Answer to a question from a reader

What is the process for a South African and a foreign national to get married?

The short answer

As long as your partner has a valid visa and a letter of non-impediment, the process is the same.

The whole question

Dear Athalie



The long answer

Thank you for your email asking what steps you need to take to marry a foreigner, while you are a South African citizen.

Your partner must be able to prove he is in the country legally – a visitor’s visa is enough. He will also have to obtain a letter of non-impediment from his country or embassy in South Africa. This letter must state that he is not married in his country of citizenship and so is able to get married in South Africa.

These are the Home Affairs requirements for you as a South African to get married:

  • If you have been married previously, you must show proof of divorce or death of previous partner

  • You are not a minor (under age of 18)

  • You are not suffering from severe mental illness which prevents you from understanding what marriage is.

The first step to getting married is to register your intention to marry with Home Affairs and apply for a Department of Home Affairs Marriage Certificate at least three months before your wedding date.

The following documents must be submitted together with the Home Affairs marriage forms (which you can ask for from the Home Affairs offices):

  • Identification documents, such as a South African ID card

  • Both passports, if one partner is not South African

  • A completed BI-31 form, which declares that you are legally allowed to marry

  • Official divorce decree, stamped by the court, if one partner has previously been married

  • Death certificate, if one partner has been widowed

Before a marriage is declared legal in South Africa, couples are required to attend a Home Affairs marriage interview. Be warned that this interview could take weeks to set up with Home Affairs. The interview is to make sure that both parties are entering the marriage of their own free will. If you don’t attend an interview, the marriage certificate will not be registered and the marriage will be declared null and void. They may interview you and your partner separately to make sure that it is a genuine marriage. 

Once they are satisfied, they will give you a letter which you must give the marriage officer on the day you get married. This letter gives the marriage officer permission to sign off the official wedding papers and log the necessary documents with Home Affairs to register the marriage. Which means that you can get an official abridged marriage certificate from Home Affairs after your marriage ceremony.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on March 8, 2024, 1:40 p.m.

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