Advice: The Registrar Did Not Accept Our Marriage (Foreigner & Indian)

Dear Lauren, When I got married in Kerala we had a temple ceremony and we got a piece of paper from the temple that we are married. We were told that in Kerala there is no law right now that would allow foreigners to get married to Indians. After the ceremony we took the piece of paper to the registry office to get our marriage certificate. The Registrar did not accept our application and advised us to go to court and sue Kerala province.

I am trying to sponsor my husband to come to Canada and our lawyer advised us that we have to be legally married. So I am wondering what was your experience? How did you get legally married? 

Anonymous Reader

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Congratulations on your marriage, I’m sorry the legal aspect didn’t go smoothly!

It is my understanding that a foreigner and an Indian must get legally married under the Special Marriage Act (1954), not the Hindu Marriage Act (which you have described), even if the foreigner identifies as a Hindu.

That’s what we did.

We decided it would be a good idea to hire a lawyer because our situation was so different. There was no religious aspect to our civil marriage. We had to go to the registry office to submit a notice of intended marriage, along with our documents and three witnesses (read more about that here). After thirty days, as no one objected to our marriage, we returned to the registry office to make our declaration and received our marriage certificate (details of that are here).

My advice would be to try to get married under the Special Marriage Act (1954) with the assistance of an experienced lawyer. Good luck!

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15 thoughts on “Advice: The Registrar Did Not Accept Our Marriage (Foreigner & Indian)

  1. We were married under the Special Marriage Act. We had to register a minimum one month before the wedding took place, and I had to be in India during all that time. There was no difficulty other than that, but I researched it well, six months before we were to be married.

    I began the sponsorship of my husband while we were de facto only and that was fine. We changed the detail to married once we were, but in Australia the de facto and spouse sponsorships are the same, and it was a simple phone call with a follow-up email to make the change.

    I was also told that a religious marriage in India, although not considered legal, is accepted within the community and therefore I could apply for a spouse visa with the letter from the temple. We decided not to go that way because it would just be an extra cost to get legally married once he got to Australia.

    I suggest asking more questions, and speaking to more people in Canada who have been through the process. There are often little loopholes in immigration that can make things a little easier if you are in the know. But as for the wedding you’ve already had, I don’t believe there is any way to get around it’s legal illegitimacy unless you start the process (Special Marriage Act) and register, wait, and then sign the certificate.

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  2. This kind of situation is common in India. You will experience so many strange and bureaucratic hurdles when trying to do anything remotely official, so do not be too disheartened. It is all part of the process, and after a lot of effort, usually turns out ok. Despite having all paperwork and going to the court weekly, it took us ten months to get our marriage certificate!

    I agree entirely with Lauren’s advice. My marriage, like Lauren’s, was also under the Special Marriage Act. It seems that the government likes foreign-Indian marriages to be done within this. We also hired a lawyer. He was pretty terrible, but at least he knew the initial details of how to conduct and register this kind of marriage. Be careful not to pay a lawyer all the money up front, or you will end up with very slow work (if any)!

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    • Hi luma,
      i am in quite a same situation ..we had submitted an application two months ago but till yet they even have not published notice. I Simply want to know what was the reason exactly for so long delay in getting you marriage certificate under special marriage act ?

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  3. I agree 100% with what Lauren advised above. I have friends (German/Indian couple) who did the same (registry office, etc). Whem my husband and I (Amercian/Indian) got married in India, we did not legally register the marriage at that time due to time constraints, but we plan to do so in the future when we have an extended stay in India. My situation is a bit different because my husband already had a (tourist) visa to US, so we didn’t “need” the legal proof of marriage to get him to US. Anyway, I wish you the best of luck and remember, when people say “no” in India or “it can’t be done”…there is usually a way it CAN be done.

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    • Shanta, i am an Indian and my wife is an American. Is it required to do legal marriage to process our immigration or our Gurdwara(Sikh Temple) certificate of religious marriage is going to be accepted ?

      Please share if you have any information about that….we’re way too much confused….

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      • As per my experience, you do not need to do a court marriage, you just need to get your religious marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act. If you go to your local SDM office, they can advise you on how to proceed

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  4. I’m a Canadian girl married to an Indian man and we are currently going through the immigration process. We got married under the Special Marriage Act. Although it is not required to be legally married to sponsor your spouse to come to Canada, you must provide a wealth of evidence showing that you are common law. Of course, this means that the burden of proof is much greater. Unfortunately, it seems as if you were misinformed about the process as the Special Marriage Act is India-wide – the marriage process between Indians and foreign nationals aren’t widely known and there is much conflicting information. Wish you well! Immigration is a frustrating process…

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  5. I’m Brazilian and my husband is Indian, we are both Christians so I don’t know if this will help… We got married in Cochin-Kerala under the common marriage and had no problem to register the marriage. We just went to the registrar office one week after the ceremony – no need to inform them 30 days prior to the marriage – with my passport, passport size photo, proof of address in Brazil, and some documents legally translated to English (birth certificate, public declaration registered in the Brazilian notary saying I was single in my country) and his documents too.
    We had also to show them a wedding invitation and a picture from the wedding, as a proof, and take a friend with us to be the witness.
    After 40 days the registrar office called us to go together there to sign and take the marriage certificate. The official name of this doc is “Certificate of Marriage – issued under rule 11 (1) of the Kerala registration of marriages (common) rules, 2008”.
    I hope it helps…

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    • If I am correct, then the Special Marriage Act is for people who have different religions. That is why you had a different experience from others here. But, this could be a case where you got lucky because even though the rules exist, the enforcement of them is actually up to the government worker who handles your case. So if the person sitting there isn’t aware of the special foreigner rule/is in a good mood to help out/is absolutely fascinated with the foreigner/had a very VERY enjoyable previous night/the Indian cricket team won the championship/recently came across a huge sum of money/is aware that someone in your group or fiance’s group is a powerful person, etc. then the process will go smoothly 😉

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  6. I am British and my husband is Indian. We got married in Jaipur seven years ago. I converted to Hinduism during our Aya samaj temple wedding and we were married under the Hindu Marriage Act. We registered our marriage via the court in India. We had a lawyer sorting everything out for us. The main problem seemed to be that my British passport didn’t list my parents names but our lawyer managed to sort everything eventually. It took a while to get the actual marriage certificate and then only after a small bribe!

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  7. My wonderful indian husband and I got married in Kerala in a temple 3 months ago and applied straight after for a marriage certificate. We were lucky ’cause everything went smooth. We wanted the certificate so my husband could apply for passport. We now live in UP. Sorry if it didn’t work easily for you. Really hope things will turn out as you guys wish.
    Lauren I would love to meeting you one day. My name is Priscilla and I am from Italia. Your family is just supercute.
    Take care 🙂

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      • Awwwww, so excited you replied to me! Thank you Lauren 🙂 UP is treating me so well, we live with an american-indian couple in their farm, such a long story
        Surely I will get in touch if I come yo Nagput
        Take care
        Your blog is so cool 🙂

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      • Thank you!!
        Oh wow, the farm sounds really interesting!
        Yes, please let me know! I will let you know if I make it UP to UP 😀
        (I have your email address, I removed it from your comment otherwise spam folk might steal it! :D) xx

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  8. Well..I dealt with a case of foreigner willing to marry an Indian girl before an year ago. Firstly, the authorities were not sure about the laws as they dont even have knowledge about it, but later on after I did some research work and represented few case laws they went through some own legal advice and nodded positively for issuing certificate of marriage. Local level authorities responsible for registering such marriages are often unaware about the rules hence some hurdles exist. It is completely legal to marry a foreigner in India

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