Getting married is so much more than saying “I do”. It implies having the documentation in order, making a series of decisions, and having legal responsibilities that we will explain below. If you are a foreigner residing in Spain and thinking about marrying, this article is for you.
When a couple decides to get married in Spain, different scenarios can occur:
- A couple wants to get married once they are in Spain, one of the two being of Spanish origin and the other a foreigner.
- It may also be the case that both are foreigners and wish to get married in Spain.
- It may be the case that a couple is already married in their country and wants to make their marriage official in Spain as well.
Firstly, we will answer some of the most frequent questions that arise when a couple decides to get married in Spain as foreigners, whether you’re British, American or any other nationality. And, since the first decision to make is to choose between the different types of marriage and marriage regimes that currently exist, we will explain the differences between civil marriage, religious marriage, and the differences between being married and being in a civil partnership.
How to get married in Spain if you are a foreigner
- Is it possible to get married legally in Spain as a foreigner?
- What documents do I need to get married in Spain?
- What rights and benefits do I have when getting married in Spain?
- What types of marriage exist in Spain?
- How can I get married in Spain if me and my future spouse are both foreigners?
- How to register my foreign marriage license in Spain?
- Main differences between marriage and civil partnership
- Get legal assistance and expedite the process
The answer is yes. Whether you want to get married to a Spanish citizen or to another foreigner, Spanish law allows you to get married in Spain.
Two foreign persons can get married in Spain regardless of their legal status. Two foreign persons can also get married with someone of the same sex, even if the legislation of their country of origin does not allow it.
In fact, a foreigner who does not have a residence permit can marry a Spanish person. Once the marriage has been formalized, the foreigner in an irregular situation may request a residence permit and live in the country completely legally. The documents needed, and the process to get them, might differ depending on the country of origin of the spouses. In other words, being a foreigner in Spain doesn’t prevent you from getting married, you just have to comply with certain requirements. This article will go through what you need to know to get married in Spain, the requirements, and possibilities you have.
- That there isn’t a previous marriage that has not been officially dissolved (through divorce, annulment, or death of one of the contracting parties) both in your country of origin and in Spain.
- That the couple interested in getting married doesn’t have a consanguinity relationship up to a third-degree level.
- To be of legal age (or over sixteen years of age emancipated).
To get married in Spain, you need to start with the so-called “marriage file” that includes presenting the following documents:
- Identity documents of the spouses (DNI, NIE or Passport)
- Certificate of registration
- Certified copy of the birth certificate.
- Certificate of “Fe de Vida y Estado”, to prove the marital status of the interested parties.
The certificate of “Fe de Vida”, or civil status, is a document that usually causes more doubts when preparing the file. However, not all countries have an exact equivalent, which is why many foreigners do not understand what is being asked of them. It basically consists of demonstrating that you are not married to another person, and that you are legally capable of getting married, with a document that you can obtain in your country of origin.
To obtain the “Fe de Vida” for Spanish citizens, you can easily go to the corresponding Civil Registry (Registro Civil), or even request it online with the digital signature. The process to get your civil status certificate differs depending on your home State. If you are a UK or a US citizen, find out more on the requirements and procedure to get you civil status certificate.
To be able to fill-in the file mentioned above correctly, we recommend you contact a family or immigration lawyer. This will allow you to be informed of the requirements you must meet to get married in Spain.
As a measure to avoid marriages of convenience, Spanish law obliges anyone interested in getting married to start a marriage file. This step is the one that will be used to authorize the assignment of a reserved hearing. This means that a person in charge at the Civil Registry or Notary Public will study your case and approve, or not, the marriage request according to the necessary requirements for its subsequent celebration.
During this step, the couple must sit an interview with an officer to rule out cases of manifestly false marriages. Once approved, we proceed to authorize the celebration of said marriage. It is at that moment from which the couple has 6 months to get married.
It is important to consider that the documents that foreigners have to present to get married in Spain must be legalized or have the Hague Apostille (except for some documents that are exempt according to European regulations).
Likewise, documents that are presented in a language other than Spanish or any of the official languages spoken in Spain must have a sworn translation (in the countries of the European Union, the multilingual version can be requested).
