American citizens contemplating marriage to a Chinese citizen in China should review the following information. This information is given for general background reference only and, while it is believed to be accurate, we suggest that you or your fiancée check locally for any changes that might have been made.
Marriages in China are registered according to the laws of China. American diplomatic and consular officers do not have the authority to perform marriages and are not required to witness the marriages of American citizens that take place overseas. Under the U.S. Constitution, the administration of civil affairs is one of the powers reserved for states. Thus, as federal government employees, American consular officers are prohibited from usurping this state role. Marriages in China are administered by the marriage registration office of the local civil affairs bureau, (Min Zheng Ju) in each jurisdiction. Persons planning to marry should visit or call one of these offices for specific information. The appropriate civil affairs office will be the one in the jurisdiction in which the Chinese citizen is registered (the location of their hukou).
While the minimum age for marriage is generally 20 for women 22 for men, some civil affairs offices have a higher minimum age. Both parties must establish that they are single and free to marry. If you have been previously married, you will be asked to submit original or certified copies of your final divorce or annulment decrees, or of death certificates, if widowed. Note that at least one party of a marriage must be either a Chinese citizen or a long-term resident. Marriages between foreigners who are temporary visitors may not be registered.
The American will usually be asked to submit the following:
1. A valid passport with a valid Chinese visa
If both parties are foreigners at least one must present a Chinese residence permit.
2. An "affidavit of marriageability." You can get this document at the Embassy by swearing or affirming before a Consul that you are legally free to marry. You must make an appointment to get this affidavit and there is a $50 charge.
3. If either party was previously married, bring a clear photocopy of either the divorce or annulment decree or the death certificate which shows how the marriage ended. If you present an original certified copy with the copy for their review, the Chinese authorities will usually accept the copy. Hold on to your original documents, since they will be required when you file an immigrant visa petition for your spouse.
4. Three photos of the couple, taken together
5. Registration fee
Questions regarding what documents the Chinese partner must submit should be directed to the local marriage registration office (Hun Yin Deng Ji Chu).
Marriage certificates are usually issued on the same day the registration takes place. Marriages that are legal in the jurisdiction in which they were performed are legal in the United States. It is not necessary to register your marriage at the Embassy or in the United States, nor do you need to re-marry in the United States.