How to determine if your foreign marriage is legally recognized and binding in the U.S.
Laws that regulate the legality and legitimacy of marriages performed outside the U.S.A vary from one foreign country to the next. Therefore U.S. citizens, who get married in a country other than the United States, must first concern themselves with adherence to the rules and regulations of the country where the wedding will take place. Generally speaking, if the marriage is legally recognized and valid in the country where the ceremony is performed it will be accepted in the U.S. with little or no problem.
However, adhering to the laws of the country where you plan to get married is not necessarily a 'slam dunk'. Many countries impose strict rules governing matrimony on their soil, and understanding and following all the rules can be daunting.
Some of the more common requirements for marriage in a foreign country include residency requirements that can involve long waiting periods. There are also requirements that include, proof of eligibility to get married, and proof of age, and these vary from country to country. If a person is under legal marital age, written parental consent is required. Blood tests are required in a number of foreign countries, as is the custom here in America.
Paper requirements mainly include such documents as U.S. passport, birth certificates, divorce decrees, and is some cases a death certificate might be required. Also many countries aren't satisfied with the mere presentation of the required documents, but will also insist that a consular official of their country authenticate the documents in question. The authentication must take place on U.S. soil. This too can be a lengthy process and it is an expensive one.
In addition to the requirements already mentioned, all civil law countries require proof of legal capacity to enter into a marriage contract. This proof comes in the form of a document called an "Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry". It provides written certification that no impediment exists to the marriage. The affidavit is not available through any U.S. agency in America, and must be obtained from the U.S. Embassy or consulate where the marriage will be performed. The fee is around $30.
Satisfying the rules and regulations of the country where you get married is the best way to ensure that the marriage will be recognized in the U.S. upon your return to this country. You will find that different states within the U.S. all have different laws governing foreign marriage registration and reporting. This statement is not intended to contradict my earlier statement about the ease at which marriages on foreign soil are accepted, but foreign marriage reporting requirements are different from one state to the next. This is why it is extremely important to ensure that your marriage is legally registered and recognized as valid in the marrying country. And you should make a concerted effort to ensure that all documents associated with the marriage are kept in a secure location. It is also advisable to check with your state's Attorney General with inquiries or questions regarding any marriage reporting/registration requirements in your state.