Question of the Week: Do you need to report your marriage abroad to someone in the United States?

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Question: “I just got married in South Korea. Do I need to report this to someone in the United States?”

Answer: Unlike South Korea, the United States with a federal type of government does not maintain a central registry of family relationships.  This responsibility largely falls to the states most of which maintain their own records of birth, death and marriage when these take place within their borders. The Department of State maintains records related to American citizens who are born or die abroad, but there is no organization or department in the United States that tracks marriages involving U.S. citizens that take place outside the U.S.

The general recommendation we make in the American Citizen Services Unit is that American citizens who are married overseas maintain an original or certified copy of their foreign marriage document along with a notarized translation or authentication. While there is no requirement to report your overseas marriage to U.S. authorities, you may be required to submit evidence of the marriage for tax purposes, to petition for immigration status for your spouse, or for a variety of other official purposes.

It can be difficult to obtain replacements for foreign documents and many countries do not have high standards for the maintenance and upkeep of their records, so special care should be taken to retain and preserve your marriage certificate since it will be the primary evidence of your marital relationship. It is also recommended that American citizens obtain good contact information for foreign authorities should they require a replacement. As always, living, working, and even falling in love in a foreign country can present unique challenges. By taking these recommended steps you will be better prepared to prove you are married once you return to the United States.

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27 responses to “Question of the Week: Do you need to report your marriage abroad to someone in the United States?

  1. caleb walbert

    What about the other way around? I am an american citizen who married a korean citizen but we were married in the United states. We are now here in korea trying to work out our legal marriage and my visa however, the gu-chang wants our original marriage license for their records and have said we wont get it back. We need that for our return to the states. They akso said to go to the US Embassy where they wilk give us a certificate authenticating we have been married abroad. But the embassy said they dont do that so were stuck in a circle of nobody who cares ….. please has anyone gone through this does anybody kniw what to do

    Please help?

    • A) Thank you for your inquiry. As you are aware, the U.S. Embassy is unable to authenticate U.S. documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, death certificates, etc. However, we can notarize an affidavit for U.S. citizens. You might ask Korean authority if your sworn affidavit notarized by the Embassy would suffice or substitute. An affidavit is a sworn statement, made by you. You can write out the statement, using our blank affidavit form, you may wish to make, but do not sign the form. You will need to sign it in front of the consular officer.

      Another option for you to contact the Vital Records office to request a certified copy of your marriage certificate, so that you could submit it to the Korean authority for their records.

      Thank you.

      • Thank you for your reply and information.did recieve a noterized affidavit when we went to the embessy however. It was not accepted by the gu-chang office they said there was a “certifacate” issued by the embessy that would suffice however they still wanted the original marriage license.

        Is there a possible way to receive a certified copy of our license without leaving korea.

        Seems like this process has not been clearly decided between korean and american government or someones not doing their job.

        Causes enough stress and debt to make you pray for world peace and no borders

        Thank you again….

        All ears…

      • A)Thank you for your follow-up question. Unfortunately, the U.S. Embassy cannot assist you with obtaining vital records; unlike the Korean government, the U.S. federal government has no central registry of marriages. For detailed information about obtaining a certified copy of your marriage license, you need to contact the vital records office in the state where you report your marriage. Requirements vary from state to state. Contact information for the vital records offices of the U.S. states can be found here. We regret that you are experiencing communication difficulty with the Korean authority and hope you get the issue solved soon.
        Thank you.

  2. caleb walbert

    Thank you any and all who have any advise for us on our marriage and visa

  3. hi good morning . i have a question . I got married in Dominican Republic with a united state citizen . I just found out he divorced me without my knowledge . I live with him in the united state . my question is ; is that divorce valid here too in the united state if my marriage was performed in that country ? what can i do here in order for preserved my legal rights as his wife ?

    • A)Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately the U.S. Embassy is not authorized to provide legal advice or assistance. We suggest you to seek advice from a competent immigration attorney.
      Thank you.

