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Home > Uncategorized > Getting Married In Spain: General Overview and Legal Issues For Foreigners In Irregular Situation

Getting Married In Spain: General Overview and Legal Issues For Foreigners In Irregular Situation

August 27th, 2013

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Interview to bride and groom.
  3. Appointment with witnesses that will jointly sign the petition to the Judge.
  4. 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.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:

  1. Granting a Power of Attorney to his/her relatives or a legal representative in the home country to make dealings in his/her behalf.*
  2. 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:

  1. Official Application form
  2. Passport copy of each partner
  3. Copy of the Residence card/certificate of the residing party
  4. Certificate of Town Hall Registration ( Empadronamiento ) and Joint Registration certificate (volante de Convivencia ), if required.
  5. Birth certificates of each partner ( attested as legally required and translated into Spanish by a sworn translator )
  6. Marital Status certificate and marriage capacity certificate for certain nationalities.

We include here the informative page (http://extranjeros NULL.empleo NULL.gob 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.

About Patricia Martin

Patricia is a legal executive at Lawbird, and specialises in company incorporation and immigration. More on .

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  1. Manuel
    February 25th, 2019 at 13:05 | #1

    Hi Patricia:

    I wanted to ask you if is possible for a Pakistani man marry with a Spanish man (gay marriage). I am Spanish and he is from Pakistan, but resides on Dubai. We will live together for some time before taking this step, but I wanted to know if possible or if not, and in the case he cant marry as foreigner, he can do it if he gets a permanent empadronamiento in my city(Seville). Thank you.

  2. Sandeep Rathore
    April 22nd, 2019 at 18:51 | #2

    Hi Patricia.. Are you not available these days? Hope everything fine at your end

  3. Patricia Martin
    April 23rd, 2019 at 12:41 | #3

    Hello Sandeep,

    I am still collaborating with Lawbird and answering Immigration issues enquiries.

    In response to your questions, you can certainly marry your fiancé, but only in Spain as gay marriage is not legal in the UAE. It will only be valid in Spain.

    The right way to do it is to get his certificates from Pakistan: Birth and marital status certificates, duly legalized by the Spanish embassy and translated, and then register at the town hall in Seville as living together, to afterwards apply for the authorization to marry at the corresponding Civil Registry. I recommend you to make an enquiry at the civil registry in advance, in case they have additional requirements or they request a 2 year previous registration in order to grant the marriage authorization.


  4. Sandeep Rathore
    April 23rd, 2019 at 16:03 | #4

    Hey Patricia,
    Well name is wrong… I am not a gay.. Hehehe

  5. Sandeep Rathore
    May 8th, 2019 at 15:11 | #5

    Hi Patricia,
    How are you? I have one question…. I have 5 year eu family residency.. In this residancy card could I work in germany.. If not what process do I need to work I. Germany leaglly

  6. Patricia Martin
    May 13th, 2019 at 13:48 | #6

    Hello Sandeep,

    Your residence card only allows you reside and work in Spain.I recommend you to check the German immigration regulations to check what´t the procedure to access a work permit in Germany.


  7. Sandeep Rathore
    May 13th, 2019 at 13:53 | #7

    Thank you, God bless you,

  8. Sandeep Rathore
    May 14th, 2019 at 14:19 | #8

    Is it possible to take permission from Spain to work outside Spain in germany.. Because my wife is Spanish. Euro card something they say.

  9. Sandeep Rathore
    June 15th, 2019 at 13:23 | #9

    Hi Patricia,
    Is it possible if I can take financial help from the government. I have 5 year residancy of eu family members. If yes wht is the procedure. Thanks in advance

  10. Dawn
    July 13th, 2019 at 13:17 | #10

    Good day

    I am South African by naturalization. I would like to know how it will work if the man i intend to marry is from spain but wirks all in different countries for up to 2yrs at a time. Where would be the best place to get married? Would I have to reside for 1 year in spain before being able to travel with him wherever he works before being allowed citizenship? The chances of working with him for the same company is also on the charts, so what would you suggest legally please? Wed in SA or Spain or wherever we land up? How will that affect his or my citizenship of both our countries? The ideal plan is to have 2 homes due to the working areas and obviously our families.Seems pretty complicated.

  11. Patricia Martin
    July 15th, 2019 at 15:16 | #11

    Hello Dawn,

    Once you have married the Spanish citizen, you will be eligible for the Residence card as the relative of an EU citizen.

