DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR RELATING TO THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN COUNTRIES IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY AND MAY NOT BE TOTALLY ACCURATE IN A PARTICULAR CASE. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATIONS OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO FOREIGN ATTORNEYS OR FOREIGN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.
Marriages performed abroad are conducted in accordance with the laws of the foreign country. U.S. Foreign Service officers are not permitted to perform marriages (Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations 52.1). The validity of marriages abroad is not dependent upon the presence of a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer, but upon adherence to the laws of the country where the marriage is performed. Marriages abroad are subject to the residency and documentation requirements of the country in which the marriage is performed. In general, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States. Inquiries regarding the validity of a marriage abroad should be directed to the attorney general of the state in the United States where the parties to the marriage live.
Vietnamese Marriage Requirements:
Any application for marriage between a citizen of a foreign country and a Vietnamese citizen residing in Ho Chi Minh City should be filed in persons at the Principal Registrar's Office (Justice Department, Ho Chi Minh City). If the Vietnamese citizen is residing elsewhere, we suggest that you contact that person to inquire where an application for marriage may be filed. It is our understanding that non-Vietnamese citizens are required to present the following documents.
Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage:
Many countries require persons who wish to marry to provide proof issued by a governmental authority that there is no legal impediment to the marriage. There is no such authority in the United States. The Department of States does not issue any statement or authorization regarding whether a person living in the United States is free to marry abroad. No such document exists in the United States. In the United States, marriage laws are enacted by the governments of the individual states, and there is no federal (national) marriage law or federal record of marriages. The laws of the several states with regard to marriage differ, and the stipulations for, or impediments to marriage vary widely. Marriage licenses in the United States are granted upon written application by the individuals concerned who declare themselves free to marry and are required to present evidence of the termination of any previous marriage. Thus the individuals concerned are held responsible for and accountable for their statements. Since 1888, U.S. regulations have reflected that U.S. consular officers are not competent to certify officially as to the civil status of persons domiciled in the United States and proposing to be married abroad. Moreover, 22 C.F.R. 52.3 provides that although a consular officer may have knowledge respecting the laws of marriage, the consular officer shall not issue any official certificate with respect to such laws.
Affidavit of Eligibility/Freedom to Marry:
Generally, Americans who wish to marry abroad execute a sworn statement regarding their civil status in the form of an "Affidavit of Eligibility/Freedom to Marry" before a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the Foreign Country. In the absence of a state or national certificate of no impediment to marry, this sworn statement seems to satisfy foreign local requirements.
Completing the Affidavit of Eligibility/Freedom to Marry for Use in Vietnam:
The following information is drawn from experiences provided by persons who have been married in Vietnam. Essentially, a U.S. citizen wishing to marry in Vietnam must execute an affidavit of eligibility to marry. This may be accomplished before a U.S. consular officer in Hanoi or before a notary public in the United States.
1. Sworn Statement before a U.S. consular officer: The U.S. citizen may appear before any consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi located at 7 Lang Ha, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam, and execute an Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry. The signature and the notarizing consular officer and the U.S. Embassy seal must then be authenticated by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs located at 6 Chu Van An Street, Hanoi, open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 to 11:30 am.
2. Notarized Statement Executed in the United States: The U.S. citizen may prepare a statement of eligibility to marry and have it notarized before a notary public in the United States. That person would then follow the procedures outlined in "Authentication (or Legalization) of Documents for Use Abroad" in obtaining further certification from his state's Secretary of State, the Authentications Office of the U.S. Department of State (515 23 rd Street, NW SA-1, Washington, DC 20520), and the Vietnamese Embassy (1233 20 th Street, NW - Suite 501, Washington, DC 20036, tel. (202) 861-0737.)
3. Authenticated Statement from Local Registrar in Your State of Residence: As noted in item 6, above, Vietnamese authorities apparently also require that foreigners wishing to marry present a statement issued by the local office responsible for marriage records in their state of residence in the United States. This statement should reflect the absence of any marriage record for that individual for the past two years. The state or local registrar's statement must be authenticated in accordance with the procedures set forth in the enclosed information flyer regarding authentication of documents. This means that the document must be authenticated by the state Secretary of State's office, by the U.S. Department of State's Authentications Office and by the Vietnamese Embassy (addresses provided in item 2). Please note the original registrar's statement will not be accepted by the Vietnamese marriage authorities more than three months old.