  4. I got married to a US citizen on March 2008 here in Korea. He met this Filipina girl online. He went to the Philippines on May of this year, and was able to secure a certificate or a proof that he’s never been married before. Last December 12, this year, they were able to get married in a civil wedding even if we’re still legally married here in Korea and that there was no divorce that took place. What legal actions I can take for his betrayal? Please help. Thanks you.

    • A) Thank you for your inquiry. The Embassy is unable to provide legal advice, but we encourage you to consult with a competent attorney regarding this matter. Since your issue is involved with marriages that took place in Korea, you may wish to contact the Seoul Global Center (SGC) run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government for assistance. SGC is a comprehensive support center for foreign residents in Seoul and is a one-stop service center for offering daily living, legal advice, business activities, and administrative services. They can also be reached at (02)-2075-4130.

      Sorry that we can’t be more helpful, but we hope this reply is useful to you in resolving your situation.

  5. Which notaries in South Korea are recognized by the US Embassy for Korean marriage certificate authentication by the US Embassy.
    I am an American citizen recently married to a Korean citizen, and I have a Korean marriage certificate that needs to be authenticated by the US Embassy in Seoul to submit to the Korean immigration office to obtain a Korean marriage visa. Marriage certificate must be notarized to recieve US embassy authentication, am I correct?

    • Korean Marriage Certificate issued by the Korean government. However, as it stated in our website http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_getting_married.html, when American citizens need to obtain a Korean visa or need to change their Korean visa status due to a marriage to a Korean citizen, we offer a letter for U.S. citizens so that they can submit it to the Korean Immigration Office. Please schedule an appointment and bring your valid U.S. passport and original Korean marriage certificate to obtain this letter on your appointment date.
      Thank you.

      • Yuriko Takano

        Hello. Just to clarify, will a korean marriage certificate be enough to show proof of marriage for the F-6 visa? I am a us citizen but married in korea to a korean. Will i need to come back with my husband to america and sign marriage papers there as well?
        Thank you for your response in advance!

      • Thank you for your inquiry. The U.S. Embassy has no authority over matters related to your admission into or stay in Korea. Korean visas for U.S. citizens fall under the jurisdiction of the Korean government. For questions or concerns, please contact the Korean Immigration Service directly by phone at 1345, or online atwww.immigration.go.kr. Please note that there is no organization or department in the U.S. that tracks marriages involving U.S. citizens that take place outside the U.S. If you were issued a Korean marriage certificate, it means that you are legally married under the Korean law and a marriage performed in Korea under the Korean law is recognized in all states. More information on Marriage Abroad can be found on the Department of State’s website.
        Thank you.

  6. I am a little bit confused. I recently got married in Japan but does the United States know I got married abroad, or do I need to report this, as I want to have my spouse with me when I move back to the United States. Thank you

    • Thank you for your inquiry. In general, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States for both state and Federal purposes. For immigration purposes, an original marriage certificate, or a certified copy, bearing the appropriate seal or stamp of the issuing authority would be required documentation. For more information on immigrant visas, please contact the U.S. Embassy where your spouse will apply and be interviewed for an immigrant visa.
      Thank you.

  7. Hello. I am a US citizen who resides outside the United States. I was married in Iceland last year. I’d like to change my last name to match my husbands. How can I do this without returning to the US? Can I go through a process at the US Consulate here in Istanbul? (In Iceland, no one changes their last names upon marriage, so this wasn’t even an option on the marriage certificate. So the certificate has my name as it currently appears on my passport.) Thanks for any advice! Cheers.

    • Thank you for your inquiry. If you wish to change your name after marriage, your marriage certificate, which shows your maiden name and your husband’s name, will typically suffice to prove your name change. If you wish to have your passport changed to reflect your husband’s surname, you must apply for a new passport and provide an original or certified true copy of the marriage certificate. For detailed information on this process, please see the State Department’s website at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/services/correction.html#Changes. Each U.S. Embassy and Consulate has its own procedures for accepting passport applications, so please also check the website of the office where you plan to apply.
      Thank you.