    There are various requirements and the core ones are: the legalized marriage certificate, the registration of the couple in the same Spanish address and proof of the sources of income.

    If the Spanish citizen is not actually living in Spain but is registered at an address in Spain, you will be able to meet the address registration requirement.

    I recommend you to marry in Spain, as that way you will be able to skip the legalization of the marriage certificate, since the certificate will already be official and registered in Spain.

    You will get a residence card in Spain about a couple of months after you file the application and that card will allow you travel to any Schengen country with your husband. However, in order to be eligible for the Spanish nationality you certainly need to have resided in Spain for at least a year. After that time, you can file the Spanish nationality application. Note that these applications are taking at least 2 years to be resolved.

    Please get in touch with us if you wish to discuss your case further.


  12. lightner
    September 27th, 2019 at 01:20 | #12

    Hello Patricia,
    I find your blog very informative and really helpful for us.
    I too have some questions in mind.
    I am from the Philippines and I am currently living and working here in Costa Rica for 2 year plus now. Me and my spanish boyfriend known each other for 6 years. We decided to get married in Spain. I was just in Spain 2 weeks ago and I fell in love with my boyfriend’s country.
    Here’s my question:
    1. Can I get married in Spain on a schengen visa?
    2. If I can get married on a schengen visa, what happens after the wedding? Should I go back to Costa Rica? Also, my boyfriend right now is living with me here in Costa Rica and he does not have a job. He has house rented in Tenerife, but that’s just it. He can also get a job there in Spain.
    Is it possible for us to apply for a permanent resident with his current situation? Or me having a job in Costa Rica (with good pay) will also help in applying/getting for a resident permit?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  13. Patricia Martin
    October 8th, 2019 at 15:35 | #13


    Please read my replies:

    1. Can I get married in Spain on a schengen visa? Yes.

    2. If I can get married on a schengen visa, what happens after the wedding? Should I go back to Costa Rica? Also, my boyfriend right now is living with me here in Costa Rica and he does not have a job. He has house rented in Tenerife, but that’s just it. He can also get a job there in Spain. –

    Once married you have the right to stay and apply for a residence permit and live and work in Spain. It is a choice. You can also go back to Costa Rica and apply for the residence card once you both decide to settle in Spain.

    3. Is it possible for us to apply for a permanent resident with his current situation?

    You would access a temporary residence card that lsts for 5 years. After that time you´d be eligible for the Permanent residence card. As he is Spanish he doesn´t need to apply for anything or meet any requirement to live in Spain. However, you need to prove the financial situation in order to apply for your card. If you are the only one who works, you will have to prove your have enough funds to cover your living expenses.

    Or me having a job in Costa Rica (with good pay) will also help in applying/getting for a resident permit?

    If your salary is over 2,400€ per month, it should suffice.

    Please let me know if you need further information.


  14. Sandy
    November 15th, 2019 at 14:16 | #14

    Hi Patricia,
    I have 5 year Spanish residancy. Due to some reason my imperdonamento is not regular for the last 6 months.. Does it going to effect my residancy?what could be the drawback.

  15. Patricia Martin
    November 18th, 2019 at 11:07 | #15

    Hello Sandy,

    You need to contact the town hall and get the relevant certificate proving your registration at the town hall for those 5 years.

    If there have been periods of absence, you will have to prove them with other sorts of documents.

  16. December 1st, 2019 at 09:37 | #16

    hiI wanna ask abt. polygamy in law
    am married from a spanish since 3 yrs and we didn’t have children unfortunately and know I want to mary another muslim woman in my original muslim country and my spanish wife knows and accepts will be their any law problems if I married both of them ?note I have the spanish nationality

  17. Patricia Martin
    December 2nd, 2019 at 11:17 | #17

    Hello Mohamed,

    Polygamy is prohibited in Spain.If you want to marry another person and have that marriage recognized in Spain, you need to divorce your first wife.


