid in India and it is mostly expected by our society that a young adult should marry from the same caste. The people who deviate from this norm are seen as an outcast in the society.

In view of the Indian Parliament the Special Marriage Act was promulgated in the year 1954 to streamline the process of marriage . The Act also provides a special form of marriage for the Indian masses regardless of their religion and caste, as well as for other nationals residing in India. This article will mostly take a look at the Special Marriage Act for wedding tradition and necessary documentation and paperwork in order to get married in India.  

Thus in India, such marriages are governed by the provisions of the Special Marriage Act. This act not only deals with marriages between people belonging to different religions but also from different caste or backgrounds. Hence, marrying a person from another nationality is also governed by the Special Marriage Act. We must also highlight that an Indian citizen intending to marry outside India; it is the provisions of the Foreign Marriage Act passed in 1969 that apply.

The legal age for marriage in India for women is 18 years and for men is 21 years, the same rule extends to marriage with a foreign national, even though their country’s domestic law prescribe a higher or lower age for marriage. The Special Marriage Act, in addition to prescribing the age limit also mentions degrees of prohibited relationships such as mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers etc.

The Central Information Commission while highlighting the applicability of the Special Marriage Act has also categorically clarified that if the groom and the bride belong to different religions or countries, they are supposed to marry under Special Marriage Act, 1954 as they are not permitted to marry under personal marital laws. Some people may not desire to perform marriage as per their religious customs and prefer to marry under Special Marriage Act. There exists a 30-days notice requirement to be given in India if one partner is permanently and the other partner is temporarily residing in India. Marriages between an Indian and a foreign national also shall be registered under this Act. If in case one partner is residing in the foreign country, the ‘Marriage Notice’ form has to be filled by the partner in India and also the partner in the foreign country, which has to be resubmitted by the partner residing in India to the Registration office.

Eligibility Criteria

l At least one of the parties must be an Indian citizen

l The bride groom must be 21 years of age and the bride must be of 18 years of age.

l Neither party has a spouse living

l Neither party is an idiot or lunatic

l The parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship.

l Each party marrying shouldn’t have any other subsisting valid marriage

How can a foreigner marry an Indian citizen?

A foreigner who lives and also works in India can get himself/ herself married to an Indian under the special marriage act of 1954. At least one of the potential couple must have stayed in India for a period of 30days before applying to get married. The Indian local Police will issue you with a certificate to prove that you have stayed in the India for more than 30 days.

However, some additional paperwork is required to be done but applying for a citizenship isn’t really necessary in order to get married.

l A lawyer has to draft an affidavit confirming your interest in the marriage.

l The next step is to present evidence of your residence in India which shall be issued by the police.


l A valid passport of the foreigner.

l Original birth certificate of both the parties.

l Visa or Ration Card any of the foreign parties involved in the marriage that will last longer than 30 days, indicating your length of stay.

l Certificate of No Impediment/Single Status stating that you’re not already married.

l No Objection Letters stating that you willingly consent to the marriage, obtained through your home country’s embassy.

l Divorce Papers or Death Certificate if you’ve been previously married and divorced or widowed.

l Passport sized photographs - four each of the marrying persons.

l Certificate of conversion if the applicants are converts.

l Those wishing to get married in a catholic setting, the potential couple needs to obtain a certificate of no objection from the catholic Parish priest. You may present a confirmation and baptism certificates. 

At the registry office, you are then required to sign three copies of your notice of intended marriage, and confirm your names and addresses to the registrar. All the documents will then be verified at the office of the marriage Registrar. The law of other nation shall not be in conflict with Indian laws. The notice will then be published inviting objections to the marriage. If no one objects within the 30 days period before your wedding day, you can be legally married, at the registrar office. You’ll need three witnesses to be present, and several copies of the passports and proofs of address for all of your witnesses.

To obtain your marriage certificate, you should visit the local marriage registrar’s office which is usually in a court or municipal building. There’s a 30-days waiting period after your wedding, and then you can obtain your certificate which counts as legal proof that you’re married. In total, you should expect to spend at least 60 days in India between both 30-day waiting periods before and after your wedding.

Is performance of rituals and ceremonies enough?

We may associate a marriage with extensive rituals like walking around the fire , a lot of music and exchanging garlands but it has been clarified by the Court that any couple whether Indian, NRI or a foreigner who wants to marry in India has to either perform a religious marriage ceremony or the civil marriage ceremony. Even if the marriage is celebrated under Christian Marriage, Hindu Marriage Act, Muslim Marriage Act and for the Parsee Marriage such religious ceremonies in India is legally valid marriage but it has to be registered compulsorily. In case of VISA and immigration purpose a marriage certificate is required to be presented. Getting the marriage registered may not be enough, you are often required to furnish a registration certificate which acts as an adequate proof for valid registration of a marriage. No period of expiry for this certificate is mentioned anywhere and a registered marriage, like any other form of marriage is valid until divorce is obtained.

Succession to property

When the parties belonging to different nationalities get married in India, the succession is naturally governed by the Indian Laws. It is the Indian Succession Act that usually determines the rules applicable for deciding the rules of succession. However when both the parties are Hindus, then the Hindu succession Act would instead be applied.  


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