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Foreign Nationals/Foreign Domicile

Please be aware of the implications of the Immigration Act 2014 on marriages in the Church of England. From 2nd March 2015, it will no longer be lawful for the marriage of a non-EEA (i.e. non-European) national to be solemnized in the Church of England after the publication of banns or by a common marriage licence (unless a couple has been informed that the ‘transitional arrangements’ will apply to them). All such weddings will now have to be authorised by Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates (‘SRC’).


If either of the parties to a marriage in England or Wales is a foreign national or has a foreign domicile (that is, their fixed and permanent home is abroad), they should ensure that the legal requirements of their home country are observed.

A marriage performed in accordance with English Law may not be recognised abroad. There have been cases where the marriage has been declared invalid, leaving spouses and children abandoned in a foreign country.

Problems with the recognition of marriage have arisen particularly in Islamic countries, and some Eastern European states which were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

No difficulties have been experienced in the European Union, the old Commonwealth (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) or the United States.


Making Enquiries

To avoid risks about the recognition of an Anglican marriage, it is necessary to comply both with the laws of this country and the laws of the home country. You should seek advice from the nearest consulate or embassy of the foreign country to ascertain whether a marriage conducted in England or Wales after the appropriate preliminary will be recognised as valid.

There may be additional legal requirements imposed by the foreign country before the marriage is recognised there.

It is particularly important to consult the consular authorities where one of the parties is a foreign national under the age of 25. The legal age of consent for marriage is not invariably the same in other countries as it is in England and Wales.


Special Licence Procedure for Foreign Nationals or those living overseas 

To find out whether you need a Special Licence, please follow this link.


Applicants for a Special Licence who are foreign nationals, or living overseas, are strongly encouraged to consult their embassy or consulate at an early stage to obtain:

i) satisfactory assurance that the legal requirements of that country have been fulfilled and that a marriage of one of its citizens or residents, solemnized in England and Wales according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England or the Church in Wales, will be recognised in the country in question; and

ii) confirming the requirements and practicalities as to the registering of such a marriage in that country.


All applicants for a Special Licence must enclose a copy of their current valid passport, or other sufficient valid proof of nationality, with their Licence application form.

In addition, applicants who are subject to immigration control must enclose a copy of their UK visa.

The application process for a Special Licence where the bride or groom is a non-European national is more strict. A check with the Home Office might be carried out, regarding the immigration status of a non-European national. The couple will need to attend an interview at the Faculty Office in Westminster.


Guidance to clergy on the marriage of non-European nationals

Since 2nd March 2015 the marriages of couple where the bride and/or groom are non-European nationals must take place after Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates (‘SRC’) have been obtained, unless the couple require a Special Marriage Licence. Guidance to the clergy on the SRC process is published by the General Register Office and Home Office (for example the ‘Guidebook for the Clergy’), alongside general advice from the Faculty Office in ‘Anglican Marriage in England and Wales: a Guide to the Law for the Clergy’.