  18. Kristi
    December 31st, 2019 at 11:18 | #18

    hello every one, i wonder if some one could help me with some information

    I am an Albanian citisen currently living in Spain (A Coruna) on Schengen 90 days freedom of movement, i want to get married with my girlfriend that i am living with which is a Spanish citisen

    my questions are :
    1. what are the documents and step procedures that i need, to get married with my girlfriend here in Spain ?
    2. is there any way i could extend my 90 days of staying in Spain without returning back to my country ?
    ( my country is part of the schengen zone and i am allowed to stay in the schengen zone only 90 days after that i have to leave schengen zone and my next returan will be, after i have spend 90 days out of the schengen zone )

    what are some of the options that i have to get married with my girl without returning and what is the easiest way of doing it ?

    any help will be very much appresiated

    thank you very much

  19. Patricia Martin
    January 2nd, 2020 at 14:18 | #19

    Hello Kristi,

    Note that you cannot apply for an extension of your right to stay based on the fact you wish to marry in Spain. This is only allowed in very limited and exceptional cases.

    However, the authorities tend to be flexible when the reason for the overstay is related to a marriage procedure but they know the process takes time – you may have to wait for more than 6 months to get a final wedding date, and may as well ask you to go back until you finally have a date to get married. Anyway, you will probably have to go back to your country to collect documentation the Civil Registry requires.

    The documentation the Civil Registry usually requires are: Identity documents, birth certificates, marital status certificate, sworn declarations of not living with another partner/spouse, address registration certificate in Spain and any other documents the particular Registry requires. All those documents that have been issued in a foreign country must be correctly legalized and translated into Spanish.


  20. lightner
    January 3rd, 2020 at 22:20 | #20

    @Patricia Martin
    Hi Patricia,
    Thanks for your reply. I greatly apprceciate it.
    I have one more question: What do you mean when you said “However, you need to prove the financial situation in order to apply for your card”? are you reffering to the temporary residence card? or the permanent one?
    Also, Am I able to work in Spain with a temporary residence permit?
    Thank you!

  21. lightner
    January 5th, 2020 at 03:47 | #21

    Also, about the Certificado de Empadronamiento, this is just for my spanish boyfriend right? I do not need to acquire this?

  22. lightner
    January 6th, 2020 at 07:06 | #22

    Hi Patricia,
    I have some questions coming in from my mind :). After I will get married from my boyfriend, I am going to present documents about my job here and CR and boyfriend has actually a job soon in Germany. Is it ok to present as well that he has a job in Germany?
    Thanks in advance!

  23. Patricia Martin
    January 7th, 2020 at 14:05 | #23

    Hello Lightner,

    You need to show proof of your sources of income when applying for a residence permit ( temporary and long term). Regarding the empadronamiento, you both need to be registered in the same address, so the empadronamienoto applies to you both.

  24. Patricia Martin
    January 7th, 2020 at 14:06 | #24


    I am not sure I understand your message.

    If you work in Costa Rica and your boyfriend in Germany, you cannot apply for a residence permit in Spain. Maybe your message is confusing.

  25. Paula
    January 8th, 2020 at 03:15 | #25

    Hello Patricia,

    Thanks for your effort writing the post and replying everyone questions! It is very informative and well-written.

    I am from Asia and my partner is from Barcelona. We are planning to do the “parejas estables de Cataluña” in the coming days.

    However, I have been overstaying / illegal in the Schengen Zone for 2 years already (According to the rule, I can only stay 90 days out of 180 days in the Schengen Zone, but i dont need to apply for a Visa to enter the Schengen Zone. The situation is abit like people from USA)

    I am currently staying in Spain.

    My questions are :
    1. Will I and my Spanish partner be able to apply for the”parejas estables” and me applying for the “tarjeta comunitaria”(for staying and working legally in Spain)? Is there a chance that the official reject us because of my overstaying Visa and my illegal status?

    2. What are the documents and procedures that i need to do the “parejas estables” & “tarjeta comunitaria”?

    3. In case if I need to fly back to my home country to fetch the document, will I be able to apply for a “temporary Visa” to make sure that i can return to Spain? (I am worrying that once i get out of the schengen zone, i wont be able to return / being separated from my partner)

    04. What should i beware of while processing the “parejas estables de Cataluña” as someone coming from a Non-EU country?

    05. My partner is a student.(on a diploma course) Did she need to provide proof for sufficient economic means in our application? (Saving? Freelance / Part Time work contract?) Will it affect our application because of her status?

    Many Thanks and I wish you all the best!

  26. Patricia Martin
    January 8th, 2020 at 12:19 | #26

    Hello Paula,

    Thanks for your message and for your kind words.