Spouses have several rights and obligations. One of the advantages of being married could be the possibility of filing a joint tax return (which can be beneficial in certain cases), or the right to be included in the social security coverage of the working spouse, in addition to the possibility of receiving a widow’s pension if the husband passes away.
If you are married to a Spanish citizen while you are a foreigner, you can apply for a residence permit as a family member of a European Union citizen. You can also apply for Spanish nationality by residence after one year of being married and having both legal residence in Spain.
In Spain, there are two types of marriage: civil marriage and religious marriage. On the other hand, there is the figure of “Civil Partners”.
It is important to mention that, within the different types of marriage, there are also different matrimonial regimes. In particular, there are different ways to manage the economic assets of the spouses in the case of separation, divorce or hereditary succession. It is mandatory for the couple to choose the type of marriage regime. If they do not choose or remain silent, the regime in force in the Autonomous Community where they marry will be applied. For example, if you get married in Catalonia, the default will be applied to the Separation of property regime, but if you marry in the Basque Country it will be the community property regime – common property.
In addition to what is evident in the difference between a civil marriage and a religious marriage (a religious wedding has ecclesiastical validity and a civil one does not, and the first has “godparents” while the second presents “witnesses”), in this article we focus solely on the legal effects of the different types of marriage that currently exist in Spain.
Civil marriage is the most common type of ceremony in Spain. Currently more than 80% of marriages that take place in Spain are civil marriages. It is the union of two people celebrated and formalized before a judge, a mayor, a Civil Registry official, or a Notary with the presence of two witnesses of legal age.
The steps to follow to contract a civil marriage:
- Choose if you want to get married before a notary, or by Civil Registry
- Start the marriage file. You can do it in a notary or in the corresponding Civil Registry, presenting the documents indicated above.
- Schedule an interview with the officer in charge of your case.
- Once the marriage file is approved, you can choose the place and date to celebrate your marriage.
In summary, to contract a civil marriage in Spain you can consider that:
- It is the union of two people celebrated and formalized before a judge, a mayor, Civil Registry official, or Notary.
- The couple must have two witnesses of legal age who must be present on the day and place of the act.
- It is necessary to have the civil marriage permit, a document that is requested in the Civil Registry or Notary of your municipality of residence or the place where you want to hold the celebration.
- It will also be necessary to provide the birth certificate, the registration certificate, a photocopy of the identity documents and of the family record book or similar if you have children in common.
Since July 2005, same-sex marriage in Spain has been legalized, making Spain the third country in the world to recognize the rights of gay couples to marry. In addition, Spanish regulations identify homosexual and heterosexual marriage in the same way, without distinction from the legal point of view nor, therefore, from the procedures to be followed to make the marriage official.
And if I get married in church, does my marriage have civil effects? Yes, civil effects are recognized from a religious marriage since the spouses also register in the Civil Registry for this type of celebration. In other words, a civil marriage and a religious marriage require that the couple must register in the Civil Registry. However, when it comes to talking about a divorce, they do present differences. In the civil case, if an agreement is reached, the contract is dissolved by divorce and the marriage is officially and legally annulled before the State. In the case of the Church, the marriage lasts until its annulment is obtained. In case you are interested in knowing more about how to get a divorce in Spain, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer and what he can do for you in this case.
In summary, to get married in the Catholic Church in Spain you must consider that:
- The civil effects of a religious marriage are recognized since the couple must also register in the Civil Registry of the municipality in which they marry.
- In case of dissolution (divorce or separation of the couple), the marriage lasts until its annulment is obtained.
Spanish law allows you to get married in Spain even if you or your future spouse are not Spanish citizens. In fact, Spanish law doesn’t even require you to be legally on Spanish territory to get married in Spain.
While this is true, most places in Spain still request that at least one of the spouses has resided in Spain for a certain amount of time before getting married here. That time depends on where you get married in Spain, but usually amounts to two years. You should contact your local civil registry to get details about the time requirement.
Once you and your partner have been living in Spain for some time, you will be able to get married under the same rules as a Spanish citizen, and follow the steps above.
