Is a US Marriage Certificate Valid in Other Countries?

March 2, 2023
7 min

We get this question a lot, so we thought we'd dedicate a whole article to the topic! We hope this helps clarify the questions you have about US Marriage Certificates in other countries.

In order for a marriage certificate issued in the United States to be considered valid in another country, it must meet the requirements of both countries. This typically includes legal documentation such as a marriage license, certificate, and/or a court order and maybe an apostille. The marriage must meet the other country’s criteria for a valid marriage, such as age restrictions and gender requirements. In some cases, the marriage must also be recognized by the receiving country’s embassy, or the couple must register the marriage with their new home country. It is important to ensure that all documents are properly translated and filed in accordance with the country’s laws before submitting them for review.

US marriage certificate with bridal bouquet

What You Need to Know About International Marriage Laws

Marriages conducted outside a country are generally recognized as legal within the country of origin if they comply with local regulations. However, the acknowledgment of such marriages depends on the specific laws of the country where they are being recognized.

Getting married abroad can be both costly and time-consuming. The requirements and procedures can differ from one country to another, with some necessitating extensive preparation. If you intend to get married in a foreign nation, you should research the requirements of that country before making travel plans.

For many, getting married in the US is just simpler and more streamlined compared to other countries. So couples often choose to get married in the US to reduce hassle, even as a foreigner. They then proceed to register the marriage if necessary in their home country, using an apostille if necessary.

Another common use case is destination weddings. US citizens that are planning a destination wedding usually choose to get legally married in the US first, instead of working through marriage laws in their chosen location abroad. 

On the other hand, a couple that is from a foreign country who plans to immigrate to the US would find it beneficial to have a US marriage certificate in order to avoid having to register a foreign marriage during the lengthy US visa application process. 

The circumstances around whether or not you should get a marriage certificate in the US vary from couple to couple. That's why we recommend that you contact the officials in your jurisdiction or a family law attorney to determine the legal status of your remote appearance wedding and any additional steps or documents you may need for recognition.

What is an Apostille and why might I need one?

An Apostille is a special certificate, issued by the Secretary of State or the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, that allows a legal document created in one country to be recognized in another country. An apostille ensures that your marriage certificate is considered legal, verifiably authentic, and acceptable in any of the countries that agreed to be part of The Hague Apostille Convention of 1961.

The Hague Apostille Convention of 1961 is an international treaty that simplifies the process of authenticating documents used in international transactions. It is also known as the Apostille Treaty, and it officially came into force on October 5, 1961. The Convention provides that a document issued by an authority in one of the countries participating in the treaty will be recognized in all other countries who signed the treaty without the need for additional authentication. In the United States, the Department of State is the agency with which a document must be authenticated in order to obtain an Apostille. The Apostille certifies the authenticity of the signature on the document, the capacity in which the person signing the document acted, and the identity of any stamp or seal affixed to the document.

The purpose of the Convention is to replace the complicated and expensive legalization process of chain certification, with the mere issuance of a single Apostille certificate. Hence, as a party to the Hague Apostille Convention, public documents issued by another Contracting Party need not undergo the authentication process.

It's important to remember that not all countries accept apostilles. For example, China does not accept Apostilled legal documents as valid. In order for a US marriage certificate to be valid in China, the document must be authenticated by either the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the US or the US State Department. This involves a process known as legalization, which requires that the certificate be notarized by the appropriate state agency and then authenticated by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the US or the US State Department. After the document is authenticated, it must then be accepted by the Chinese government before it can be used as evidence of a legally binding marriage.

To check if your country will accept an Apostille, please view this official list.

Exploring the Validity of US Marriage Certificates Overseas

Here we'll explore some specific countries and their rules on foreign Marriage Certificates. This should give you an idea of how much they can vary between countries. 

United Kingdom

If you’re a British national getting a marriage or civil partnership abroad, you’ll need to contact the local authorities where you want to get married to find out what you need to do.

In terms of marriage recognition, their rules are quite simple: your marriage or civil partnership will be recognised in the UK if you followed the correct process in the country where you got married and it would also be allowed under UK law.


In Canada, a marriage that is performed legally overseas is usually recognized in Canada as valid. You do not need an apostille or to register it in Canada.

However, if you are getting married and plan to apply for a Spousal Visa, you should know that the IRCC does not recognize online marriage as valid, unless you meet certain requirements.

If you are Canadian and you intend to get married in a foreign country, like the USA, it's advisable to reach out to the closest embassy, high commission, or consulate of the country where the marriage is scheduled to occur. They will provide you with information on the necessary documentation and whether or not it requires authentication. Canadian government offices situated abroad can also supply details regarding regulations and laws in the regions where they are located, as well as a list of local service providers if you require legal advice.


According to Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines, a marriage celebrated abroad is valid in the Philippines provided that the same is also valid in the place where it was celebrated. Since online marriage is considered valid and legal in the US, it should be recognized in Philippines as a valid marriage. 

Same-Sex Couples

If you are a same-sex couple, you should knowthat if it is not already legal in your country, getting legally married in the US will not completely bypass that law. Your US same-sex marriage will only be valid in countries that have already legalized same-sex marriage. 

As of January 2023, same-sex marriage is legally performed and recognized (nationwide or in some parts) in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay.

Final Thoughts

The matter of whether an American marriage that is legally valid will be accepted in a foreign country is intricate. If you have any queries, it's best to seek advice from a proficient family law attorney in your region and potentially an attorney in the foreign country where you want your marriage to be acknowledged.

Additionally, you can visit the U.S. Embassy website to access the websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions around the world. Simple select the relevant country, and either write or call for further information regarding the legality of your American marriage in that particular location. 

It's important to note that common law marriages may not be recognized by many countries, particularly European nations. Several of these countries have recently prohibited such marriages within their borders. If you want your common law marriage to be acknowledged globally, it's necessary to consult with the relevant embassy, consulate, diplomat, and/or lawyer for guidance.


Let us handle the paperwork.

Getting married is complicated. Courtly simplifies the process and provides everything necessary to get married online, including providing a licensed officiant who can perform a remote ceremony.

Get Married