Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting married in Egypt (Information for Americans)


My in-Laws on their wedding day - 1970


I come across questions from American women all the time about getting married in Egypt. Not only have I gotten married in Egypt - I lived to tell about it. Provided you prepare in advance, stay organized and follow all the steps in the process in order - you should have no trouble at all getting married legally in Egypt.

First, let me take a minute to clear up a rumor that is circulating online. There is NOT a ban on Americans and Egyptians getting married. It is also not impossible to get married in Egypt. Back in 2007, the US Consular Section of the Embassy did stop issuing the marriage affidavit necessary for a US citizen to be legally married in Egypt. I have heard that the reason for this was due to paperwork backlog at the Embassy but don't quote me on that. Couples were still able to have a religious ceremony, but it became extremely difficult to have the legal marriage ceremony during this time. You would have had to jump through hoops getting documents translated, authenticated by the State Department, notarized, etc. Even with all that, it was not impossible, just extremely difficult. The American would have had to be well aware of what she needed before travelling to Egypt. She would have needed to have her papers translated, stamped and authenticated by various State and Federal agencies. There was still no guarantee that the paperwork would be accepted by the Egyptian Government. This required a lot of time, preparation, and patience. Most people, unaware of this, simply arrived in Cairo without the proper paperwork in hand and found themselves unable to marry here.

By the time I got married in mid 2008, the US Embassy was once again issuing the marriage affidavits. The marriage affidavit is a standardized form that you fill out in English and Arabic. If you have your fiance with you, he can fill out the Arabic side, otherwise they have someone there who can translate it for you. It contains a few simple questions about you: passport number, date of birth, occupation, dates of previous marriages and divorce, etc. Once you obtain this marriage affidavit, get all the proper signatures and stamps on it, you will have no problem getting married in Egypt.

If you know you are coming to Egypt to get married take certain steps to have your paperwork in order before leaving the States. I had all my original documents with me anyway, but I did not have any notarized copies (because I had not moved to Egypt with the intention of getting married). If you want to make extra copies of everything and have them notarized it could not hurt, but my paperwork was accepted without a notary stamp. It will work in your best interest to have the originals with you, too.

Before you travel you should get a file folder and gather the following documents:

  • Divorce Papers if previously married (Original and two copies)
  • at least 10 passport size color photos
  • Social Security Card
  • Photo ID other than your passport (you will need this to enter Embassy)
  • Birth Certificate
  • Passport
  • Notarized statement of religion

You may or may not actually need your birth certificate, but it is best to be on the safe side and have it in the file with you. There is no need to have anything translated into Arabic. If you keep this file folder with you at all times, you have instant access to any document you might be asked to produce and avoid potential headaches and delays.

If you are a convert to Islam, you may or may not have something in writing from a mosque in the US stating your religion. If you want, you can ask for a letter stating that you are a Muslim and have that notarized. Or, if you prefer to have a more official document, you can wait until you get to Egypt and officially convert at Al Azhar. This will provide you with a certificate with your picture on it. I knew a woman in Alex who did this and found the certificate to be an invaluable piece of ID to have as a foreigner living in Egypt, even using the certificate to open a bank account.

If you are Christian you really don't need to worry too much about supporting documentation. Most likely, they will take your word for it. If you feel better playing it safe get a notarized letter from your Church unless you happen to have your baptismal records. I did not have any official documentation of my religion nor was I asked to provide any. You may not want to take this chance. Remember, the process will be much easier if you have all your ducks in a row. It is better to have a document and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

If you are having a religious ceremony this can be done before or after the legal civil marriage. However, if done before the civil marriage, the couple is not considered legally married in the eyes of the Egyptian government. Only the civil ceremony at the Ministry of Justice establishes the marriage as legal. My husband and I had a religious ceremony in April and the civil marriage in July. (The only reason we waited so long in between is because I was attending a course in Alexandria from April to July.) For the Islamic ceremony (which is the same for Muslim men marrying Christian women), we had a Sheikh come to our house. We each needed 2 passport size photos. I needed my passport and my husband needed his Egyptian ID. That was it.

The first step in the process for the legal marriage is to go to the US Embassy in Cairo and visit the American Citizen Services for the marriage affidavit. You should bring your fiance with you. This entire process from this point on is mapped out quite clearly on the US Embassy Cairo web page. Visit that web page and print out the instructions. It details exactly where you need to go and what you need to bring, as well as the costs for each step in the process.

23 comments:

  1. thanks for the heads up this helped alot to know that the embasy will give you the marriage affidavit again.
    Lady Spring from egy search

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  2. You're welcome. The Embassy marriage affidavit will make things much easier for you.