    In response to your questions, note that:

    1. If you are going to register as law partners in Catalonia, you will immediately have the right to apply for the residence card as the relative of an EU citizen that resides in Spain. The fact that you have overstayed your visa won´t be a cause of rejection, though the authorities may fine you for that.

    2. I can´t provide with an exact list at this stage. I recommend you check with the relevant authorities in Catalonia concerning the list of documents to prepare in order to register the partnership. The usual documents are: Birth certificates, marital status certificate issued by the Civil registry of the country of origin, sworn declaration indicating you do not have other partners ( not living with other spouse, etc.) and then your ID documentation and town hall registration, called certificado de empadronamiento/Convivencia in Spain. Any foreign document must be legalized and translated into Spanish by an officially recognized translator. Each region and town hall in Spain may have additional requirements, so it´s crucial to ask for the list of documents from the particular town hall where you intend to register. In some places they request a minimum of two years previous registration at the town hall for both applicants. That is, that you have been registered at the same address during at least the two previous years.
    Here is the link that will direct you to the official information about the residence card application for relatives of EU citizens in Spain: (http://extranjeros NULL.mitramiss NULL.gob NULL.html)

    3. Since you mention you do not need a visa to enter the UE, I don’t think you need to apply for a visa to come back if you leave Spain. You will have to wait the minimum amount of time to come back ( 6 months) and then you will be allowed to enter Spain again. You may also be fined for the overstay, but I cannot confirm this will happen or how much you can be charged.

    4. You need to provide with proof of your sources of income when applying for the residence card. If your spouse is a student, you will have to show you both have sufficient funds in an account or that she has a job contract, or income from other sources (pension, benefits, rental income, etc.). If she doesn´t have a job, the minimum amount she must show in an account is around 10,000 €.

  27. lightner
    January 8th, 2020 at 19:03 | #27

    @Patricia Martin
    Hi Patricia,
    Apologies for the confusion.
    I am able to work from Spain with my current company here in Costa Rica. Also, my partner will also find a job in Spain once we get there. He has a rented house in Tenerife and a land in portugal. We can present this as a supporting documents right? plus my financial statements here in costa rica(my certificate of employment,my payslips,my bank statement etc) would this suffice when applying for the residence permit of an EU citizen?

    Also, we have read that sometimes it takes too long to get a scheduled date for the civil marriage, does it matter if we are going to city that is not so busy so that we are able to get a fast schedule?

    If not, we have read that its also possible to have a civil marriage via NOTARIA? what is this notaria?

    Thanks a lot for your help!

  28. Patricia Martin
    January 9th, 2020 at 15:05 | #28

    Hello Lightner,

    You will need to show documents to justify your financial situation so they immigration authorities can determine you (or your spouse) are able to cover your living expenses in Spain even if you don´t have a job contract in Spain. In that case, you´d have to provide with stamped letters showing the balance in foreign accounts and credit cards. There´s no need to show documentation related to owned assets unless your partner receives rental income from it.

    Regarding the dates for the civil marriage celebration, you are right, there are regions and towns where it takes longer to obtain a date than in others. I don´t know the amount of time it takes in other regions, but in Malaga you can expect to wait between 6 and 8 months. You will also have to check if the particular town where you wish to marry requires one or two years´ previous registration at a local address in order to allow you to marry there.

    Notaries can also marry you and the process is quicker because they are in charge of getting the authorization from the Civil Registry instead of yourselves and they work Monday to Friday. You may be married within a month once you take all the documentation to the Notary office. Bear in mind that you need to be registered in a place where the Notary has legal competences; for instance, if you register in an address in Valencia, you won´t be able to be married by a Notary in the Canary Islands.

  29. June 28th, 2020 at 04:49 | #29

    Hi, my partner is in Canary Islands and I’m in Australia we both want to get married but with this is COVID-19 the Borders are closed. We were thinking about getting married online as a proxy marriage for now. Is this illegal in Spain?

    Thank you

  30. Patricia Martin
    June 29th, 2020 at 13:53 | #30

    Mello Angela,

    Marriage by proxy is a legal option to marry in Spain. This procedure is regulated in Article 55 of the Civil Code (http://noticias NULL.juridicas NULL.l1t4 NULL.html).


