China bans marriage licenses for expat lovebirds

Published:  17 May at 6 PM
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If you and the love of your life are expats living and working in China, don’t even think of getting married in your new home!

For reasons as yet unclear, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs has now posted a new rule stating marriage licenses will no longer be available for foreign couples wanting to tie the knot. The closest thing to a wedding in the Chinese/Western style is still available in Hong Kong, which offers marriage licenses to lovebirds of any nationality. However, if you’ve formed a circle of friends in China and would love to have them witness the ceremony, stomping up for a dozen or more flights as well as the celebration itself might well break the bank.

When asked by local media whether the rule is ever likely to be changed, the marriage registration office’s answer was ambiguous at best as it simply stated it had no information as to whether the policy would be subject to change. It’s not all bad news, as expats who’ve fallen in love with Chinese citizens can still get hitched locally as long as the beloved has a hukou, the ID proving permanent residence in the district where the marriage will take place.

As with marriage anywhere else on the planet, bureaucracy insists on the presentation of documents including a valid passport showing a Chinese visa, three photos of the soon-to-be happy couple and an Affidavit of Marriageability. This requires a visit to the expat’s nearest consulate to swear he or she is free to marry plus a payment of $50. In the case of divorcees, a copy of the divorce papers is required. Nowadays, the actual registration fee for either marriage or divorce is free, whilst before the new law came in the cost was RMB9.
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