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Marriage and Getting Married in South Africa

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You got married in South Africa or wish to get married in South Africa? In general, marriages entered into abroad will also be valid in Germany as long as the marriage requirements were met.

Getting Married in South Africa

Frauenhand mit Ehering in Männerhand
Eheschließung © colourbox

The South African requirements for getting married are stipulated in Marriage Act, No. 25 of 1961. Marriages may only be officiated by licensed marriage officers (often times they are church officials), or at the local branches of the Department of Home Affairs.

The fiancés and two witnesses must be present and they and the marriage officer must sign the registration form, whereupon the marriage officer will issue an abridged marriage certificate (ATTENTION: An abridged marriage certificate is not recognized as proof of marriage in Germany!).

Subsequently, the marriage officer will register the marriage with the Department of Home Affairs. Only then will the Department of Home Affairs issue an unabridged marriage certificate, which can be used in the German legal sphere.

According to our experience, it might take a while before the unabridged marriage certificate is issued. In particular, many tourists who have gotten married in South Africa have reported increasing difficulties in obtaining an unabridged marriage certificate.

In order to get married, South African officials usually request the following documents:

  • South African citizens: ID
  • non-South Africans: passport
  • both witnesses: ID or passport
  • German citizens: “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis” (letter of non-impediment), issued by the registrar's office of their (last) place of residence in Germany, furnished with an Apostil
    The German Missions cannot confirm your marital status or issue any other kind of confirmation of single status. The only document intended by German law to prove your marital status in order to get married abroad is a letter of non-impediment issued by the registrar's office. 
  • if divorced: divorce order
  • if widowed: death certificate of late spouse

Please contact the Department of Home Affairs for more detailed and binding information on the required documents.

“Ehefähigkeitszeugnis” - Letter of Non-Impediment

If you are a German citizen planning on getting married in South Africa, you require a letter of non-impediment from the registry office at your (last) place of residence in Germany. Certified copies or signatures to accompany your application can be obtained at the German Mission. You should contact your local registry office to ask for the list of requirements and in order to apply for a letter of non-impediment furnished with an Apostil.

  • birth certificates of both fiancés
  • proof of citizenships of both fiancés (passport); if one fiancé does not possess his citizenship since birth: certificate proving naturalisation
  • if previously married: marriage certificates of all earlier marriages and proof of dissolution (i.e. death certificates or divorce decrees with German recognition letter if applicable, see here
  • proof of current place of residence in Germany (“Meldebescheinigung”) or proof of deregistration from the last German place of residence, see here
  • proof of marital status of the non-German fiancé
  • application form

Please note that all documents not issued by a German authority usually require an Apostil and a translation into the German language.

The fees for the letter of non-impediment differ from one federal state to another and are between 45,- and 100,- Euro.

Note: The German Missions cannot confirm your marital status or issue any other kind of confirmation of status. The only document intended by German law to prove your marital status in order to get married abroad is a letter of non-impediment issued by the registry office. 

The German Missions in South Africa will no longer respond to requests for a letter confirming marital status, nor for a verification of a “Meldebescheinigung” nor any authentication of a letter of non-impediment.

Registering your Marriage in Germany

You got married in South Africa?  In general, marriages entered into in South Africa will also be valid in Germany as long as the marriage requirements were met. Registering the marriage with the German registrar's office is voluntary. However, if you are planning on living in Germany, it is advisable to have a German marriage certificate.

Applying for marriage registration:

  • If a name declaration is necessary, then both spouses must appear in person.

  • Bring all documents and certificates listed below in the original plus two simple copies each. The copies will be certified at the German Mission and the originals returned to you at once.

  • All South African documents must be in the unabridged (full) form.

  • All documents that are not in German or English must be furnished with a German translation. Note that the registry office might also ask for German translations of English documents.

  • Please note that many registry offices will accept South African certificates only when furnished with an Apostille. In order to avoid delays later, we recommend submitting documents with Apostilles right from the start.

  • application form, fully completed
  • proof of identity of both spouses (passport/ID)
  • proof of citizenship of both spouses (passports, citizenship certificates, naturalisation certificates, etc.)
  • South African unabridged marriage certificate
  • birth certificates of both spouses (South African: unabridged/full birth certificates)
  • If either spouse was born in Germany, we recommend submitting an “excerpt of the birth register with endorsements” instead of a simple birth certificate.
  • if applicable: certificate of proof of name
  • in case of previous marriages: divorce order or death certificates of the late spouse
  • in case of divorce: recognition of the foreign divorce by the competent German authority
  • fee for the verification of signature and certified copies

Note: Not all possible cases and scenarios can be represented here. Addtitional documentation might be requested depending on your specific case.

The Embassy/Consulate will forward your application to the registry office in Germany. If either spouse has ever resided in Germany, the office at the current/last place of residence is responsible for the application. If neither spouse has ever lived in Germany, the application will be forwarded to the Registry Office I in Berlin. Their current processing time is currently three years.

The registry office's fee for registering a marriage differs from one German state to another but usually amounts to between 80,- and 125,- Euro.

Matrimonial Property Regime

Attention: Consider under which matrimonial property regime you live in your marriage, and if necessary formally choose a system of law. Read here

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