Marriage licenses obtained outside of Spain can be registered and recognized in Spain. To be able to do so, one of the spouses needs to be a Spanish citizen or become one after the ceremony and habitually reside in Spain.
To be registered, your marriage license must be registered at the Central Civil Registry in Madrid (“Registro Civil Central”), with the following documents:
- The official marriage certificate issued by the local Civil Registry (integral copy, legalized and translated).
- A copy of the D.N.I. or passport of the spouses.
- An official birth certificate of the spouses (if one of Spouse is of Spanish nationality, the certificate must be issued by the Spanish Civil Registry in the last 6 months, unless it is already registered at the Consular Office.)
- If one of the spouses is divorced or widowed, they will provide a civil status certificate or equivalent document issued by the authorities of her country or by the Spanish Civil Registry if they are a Spanish citizen.
- Certificate of registration in the Town Hall of the Spanish spouse residence that proves the date from which the interested party resides in Spain and any other document that proves his permanent and stable address in Spain.
- Solicitud de inscripción de matrimonio civil celebrado fuera de España
Once you collected all necessary documents, you can either start the proceedings in your local Civil Registry, or directly in the Central Civil Registry in Madrid. You also have the option to send the required documents by post in a certified mail and an acknowledgement of receipt or to take an appointment at your local registry. If you decide to go to your local Civil Registry, make sure to check further requirements that may vary from localities to localities.
- By registering as civil partners, you assume that the Autonomous Community in which you live regulates the corresponding requirements for said relationship, such as the obligation of prior cohabitation. Marriage does not require prior cohabitation.
- The economic regime of a civil partnership is always separation of assets, while in marriage the spouses can choose to have separate or common assets.
- For the dissolution of the civil partnership, there is no established period of time. Marriage requires at least 3 months of marriage.
- In a civil partnership, there is no right to inherit the assets of the deceased partner, but they do benefit from a widow’s pension. Marriage gives the right to receive an inheritance according to the applicable civil law.
- Civil partners can only make the personal income tax declaration individually, the marriage can do it either individually or jointly.
Today, it is increasingly common to register as a civil partnership, or stable couple, instead of getting married.
The main difference between getting married and registering as a domestic partnership is that each Autonomous Community regulates the corresponding requirements for the latter. In the case of marriage, the legal requirements apply equally throughout the Spanish territory.
Many, but not all, Autonomous Communities require a mandatory prior cohabitation to be able to register as civil partners. Some communities even ask for proof of said cohabitation by two witnesses on the same day the couple is registered. To get married, the Civil Code does not impose a specific term of cohabitation.
Regarding the economic component, marriage offers the couple to choose between two options that we will discuss later. On the other hand, for civil partners, the separation of assets id governed by default, and each member remains the sole owner of all the assets registered in their name.
For the dissolution of the partnership and the marriage there are also differences. In a marriage, three months must have elapsed from the moment of the celebration to be able to start the divorce process, unless the existence of a risk to life, physical integrity, freedom, moral integrity or sexual indemnity of the applicant spouse or children. To dissolve the civil partnership there is no established period of time. You can read more about the divorce process.
As far as inheritances and donations are concerned, in the event of the death of one of the couple or of both, civil partnership offers no right to inherit the assets of the deceased partner, but a widow’s pension can be obtained. Spouses, on the other hand, are entitled to a reserved share according to the civil law of their place of civil residence.
Finally, regarding the personal income tax return, the married couple can make the joint return if they wish, while the civil partners can only do it individually.
If you want to get married in Spain as a foreigner and have doubts about how to do it, do not hesitate to count on the experience of our team of expert family and immigration lawyers. We have extensive experience in international law, and our passion for what we do has led us to be proud of how far we’ve come, who we are and what we do every day for our clients.
Regardless of your situation, at Klev&Vera we adapt and work on each case as if it were unique. Take a look at our experience in family law and contact us if you need us to:
- Help you understand your rights as a spouse in Spain or under Spanish jurisdiction.
- Prevent possible conflicts as a result of a separation.
- Help solve an immediate family crisis.