  8. I am US Citizen who married a Korean in Seoul. We did the Report and Certificate of Marriage. So does this mean my marriage is reported to the US Government and in the system? What does this Report mean technically? I know my marriage is legal here and in the States.

    • Thank you for your inquiry. As we explained in our blog, there is no organization or department in the United States that tracks foreign marriages involving U.S. citizens. If you were issued a Korean marriage certificate, that means you are legally married under Korean law. Under the principle of international comity, your legal Korean marriage will generally be recognized by all U.S. states and by the Federal Government without any further paperwork. More information on Marriage Abroad can be found on the Department of State’s website.
      Thank you.

  9. I recently married a lady from Thailand. I understand the marriage is recognized in America. Do I have the legal right to bring my wife to America if I fill out the correct forms for the visa.. Are there any circumstances where the spouse visa would be denied?

    • Thank you for your inquiry. If you are legally married then you will need to file a petition for your spouse, Form I-130, with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for your spouse to immigrate to the United States. For instructions on how to file a petition, including where you should send the petition, see the USCIS website. In certain circumstances, a U.S. citizen living abroad can file an immigrant visa petition outside of the United States. Review Filing Immigrant Petitions Outside the United States to learn more.

      For more information on U.S. immigrant visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (IR1 or CR1), please see the USCIS website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_2991.html. For any questions regarding immigrant visas including answers to your questions above, please send an email to support-korea@ustraveldocs.com for assistance.
      Thank you.

  10. Hello, I am a US citizen and am going to marry a British citizen in Korea. What do I need to do once I have been to the Gu office to make the marriage recognized in the US? If I don’t go to my Embassy will the marriage not be registered in the USA?

    • Thank you for your inquiry. For detailed information on marriage procedures for U.S. citizens in Korea, please refer to our website at http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_getting_married.html. Under the international legal principle of comity, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are generally also legally valid in the United States for both state and Federal purposes. You don’t need to report it to the U.S. Embassies. If you were issued a Korean marriage certificate, your legal Korean marriage will generally be recognized by all U.S. states and by the Federal Government without any further paperwork. Once you receive the marriage certificate, you may wish to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs(MOFA) and get an Apostille on the Korean marriage certificate. To get more information about obtaining the Apostille for your Korean marriage certificate, please contact MOFA directly at 02-2100-7600.

      More information on Marriage Abroad can be found on the Department of State’s website http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/abroad/events-and-records/marriage.html.
      Thank you.

  11. Hi. I’m having an issue with the Korean cosulate here in the US. My Korean fiance and I are planning to get married here in the US and then return to Korea. The consulate is insisting that unless I have a marriage license from both Korea and the US, I cannot receive a visa. It is my understanding, however, that American citizens are not allowed to get married twice, meaning we cannot get married here in the US and then get married again in Korea. Am I incorrect? And if I am not, is there a resource from the US government I can point the consulate to to make them understand this? Thank you so much for your time.

    • Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately the Embassy cannot intervene in Korean visa matters. Since Korean visas for non-Korean citizens including U.S. citizens fall under the jurisdiction of the Korean government, they have the final say in this matter and we have no authority over matters related to Korean visas. Sorry we couldn’t have been more helpful.

      • Yes, I’m not asking for intervention. I’m asking about the legality of getting married twice in two separate countries as an American citizen. Again, it is my understanding that we are not legally able to marry twice, that we are supposed to only get married either in the US or in Korea. I’m wondering if there is any website or guidelines I can refer the consulste to myself to help them to understand this, or if I am misunderstanding something.

      • Thank you for your follow-up inquiry. Marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are generally also legally valid in the United States. There is no law requires U.S. citizens to report their marriages took place in foreign countries to the relevant office in the United States. Unfortunately, since the U.S. Embassy in Korea does not perform marriages but only can assist U.S. citizens with the paperwork necessary for a legal marriage in Korea, we are unable to provide the information your require. We may wish to check with the relevant office in your state regarding the information you require.
        Thank you

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