Marrying in Spain is more complicated than in the United States. Approval of a marriage application often takes as long as 45 days. Policies and procedures vary from region to region. For this reason, the Embassy/Consulate General suggests that American citizens consult with regional authorities early in the process.
In general, legal and valid marriages contracted abroad are also valid in the United States. Should you have any questions about the validity of a marriage performed abroad, you should contact the Attorney General’s Office of your U.S. State where you are domiciled (either the State of last residence or the one which you consider home, where you vote and have a driver’s license).
U.S. diplomats and consular officers cannot perform marriages. Marriage is a function reserved solely to the State, and is beyond the authority of U.S. diplomats and consular officers who are Federal officials.
Terminations of marriages require the assistance of attorneys.
Civil Marriages Formalities in Spain
Applications must be made directly to the Civil Registry (Registro Civil) or District Court (Juzgado) where at least one of the applicants resides. This requirement does not imply the celebration of the marriage in the municipality of the given Civil Registry. Please contact the Civil Registry or District Court where you will be legalizing your marriage for the list of documents they require www.mjusticia.gob.es. Most civil registries in Spain require some or all of the following documents:
- Application Form: Can be obtained from the Civil Registry/District Court that has jurisdiction.
- Birth Certificate: The original document is mandatory. To obtain a birth certificate from your state visit: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/w2w.htm.
Apostille: Foreign birth certificates must be legalized to be valid in Spain. The Apostille is an official international seal verifying a document for use outside its country of origin. It is issued by an authorized office in the state where your certificate was issued, NOT by the Spanish or U.S. Consulate. To obtain The Hague Legalization Convention Apostille please visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/judicial/authentication-of-documents/apostille-requirements.html. Naturalized citizens should check with the embassy/consulate of their country of birth for guidance on authentication of birth certificates, as the Apostille is not available in certain countries.
Translation: Foreign birth certificates must be translated into Spanish by an official translator after you have received it with the Apostille. Visit the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ web site for information on Sworn Translators throughout Spain at: http://www.exteriores.gob.es or access this link (PDF 620K) to download a list of translators in the Barcelona area.
- Proof Both Parties Are Free to Marry (Certificado de Soltería): The Certificado de Fe de Vida y de Soltería is required by some civil registries. Make sure you inquire at your local registry whether this document is required and what you can present in its place as there is no document equivalent to the “Certificado de Fe de Vida y Estado” in the United States and the Embassy/consulate cannot provide such a document. You may download the following statement (PDF 120K) about civil status certificates in order to present to the civil registry to demonstrate that the U.S. government does not provide such a certificate/statement.
- Divorce/Annulment/Death Certificates: If you have been married before, you must submit evidence that the relationship has ended. Access the following link for instructions on how to obtain vital records: cdc.gov/. Certified documents from outside of Spain must be accompanied by an Apostille and Spanish sworn translation. Please see information on Apostille and Translation above.
- Certificate of Residence: U.S. citizens legally residing in Spain for the prior two years can obtain a certificate of residence at no charge from the Ayuntamiento in their district of residence (Empadronamiento). U.S. citizens who are temporary residents of Spain or have lived here less than two years may execute an affidavit regarding their place of residence before a Consular Officer. The consular fee is $50 per seal. Appointment: An appointment must be booked on-line for this service at our web site:
- Schedule an Appointment for Notarial Services Embassy Madrid
- Schedule an Appointment for Notarial Services US. Consulate General Barcelona
- Schedule an appointment for a notary service at one of the U.S. Consular Agencies in Spain.
Once you execute the affidavit(s) before a Consular Officer, you are required to legalize the Officer’s signature through the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Madrid:
This document is in Spanish. Spanish law may permit foreigners who are not Spanish legal residents to marry here. The different autonomous communities in Spain may, however, interpret this law differently and may require that one of the parties be a citizen or resident of Spain.
- Posting of Banns: Banns are the public announcement that a couple plans to marry, giving any knowledgeable citizen an opportunity to object.
Frequently Asked Questions about Marriage in Spain
Types of Civil and Religious Unions in Spain and Andorra
Civil and religious ceremonies
All marriages must be registered with a civil registry to be valid. Individuals can marry in a religious ceremony, but the official act of marriage is with the civil registry.
Pareja de Hecho or Unio Estable de Parella
The formalization of a Pareja de Hecho (Spain) or Unio Estable de Parella (Andorra) offers all unmarried couples, same-sex and opposite-sex, a legal status carrying some but not all of the benefits of marriage. It is sometimes referred to as a civil partnership. Neither is the equivalent to marriage under Spanish or Andorran law, and the United States does not recognize them as marriages.
Same-Sex Marriage in Spain and Andorra
Same-sex marriages performed in Spain or Andorra are recognized by the U.S. federal government and do confer immigration benefits. If you need to know if your same-sex marriage will be recognized in your state and what documentation may be needed, contact the office of the Attorney General of your state of residence in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions on Marriage and Parejas de Hecho in Spain or Andorra
Do I need to notify or register my marriage with the Embassy?
The U.S. federal government does not have a central registry of marriages or civil acts. You are not required to register your marriage in Spain or Andorra with the U.S. Embassy. However, if you plan on residing in Spain or Andorra, we recommend that you register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so you can receive safety and security messages from the Embassy.
How can I authenticate a Spanish or Andorran marriage certificate to be valid in the United States?
Family History Record Booklet - "libro de familia"
There is no equivalent of the Spanish Libro de Familia in the United States.