Getting Married Abroad

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You dream of getting married under the palm trees by the sea, somewhere in an exotic place outside Quebec. You also want this marriage to be recognized in Quebec. This means that you will be considered legally married in Quebec and that your marriage will have the same effect as if you were married in Quebec.

Do you know how to prevent your perfect day from becoming a legal nightmare?

In this article, Éducaloi explains the rules for getting married abroad and the steps to follow ahead of time. You will also learn about the rights and responsibilities that flow from this type of marriage.

Can Canadian citizens living in Quebec get married outside Canada?

Yes. It is possible to get married abroad. But each country has its own rules about the procedure to follow.

A marriage ceremony is covered by the laws of the place where the ceremony takes place and Quebec law if the people getting married are from Quebec.

Before getting married, couples from Quebec must meet certain requirements:

  • The two people getting married must be at least 16 years old. If they are under 18, they must obtain court's permission to marry.
  • The two people getting married must be able to freely agree to the marriage and understand the consequences. For example, the marriage would not be valid if one person agreed to it due to threats.
  • The people getting married cannot still be married to someone else (even if they have been separated for a number of years).
  • The people getting married must not be related in a way that is against the law. For example, marriages cannot take place between brother and sister, father and daughter, mother and son, grandfather and granddaughter, or grandmother and grandson. However, marriage between cousins is allowed.

Obviously, there can be some complicated situations. For example, if you are from Quebec and you marry an Italian while travelling in Spain, several countries are involved: Canada, Italy and Spain. In complicated cases, it can be a good idea to consult a lawyer or notary. The rules could vary depending on the situation, since several laws are involved.

Can couples marry in any country and have the marriage recognized in Quebec?

Quebec law recognizes marriages in all countries as long as the ceremony respects Quebec rules.

Quebec's rules include the following:

  • The marriage ceremony must be public.
  • It must be performed by someone who is qualified under the laws of that country to perform marriages.
  • Two witnesses must be present.
  • Notice of the marriage must be published before the ceremony.

The embassy or consulate of the country where you want to marry can give you information about the requirements. Offices of the Canadian government abroad can also provide information about the rules in other countries. 

Once a marriage has taken place abroad, what must be done for it to be recognized in Quebec?

A marriage abroad will be recognized automatically if the rules on marriage ceremonies in the foreign country were respected and the requirements in Quebec and Canadian laws (explained above) were met.

It can be a good idea to send the marriage certificate from the foreign country to the Québec register of civil status. Putting the marriage certificate into the register can make it easier to deal with Quebec departments and agencies.

To put the marriage certificate into the Québec register, the people married must meet these conditions:

What steps must be taken before the marriage?

Not all countries have the same rules about the documents couples must have and steps they must take before a wedding.

The embassy or consulate of the country where the marriage is taking place can provide information about these rules.

For example, let's say that Peter and Diana decide to get married in Costa Rica. They call the embassy and learn that they must bring these documents:

  • a certificate of civil status proving that they are not already married (available from the Québec registrar of civil status)
  • a divorce certificate or death certificate if one or both has been married before
  • a birth certificate

They must also have each of these documents certified by the Costa Rican consulate in Quebec before their departure and before the marriage.

Peter and Diane must have these documents with them at the time of the marriage ceremony at the city hall of their choice in Costa Rica. Two other people must act as witnesses and must prove the identities of Peter and Diane.

Does a marriage abroad create the same rights and responsibilities as a marriage in Quebec?

Yes. Quebecers who live in Quebec and who married validly abroad have the same rights and responsibilities as couples married in Quebec.

However, the situation could be different if one of the people getting married is not from Quebec, or if the couple decides not to live in Quebec. In this case, you should contact a notary or lawyer to learn about the rules that apply to the marriage.

If a Canadian citizen marries someone who is not a Canadian citizen, will that person automatically become a Canadian citizen?

No. But you can apply to sponsor that person to become a permanent resident in Canada. This sponsorship will last for three years from the date the person becomes a permanent resident, even if you later divorce. Afterwards this person can apply for Canadian citizenship.

For more information on applying for permanent resident status or citizenship, contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.