  31. Gloria Gerard
    July 15th, 2020 at 11:35 | #31

    Hi Patricia,

    I am Spanish and my fiance is from Tunisia. Because of the COVID-19 it is very hard for him to get a visa and in October we are going to CHINA. We have a date here in the registry of Seville to get married on the 10th of September. Can we get married sooner online by proxy? We need to submit our marriage certificate to the Chinese embassy so that we can get out visa started.

  32. Patricia Martin
    July 15th, 2020 at 11:55 | #32

    Hello Gloria,

    I understand that there aren’t any travel restrictions between Tunisia and Spain, so the main problem may be getting an appointment at the embassy to apply for the visa. You can send them a message explaining the situation to try and get a quick appointment so your partner can be in Spain in September.

    If you still struggle to get him to Spain, you can certainly consider the marriage by proxy option, however, it is a lengthy process and it requires the judge authorization that can take time as they check many facts to avoid any fraudulent marriages. In many cases, the process takes a year.

  33. Maria
    July 29th, 2020 at 13:22 | #33

    Hi Patricia, We’ve been married last December 28,2018 in Madrid Spain. My Husband is no Visa because (undocumented). I have my first year temporary Visa (arraigo). I am legal residence (work permit because of arraigo). My question is.. Can I carry my husband or Can I apply my husband as legal in Spain because I have my legal residency? i am not SPANISH CITIZEN

  34. Patricia Martin
    July 29th, 2020 at 13:37 | #34

    Hello Maria,

    Since you are a legal resident, your husband can apply for a Family Reunion permit (Autorización de residencia por Reagrupación Familiar), though this will involve him having to return to his home country. He needs to collect the visa, once the family reunion permit has been approved, from the corresponding Spanish consular office.

    The Family Reunion permit application is filed by yourself as you are the Spanish resident requesting the Family reunion. The application can be filed personally at the Immigration office or online in the event you appoint a representative or hold a digital signature that allows you to deal with public entities electronically.

    You can read the requirements of this type of permit application here (http://extranjeros NULL.mitramiss NULL.gob NULL.html).

    There are certain financial requirements you need to meet, like for instance have a full time work contract.

    There´s no option for your husband to apply from Spain, unless he meets the same requirements as you did when applying for Arraigo, that is to have been in Spain for three years in an irregular situation and have a work offer.


  35. Veronica
    September 3rd, 2020 at 12:11 | #35

    I am US citizen living in the states and want to marry by proxy. My boyfriend is spainard and lives in Spain. What documents do I need? How long is the process. Is the same paper work required if we were to wait for boarders to open? Thank you.

  36. Lightner
    September 3rd, 2020 at 18:03 | #36

    @Patricia Martin
    Hi Patricia Thank you for this. It is really helpful.
    We are currently waiting for our pareja de hecho certificate and then we apply for Tarjeta Communitaria. Is it ok for me to present my Certificate of Employment that is from Costa Rica as part of the documents that we are going submit?
    Thank you!

  37. Varinder
    October 11th, 2020 at 19:22 | #37

    Hi i wanted to ask you my gf is indian she got permant residency 6 years here in spain but i am living here in spain illegally can i marry here and getting residency.can you plz guide

  38. Patricia Martin
    October 13th, 2020 at 14:02 | #38

    Hello Varinder,

    Yes, you can marry in Spain even if your situation is not regular. The problem you may come across is related to the documentation you need to prepare from your home country (marital status certificate, birth certificate) as sometimes it is difficult to get from Spain.

    Once you are married or you have registered as partners, she can apply for your family reunion permit (the application can be filed online by a representative, or by herself if she has a digital signature) , though you will need to go back to your country to collect the visa. You need to be in a regular situation when getting the visa from the Spanish consulate.


  39. Varinder
    October 13th, 2020 at 15:52 | #39

    Cant i get visa from here only that i dont go back to india.@Patricia Martin

  40. Patricia Martin
    October 14th, 2020 at 10:01 | #40

    Hello Varinder,

    If your partner applies for your residence permit based on the Family reunion option because you are related, you need to go back to India. The only way to apply for your residence permit from Spain is via the “Arraigo social” option, that is a type of permit based on settlement rights after three years of effective residence in Spain without a residence permit. Obviously, it is a big risk and we do not recommend it if you have the chance to apply for a regular residence permit.


  41. Varinder
    October 15th, 2020 at 14:44 | #41

    I have lived for more than years twice i applied for arraigo social but twice it failed .no other option@Patricia Martin

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