Getting Married in China: a Guide for U.S. Citizens

This article gives an overview of the requirements and procedures for foreign-related marriages in China. Local requirements and procedures may vary, so contact local authorities to confirm.

1. Requirements

Chinese law applies if a Chinese citizen marries a foreigner in China.[1] Key requirements:

  • Minimum age: 22 for men, 20 for women, although a higher age may be established by local law.[2]
  • Certain categories of Chinese citizens, such as diplomats, security officials, and others whose work is considered to be crucial to the state, are not legally free to marry foreigners.
  • At least one of the spouses must reside in China. (Two foreigners on tourist visas are unlikely to be able to marry).
  • Bigamous marriages are prohibited in China.
  • Marriages where the spouses are relatives by blood up to the third degree of kinship are prohibited in China.
  • Same-sex marriages are prohibited in China.
  • A person currently serving a criminal sentence or receiving re-education through labor is ineligible to marry.
  • Persons with certain genetic diseases, infectious diseases, or mental illnesses must delay marriage, in some cases indefinitely.

2. Procedures

2.1 Jurisdiction

Foreign-related marriages are handled by the Foreign-Related Marriage Registration Office (婚姻登记处 hunyin dengji chu), part of the Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs (民政局 min zheng ju).

If one spouse is a PRC citizen, jurisdiction will be the one where the family registration booklet (户口 hukou) is registered.[3]

2.2 What to Do

Both parties need to go in person to the Foreign-Related Marriage Registration Office.

We recommend that you dress up when you go to the Marriage Registration Office. (The man should wear a coat and tie.) It tends to make the process go more smoothly.

You will fill in together the Declaration of Applying for Marriage Registration (申请结婚登记声明书 shenqing jiehun dengji shengmingshu) in the presence of the officer.

The Marriage Registration Office will give each spouse a marriage booklet. Make sure to tell the Marriage Registration Office that you also want a notarial version of the marriage certificate. Get this in duplicate. You’ll need it for U.S. immigration and other international legal purposes.

Figure 1. Marriage Booklets

 

Figure 2. Notarial marriage certificate.

2.3 Fees and Timing

Local practices vary as to fees and timing:

  • The marriage booklets will cost 170 to 700 RMB. In some localities they are available immediately. In others, there may be a wait of 3 work days or so.
  • The notarial marriage certificate will cost 100 to 300 RMB, and usually takes about 5 work days to be produced, although expedited service may be available.

2.4 Documents Needed

Documents needed from the foreign spouse include[4]:

  1. Valid passport.
  2. Valid Chinese visa (or residence permit issued by the public security bureau (PSB) entry-exit administration).
  3. “Originals” of proof of termination of prior marriages, i.e., divorce decrees and death certificates of prior spouses (if applicable). For the U.S., the “original” refers to the original stamp from the court clerk certifying that the document is an exact copy of the court records, or an original stamp from a vital records office clerk certifying that the document is an exact copy of the office’s records. Bring the original for the Marriage Registration Office to inspect, plus a photocopy for them to keep.[5]
  4. Chinese translations of the proof of termination of prior marriages: These translations must be done by a Chinese notarial office (公证处 gong zheng chu). Ask the Marriage Registration Office which notarial office they prefer that you use.
  5. “Certificate of marriageability” (aka certificate of single status): This can be issued by a notary public or vital records office in your home country and authenticated by a Chinese Consulate in that country.[6] However, for a U.S. citizen it’s easier to prepare this at a U.S. Consulate in China as follows. You’ll need to make an appointment with the Consulate’s American Citizen Services section for this purpose.[7]
  6. Bring proof of termination of all your prior marriages.
  7. Bring your U.S. passport, and your fiancée’s national ID (身份证 shenfenzheng).
  8. The Consulate charges a fee of $50 for this service.[8] Pay in cash (USD or RMB) or credit card.
  9. The Consulate may require the Chinese spouse to appear as well.

A sample affidavit is attached. The Consulate will prepare the actual affidavit for you in both Chinese and English.

The following documents are needed from the Chinese spouse[9]:

  1. PRC National ID card (身份证 shenfenzheng)
  2. Household registration book (户口 hukou)
  3. If the Chinese citizen has prior marriages, should provide divorce certificates or death certificates.
  4. The Marriage Registration Office will ask the Chinese spouse to fill in an affidavit of marriageability on the spot.

