Should the marriage ceremony take place in Switzerland or abroad?
The decision whether the marriage ceremony should take place in Switzerland or in the native country of the foreign partner is individual.
On the one hand, personal desires may play a role. On the other hand, it may be extremely expensive and time-consuming in certain countries to obtain the necessary papers for marriage in Switzerland, which makes it simpler to get married in the country in question. However, under certain circumstances, it can be more difficult to obtain the necessary recognition of the marriage in Switzerland for the subsequent immigration of family dependents.
Depending on where the marriage takes place, various preconditions have to be met.
Binational marriage ceremony abroad
If you have decided to get married abroad, you need to find out about the necessary papers and formalities in the country in question. If you live in Switzerland, it is best to contact the consular representative in Switzerland of the country in question. If you get married abroad, you will need notarization by the Swiss embassy with jurisdiction in the country in question in order to register with the Swiss civil registry office. You will find the addresses on the homepage of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA): www.eda.admin.ch
The information sheet of the Swiss Federal Commercial Registry Office is available on www.eazw.admin.ch.
If you have further questions or need personal counselling, please contact one of the Call Centres of our Association advice centres.
Preconditions for the marriage ceremony
According to Swiss law, you can get married when you have reached the age of legal maturity - i.e. 18 years of age - or, in the case of people under guardianship, when you have obtained permission (ZGB art. 94).
There must be no impediments to the marriage (e.g. an already existing marriage).
In Switzerland, marriages must be concluded at the registry office. A religious marriage ceremony may only take place after the civil wedding (ZGB art. 97 para. 3).
The marriage ceremony can take place in the registry district of your choice (ZGB art. 97 para. 2). If you do not wish to get married in the community you live in, this community will issue you with a marriage authorisation once the preparation process has been concluded.
Necessary documents for getting married
- Individual civil registry certificate (issued by the registry office of your town of origin)
- Certificate of permanent residence or proof of residence (issued by the residents' registration office)
- Passport or identity card
- Proof of residence (foreigner's identity card)
- Birth certificate with information about parents
- Passport or proof of citizenship (issued by the native country)
- Civil registry papers (with information about marital status, divorce decree or death certificate of deceased spouse)
- Recognised refugees and asylum seekers need to produce a newly issued certificate of their refugee or asylum-seeker status instead of a passport or proof of citizenship.
Depending on the country of origin, the Swiss authorities also request that the marriage papers are checked in the native country of the foreigner. This check can take some time and may incur an advance fee payable to the registry office. The required documents must not date back more than six months at the time of submission and must be written in one of the native languages of Switzerland (some cantons accept english).
If your documents need translating, please enquire at the registry office about which sections need translating. The translation needs to be certified. Many translation offices provide this service.
It is advisable to allocate sufficient time for the procurement and possible translation of the documents.
Civil Registery officers are authorized and required to verify whether the marriage in question is fictitious. If they suspect this is the case, they may deny the matrimony. A marriage is fictitious if the couple wishing to marry enters into marriage solely or primarily to circumvent legal privisions concerning the residence of aliens. With respect to foreign nationals, Civil Registry officers are required to verify their residence status and, in case of suspicion, to establish the possibility of a fictitious marriage, if necessary by questioning the engaged couple (individually) and other authorities and third parties.
Since ZGB art. 98 sec. 4 entered into force on January 1, 2011, marriages with foreigners may only be entered into in Switzerland if legal residence has been established. This applies likewise for registered partnerships in accordance with PartG art. 5 sec. 4.That is, depending on the country of citizenship, a residence permit or a valid visa is required. Undocumented persons and those whose application for asylum has been rejected may no longer get marrie. If documentation of properly permitted residence is not successful, the civil registry officer must share the identity of the engaged party with the immigration authorities with jurisdiction. The immigration authority can issue a residence permit for the purpose of preparing for marriage, provided it is not a sham marriage an the prerequisites for family reunification are in place as in a normal marriage. The practice for this varies from canton to canton; for this reason, we recommend that you inquire at a cantonal counselling office for undocumented foreigners if you have questions www.sans-papiers.ch.
Preparation process (ZGB art. 98-99)
You need to go to the registry office of your place of residence in person with the required documents. The registry office checks the documents and determines that the preconditions for marriage have been fulfilled. You will have to pay for this service. Enquire at the responsible registry office about the expected costs. Remember that this process can take some time.
Once all the documents have been assembled, the preparation process is completed and the couple is informed of the legal deadlines of the wedding. The wedding can take place at the earliest ten days after the completion of the preparation process and at the latest three months thereafter.
If it is impossible or unfeasible to appear at the registry office in person, e.g. because your partner is abroad, a written version of the preparation process can be authorised.
If you have already initiated the preparation process, you can, as a foreigner, submit an application for an entry and limited residence permit to prepare for marriage from a Swiss representation abroad (consulate or embassy) or - if you are already in Switzerland - from the Cantonal Aliens' Police (Migration Services). You can also request an extension of a tourist visa with the same justification.
Important: If you wish to apply for issuance for extension a visa in Switzerland, you have to do this in good time before your valid residence permit expires!