As part of my very popular series of legal FAQ, I now address a subject which I am personally completely opposed to: how to get married in Germany? My personal advice would be not to do it. Don’t throw away freedom like that. On the other hand, as a lawyer, I do of course know that sometimes marriage is the easiest way to get a residence permit for Germany.
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1. What are the legal requirements to get married?
The requirements to get married in Germany are determined by the laws of the bride’s and the groom’s respective countries (Art. 13 I EGBGB). If requirements of a foreign law cannot be met, Art. 13 II EGBGB does however allow for exceptions in most cases and reverts to German law.
The requirements under German law are a minimum age of 18 (a court can grant an exception if one of you is 16 or 17 years old, § 1303 II BGB), that you are not closely related with each other and that you are both single/widowed/divorced.
2. I don’t understand all this legal stuff. I just want to know what documents I need.
It doesn’t get much easier, unfortunately, because that too depends on the country of your citizenship. But generally, you need:
- a passport or an ID card,
- a birth certificate,
- a statement from your home country that you are eligible to marry under that country’s laws (“Ehefähigkeitszeugnis”) or, for countries that don’t provide such a document,
- proof that you are single, and
- a court order exempting you from the requirement of the “Ehefähigkeitszeugnis” (§ 1309 II BGB), which is however a straightforward process if you come from a county that regularly doesn’t issue such certificates.
Problems may arise if your home country is not cooperative or if documents have been lost/destroyed in a civil war or a war. Under these exceptional circumstances, required documents can be replaced by affidavits.
Notice that you do NOT need a residence permit for Germany. Even if you only have a “Duldung”, you are eligible to get married. However, in these cases it is often problematic to prove your identity and that you are single without providing further documents.
3. Heck, that’s complicated! You are known as a super-lawyer, don’t you know some tricks?
Honestly, in many cases it’s easier to get married in another country and then return to Germany afterward.
Within the EU, Denmark is known as the country where it’s easy and quick to get married. Sometimes, particularly when visas are not an issue, it’s also an option to return to the home country of the bride or the groom to get married there. – I am curious to hear about your experiences in other countries. If you have any, please leave a comment below.
Foreign marriages are generally recognized in Germany.
4. I live abroad, but I am engaged to a German. Will I get a visa to get married in Germany?
Your future spouse would need to prepare all the documents and submit them to the local “Standesamt”. Once they have approved everything and given you an appointment for the wedding, you can apply for a visa to travel to your wedding. After that, you apply for a residence permit as the spouse of a German (§ 28 I no. 1 AufenthG).
5. I am only on a tourist visa, but I met this cute German guy. Can we get married right away?
You actually CAN get married while on a tourist visa in Germany.
The real problem however is that the 3 months are usually not enough to get all the paperwork from your home country together, to get it translated, recognized, filed and then to get an appointment for the wedding with the “Standesamt”. One pro-tip is to go to a smaller, non-touristy town where you don’t have to wait for months. And don’t insist on a weekend wedding. Huge weddings are overrated anyway.
6. I got married to a German outside of Germany. Can I move to Germany now?
Only if you move together. You cannot use your marriage to a German as a reason to move to Germany if he/she doesn’t move with you. By trying to do so, you would kind of show that you are not living together, which is the requirement to get a residence permit pursuant to § 28 I no. 1 AufenthG.
If your German spouse is already living in Germany, you can apply for a residence permit for the purpose of family reunion. You need to show a basic knowledge of the German language at the A1 level (§§ 28 I 5, 30 I 1 no. 2 AufenthG), with many exceptions for specific cases (§§ 28 I 5, 30 I 3 AufenthG) depending on the country of origin, the educational level or other personal circumstances of the applicant. – But the A1 level is really easy and if you ever want to apply for German citizenship, you need to speak German anyway.
There are NO financial requirements like minimum income.
Remember that you don’t need any visa or permit if you live in or move to another EU country together with your German spouse, which is a viable option in cases in which the German Consulate denies a visa.
7. Will I get German citizenship when I marry a German?
But if you are married to a German citizen, you can apply for German citizenship after living in Germany for only 3 years. For more on German citizenship, please check my relevant FAQ.
8. You keep talking about brides and grooms. What about same-sex marriage?
Germany did not offer same-sex marriage until 2017, but something very similar: a “Lebenspartnerschaft”, something like a civil partnership.
From 2017 on, there will be marriage for same-sex couples, to which all the other questions and answers apply accordingly.
9. Do you recommend that we get a prenuptial agreement?
That really depends on your financial situation.
a) If you are poor and are planning to remain poor, it may not be necessary.
b) In all other cases: yes.
10. You were right. Getting married was a mistake. Can I get an annulment or a divorce?
Please check my FAQ on divorce law in Germany.