“You don’t marry a person you can live with; you marry someone you cannot live without” James C. Dobson
If the one you cannot live without lives in another country or on another continent that is oceans apart and you can’t wait to unite with them here, in India, read on. While you may think love, compatibility and a feeling of togetherness is all you need to be with your soul mate, the legal process and time involved is also something you may want to consider while planning your union. In India, such a marriage is governed by the provisions of the Special Marriage Act. This act not only deals with marriages between people belonging to different religions but also different caste or backgrounds and hence, marrying a person from another nationality is also governed by the Special Marriage Act. We must also highlight that for an Indian citizen intending to marry outside India; it is the provisions of the Foreign Marriage Act passed in 1969 that apply.
Since the legal age for marriage in India for girls is 18 years and for boys, 21 years, the same rule extends to marriage with a foreign national, even though their country’s domestic law may 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, and stepgrandmothers etc.
The Central Information Commission while highlighting the applicability of the Special Marriage Act has also categorically clarified that if groom and bride belong to different religions or countries, they have 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 marriage under Special Marriage Act. There exists a 30-day notice requirement to be given in India if one partner is permanently and the other partner is temporarily residing in India. Marriages between Indian and a foreign national also shall be registered under this Act. If 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 in India to the Registration office.
Documents, Formalities, and Certifications needed
Before solemnizing your marriage, you should ensure that the following documents are ready:
- Birth certificates (for age proof)
- A valid visa of more than thirty days for the foreign national
- A single-status affidavit signed by both parties. In case one of the parties has married previously, the Divorce Decree (for divorcees) or Certificate of Death (for widowed) is necessary.
- Address proof and passport size photographs
- Adequate documentary evidence of 30-day residence in India
- A ‘no-objection’ letter – For instance, if an American citizen wishes to wed in a civil marriage ceremony he may be required to present to the marriage officer a ‘no objection letter’ from the US Embassy or Consulate, as well as proof of termination of any previous marriage if any. Similarly, a citizen of any other foreign country is required to present the no objection letter from the Embassy or Consulate of his/her country. The parties also have to wait at least 30 days from the date of initial application to formalize the marriage so that the marriage officer can publish a notice, which might even include a newspaper publication for giving an opportunity for any objections to the marriage to be voiced.
Is performance of rituals and ceremonies enough?
While we may associate a marriage in India with extensive rituals like walking around the fire, a lot of music and exchanging garlands, the Court has clarified 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 Hindu Marriage Act, Muslim Marriage Act, Christian Marriage Act and for the Parsee Marriage and Divorce Act. Such Religious Marriage Ceremony in India is a legally valid marriage but it needs to be registered compulsorily. For VISA and immigration purposes a Marriage Certificate from Registrar of Marriages is a requirement. Getting your marriage registered may not be enough and you are often required to furnish a registration certificate which acts as adequate proof of valid registration of a marriage. There is no period of expiry for this certificate and a registered marriage, like any other form of marriage is valid until a divorce is obtained.
Succession to Property:
When parties belonging to different nationalities get married in India, the succession is naturally governed by Indian laws. It is the Indian Succession Act that determines the rules applicable for deciding succession. However, if both parties (despite belonging to different nationalities) are Hindus, it is the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act that would apply instead.