(No birth certificate, letter from the Chinese spouse’s parents or work unit, or health status certificate is required under current rules).

Finally, three photos will be required of both spouses together. Some Marriage Registration Offices will take the photos on the spot. Others will ask the couple to bring them.

3. Conclusion

Marriages that are legal in the jurisdiction in which they were performed are legal in the United States. It is not necessary to register your marriage at the Embassy, Consulate, or in the United States, nor do you need to re-marry in the United States.[10]

Of course, do not hesitate to contact our law firm with any question or concern.

Appendix A. Selected Marriage Registration Office Contact Information

(See Part 2.1 above for details about proper jurisdiction)

Beijing Marriage Registration Office

  • Address: Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau, Ground Floor, Main Office Building, No. 20 Gongren Tiyuchang Donglu, Chaoyang District
  • Tel.: (86-10) 6586 6660; (86-10) 6539 5015; (86-10) 6539 5016
  • Office hours: 9:00-11:30am Mon. – Sat., 1:30-5:00pm Mon. – Fri.
  • Website: http://www.bjmzj.gov.cn

Liaoning Province Civil Affairs Office Marriage Registration Office

  • Jurisdiction: All of Liaoning Province
  • Address: No. 26 Jia,Guangrong Jie, Heping District, Shenyang 110003
  • Email: Lnsq@sina.com
  • Office hours: 8:30-11:30, 1:30-4:30 Mon. – Fri. (but closed to public Wed. and Fri. afternoon).

Liaoning Province Marriage Registration Shenyang Office

  • Jurisdiction: Shenyang residents
  • Address: No. 20 Tumen Lu, Heping District, Shenyang 110002
  • Email: Lnsyhy@sohu.com
  • Tel.: 024-8120-3566

Liaoning Province Marriage Registration Dalian Office

Shanghai Registration Center of Marriage and Adoption

  • Address: 3rd Fl., Tower E, Shanghai Everbright Convention & Exhibition Center, No. 82 Caobao Rd.
  • Office hours: 9:00am – 4:00pm, Mon. to Sat. (except Tue.)
  • Tel.: 64325087; 64325088
  • Website: www.shmzj.gov.cn

Appendix B. Affidavit of Marriageability

Endnotes

  1. General Principles of Civil Law, art. 147, adopted by the NPC on Apr. 12, 1986.
  2. Some universities expel undergraduate students who marry.
  3. PRC Marriage Registration Regulations, art. 4, promulgated by the State Council on July 30, 2003, effective Oct. 1, 2003.
  4. PRC Marriage Registration Regulations, art. 5. See PRC State Council, Marriage Registration in China (Oct. 29, 2014).
  5. These do not need to be authenticated by a Chinese consulate in the U.S.
  6. China Embassy in Washington, Marriage Registration in China (Apr. 14, 2008).
  7. See generally U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Getting Married in China (last viewed Feb. 19, 2014), http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/acs_married.html.
  8. 22 C.F.R. § 22.1 (Apr. 23, 2012).
  9. See generally PRC Marriage Registration Regulations, art. 5.
  10. U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Living, Working, and Marriage in China (last visited Dec. 27, 2018).

4 Replies to “Getting Married in China: a Guide for U.S. Citizens”

  1. I am an American citizen, my fiance is Chinese citizen. She does not own anything in China. She has a 18 year old daughter that wants to come to America with us for school.
    We wish to live in America for now and China later on. What is the best and fastest way to get her to America? To marry in China first or start a K1 visa in states?
    Thank you

  2. I, an American citizen, have just married a Chinese citizen. We both live in China, but we want to move to America. Are we both considered legally married in America? Are there any other processes that we need to go through to be considered legally married in America? Also, how does the American government know that I am married in China? Our marriage certificates are in Chinese. Do I need to translate them? Do I need to register at a local office in America?

    1. Luka:

      Generally, under international law, a marriage will be recognized in any country if it was legally entered into in the country where the marriage took place. For purposes of U.S. immigration law, the evidence needed to show marriage in China is a notarial marriage certificate issued by a PRC notary public. This is issued in Chinese with a certified English translation. There is no need to “register” this at a local office in the U.S.

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