Getting Married In Spain: General Overview and Legal Issues For Foreigners In Irregular Situation
It is a fact that most foreigners deciding to marry in Spain choose to engage legal representation to guide them through the legal aspects of their marriage (a procedure that may appear to be -deceitfully- as straightforward as applying for a NIE), the reasons behind this decision being clear: legal and administrative complex laws and regulations, protracted timescales, unexpected requirements from Government offices, language barrier…etc.
The process to be followed for the validation and correct attestation by the different authorities abroad often leads to a tiring and exasperating process. There is not an homogeneous approach nor consensus in the listing of the required documentation and, in all fairness, Spanish authorities are not to be fully blamed for each country has different rules: for instance, a German citizen that wants to celebrate his/her marriage in Spain will not only need a birth and marital status certificate, but also a marriage capacity certificate that indicates if he/she is particularly able to marry the person chosen. This also happens to French citizens. For other nationalities, mainly those from Islamic countries, a certificate that states the applicant is not married to someone else will also be required as, in some of those jurisdictions, polygamy is legally recognized.
Therefore, it is not possible to offer a definitive time-frame for the process to be ended though, at least, these are the confirmed stages, common to the core procedure:
- Formal application form that has to be filed at the Civil Registry of the town where the union will take place, to be filed together with the documentation.
- Interview to bride and groom.
- Appointment with witnesses that will jointly sign the petition to the Judge.
- Obtaining the authorization from the Courts of Justice of the particular town so the marriage can be celebrated.
Following this authorization, available dates are offered to the couple.
Another relevant issue is the question hundreds of foreigners ask themselves every year, especially those who are in an irregular situation in Spain and wish to formalize their personal relationship with a Spanish resident:
Can I still marry in Spain if I am irregular?
The answer to this, which has not changed for many years, is YES. And additionally, the law also grants equal rights to civil law partnership although, as envisaged, formalities will differ depending on the town where partners wish to register such formalization:
- Some municipalities issue temporary by-laws based on recent irregularities, or either set fixed limitations as a consequence. For instance, only processing marriages and not Common Law partnerships for irregular foreigners ( see Cataluña (http://sociedad NULL.elpais NULL.com/sociedad/2012/05/01/actualidad/1335899751_106907 NULL.html)).
- Some municipalities set that it is mandatory that one of the parties has been registered in the Town Hall ( empadronado ) for at least two years. This happens, for example, in the City of Malaga and surrounding districts ( Alhaurin de la Torre, Churriana, etc )
In line with the above, a further question that arises is
If a partner is in Spain irregularly and getting out of Spain implies the prohibition to re-enter in the following 12 months, how will he/she be able to arrange and gather the required documentation and legalization from the foreign authorities?
There are various options:
- Granting a Power of Attorney to his/her relatives or a legal representative in the home country to make dealings in his/her behalf.*
- Requesting assistance from Consular and/or diplomatic offices representing their home country in Spain.
*For Moroccan citizens, the previous registration of the applicant in the consulate is required to be able to deal with administrative matters. The applicant must have been registered ,normally, between 6 months and a year prior to any administrative request.
The current Policy framework allows for an ample discretionary nature on the part of the Civil Registries when determining the requirements, something that pushes foreigners to finally seek for legal aid and support,
Below is a list of the most commonly required documentation, as well as the legalization procedure for foreign official documents to be valid in Spain:
- Official Application form
- Passport copy of each partner
- Copy of the Residence card/certificate of the residing party
- Certificate of Town Hall Registration ( Empadronamiento ) and Joint Registration certificate (volante de Convivencia ), if required.
- Birth certificates of each partner ( attested as legally required and translated into Spanish by a sworn translator )
- Marital Status certificate and marriage capacity certificate for certain nationalities.
We include here the informative page (http://extranjeros NULL.empleo NULL.gob NULL.es/es/informacioninteres/informacionprocedimientos/documentos2/108 NULL.pdf) that describes in detail the foreign documents legalization process.
We welcome readers’ comments on particular obstacles, exceptional requirements, frustrating experiences and any other similar circumstances they may have found themselves in when dealing with the subject matter of this post.