How two foreign expats can get married in Shanghai

Shanghai Living

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Many articles about getting married in Shanghai focus on getting hitched with a local. But what if you’re planning to marry another foreigner in China? If you and your partner are both from different countries, or are both in China long-term, getting married here could be a smart decision.

What you need:

  1. Resident permit. At least one of you should have a resident permit in your passport. This is the permit that accompanies student or work visas of one year or longer in length.
  2. Both parties need an affidavit, or single status certificate, which you can collect at your national embassy.
  3. Three official photos of you as a couple together. These photos will be pasted into your marriage certificates forever, so don’t forget to smile.

How to tie the knot:

  1. Check that at least one of you has a resident permit. If not, you’ll need to either change your visa status, or choose another country to say your vows in.
  2. Collect your affidavit. This is different for each nationality, but in most cases involves contacting your consulate, booking an appointment, making a declaration saying you are single and paying a fee. If you have married previously, you’ll also need to provide your divorce papers. In most cases, you’ll be able to pick up your affidavit in one visit.
  3. Get your photos taken. To make your love official, you’ll need official photos. Think of passport photos for two (they are the height of passport photos, but wide enough for two people). You can get these photos done at the many small Kodak shops around Shanghai, as well as other independent photography shops. They should look a bit like this:
  1. The future is everbright. Foreigners in Shanghai should register their marriage at the Shanghai Everbright Convention and Exhibition Centre. This building stretches from number 66 to 80 on Caobao Lu (the closest intersection is Xiqin Lu). Enter at Block D, just to the right of the main entrance, and take the elevator to the third floor.
  2. Follow the Titanic theme tune. ( we can’t guarantee they play this every day, but we suspect they do) to the Shanghai Registration Center of Marriage and Adoption. The interior isn’t that different to a bank or a post office, but the flowers and red chairs provide an almost romantic touch. If you’ve got your passports, affidavits, and official photos, you are one or two simple forms away from being married.
  3. Say your vows. Complete a short ceremony to get your certificate. Don’t expect the traditional wording from a Western church wedding, but a few simple promises to love and take care of one another.

Married in China. Married everywhere?

Once you’re married under Chinese law, you’re married wherever you go. But you may still need to convince your own government of that fact.

When you go to your consulate to collect your affidavit, take the chance to ask them what steps your government requires before it recognizes a Chinese marriage certificate.

Some consulates will ask you to get the marriage certificate notarized at the Chinese Notary Public and legalized at the Foreign Affairs Office. Once the marriage certificate has been notarized and legalized, your consulate may be able to perform a ‘double-legalization’ to make sure the certificate is recognized in your home country. This varies from country to country, so make sure to check with your own consulate before taking steps to having your marriage certificate recognized at home.

Relevant office addresses:

Notary Public in Shanghai:

Address:  660 Fengyang Lu

Enquiry phone number:  9698-7200  (9am-5:30pm) Press 3 for operator

Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-6pm, Saturday-Sunday, 9-11am, 1-4pm

Foreign Affairs Office in Shanghai:

2/F, Hotel Equitorial, 228 Huashan Lu (Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1:30-5pm)

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