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  3. I just wanted to point out that your information was very useful! Thank you so much! :) I live in the states and coming December, I will be leaving to get married to my Fiance, whom also lives in Egypt :) I have made notes on EVERYTHING you have mentioned, in your blog... If there is anything else I should know, please, I could use all insight! Plus, upon my enterance in Egypt, at customs, what types of questions should I expect? I know when I travelled to the UK to visit a high school friend, it was my first time out of the country, and they really gave it to me! Asking me why i was there, how i'd met her, how long id be staying, what address would I reside... Etc Should I expect the same thing when I get to Egypt? what would be the wisest and most sufficent thing to say, to have things go smoothly? Also, another question! :) My fiance lives in Banadf, 5 miles from Zagazig, 40 from Cairo. We have been discussing 2 wedding hall options... One in Zagazig, called Rabie'a Hall and another in Menya el Kamh, named Toping. Would you happen to know of these places or possibly help me with finding information on these places? Just like you make sure to mention, being prepared is the key, and all things must be done in advance! :) Again, your help is most greatly appreciated and I look forward to receiving your insight! Thank you so much,

    ~<3~

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  4. Glad you found the information useful. They won't ask you any questions when entering Egypt. Just purchase your visa at the airport, fill out the form with the address of where you will be staying. You can say you are here for marriage, but honestly they process so many tourists through the airport daily, they really don't care to know your business. Don't offer any information unless they ask you a question. But you don't have anything to worry about. Believe it or not, Cairo Airport is one of the few efficient places in all of Egypt. I've been through the airport 5 times now and it always goes smoothly. Be prepared for it to take a while to get through the immigration line though. Sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes they might only have one window open to service the entire flight. In those cases you might stand in the line for a few hours. That's what happened to me my last time in.

    As far as the wedding halls - I'm sorry I don't know anything about them. I wouldn't have any way to find out about them other than searching the internet and I'm assuming you already tried that.

    Good luck.

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  5. Thank you, again! Now, more questions! Here, on this blog, you have mentioned the neccessities for which is needed, for this process... But these forms are SOOOOOO confusing!!! What USCIS forms, other than say, the obvious I-130, I-864 etc... should I have prepared? As I mentioned previously, I'm getting married in Dec, and I plan to be there for 6 months or so, until his visa is accepted... and the whole, K3/Cr1 form is a big confusion, as well. Do you think you could help me on the specifics of my situation? I know each case of marriage is unique in its own form, but the more I can find out the better! The closest Homeland Security for me is no less than 6 hrs away... So my trips here have to be limited, due to financial reasons. Your help is greatly appreciated! P.S- My Fiance and I did meet online, but I've done research and taken steps to make sure our relationship isnt fraudulent. I have met his family through web-cam and this has been our main correspondence. Any additional information you can share with me, that I should expect or prepare for? Thank you!
    ~<3~

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  6. My response to you was too long to post here. You can find it here: http://www.onefleetingglimpse.com/2009/10/comment-on-marriage-and-immigration.html

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  7. Dont marry an egyptian. Big mistake!!

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  8. Well that is a bit of a generalization. Maybe you have had a bad experience, which can happen to any marriage. I think a better piece of advice would be:

    -Get to know and understand everything you can about Egyptian culture first

    -Get to know and understand everything you can about Islam

    -If you meet someone online don't marry them the first time you meet in person. Your online relationship will be much different than in person

    -Forget everything you know about traditional "western" relationships

    Then you can marry an Egyptian. There are plenty of happy marriages out there.

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  9. article is useful thank you, i met on line and talked for almost 18 months. I had friends speak with him in arabic. They all felt he was good man, and when I went to Egypt he was a good man. The problem comes from his adult kids living at home...lazy. The culture here pampers them and enables them to do nothing. It is making issues, they think i am their maid, wrong... i don't mind taking care of home but not your maid. My husband kind, but it took 8 months before he really talk with me, his english not good and neither is my arabic. It is sad to say that I made him send his 22 yr old daughter to her uncle for 2 months...now he talks with me and spends time with me...
    They are close knit families. But take all important papers with you. take 3 certified copies of everything. if married before you need certified copies of divorces for immigration or marriage. If you live in egypt you must carry copy of your marriage contract with you at all times. You cannot share hotel room with husban unless you married to him, they will make copy of marriage contract before giving you a room. Also to enter museum etc, if you show you are married to the egyptian you get in at local prices, other wise u pay tourist fee which is much more. Money is hard to come by here. All papers you file at embassy require a fee. usually $35 or 171 egyptian LE. It is a culture shock here, you are living by their rules. Make sure your man is not overbearing. I am not allowed out without him,or to have friends, or to spend much time on internet, expected to have meals ready. He thinks a good wife is one that keeps quiet usually, and not to make his kids grow up. The educated egyptian has a more western outlook. But overall I feel safe here. The hygeine products are not great, but you can get any medicine you want with out doctor. I am on the Suez and have mixed feelings about going home to visit my family, as they are angry i left the USA. So it is hard to adjust unless you speak arabic- this is very very helpful. With this skill you won't feel so isolated. My husband not teach me and this keeps him in control. He is a good person, but it has taken 8 months to figure this out, but now I go home for a bit. They also do not think of providing you with any savings incase of their death. You are on your own unless his family will take care of you. I suggest having a few thousand dollars you can access in emergency. And family or friends on the other end to help you. When you enter Egypt, buy 30 day visa for $15 they just peel and stick and dont care. Then to stay longer your spouse(to be) must extend this visa for you and pay the fee. And he must tell his police department that you are living with him. If you choose to take 5 year visa this give you more options, work,travel, drive etc. oh Ya driving..forget organized.. nothing in egypt is organized.

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  10. I am planning to get married in December 2010. I am american citizen and my fiance is Egyptian. I believe I have all documents that I need, like copy of divorce papers, photos,passport, social security card, birth certificate, and photo id...My question is can we still get marriage affidavit at the US Embassy, will they notarize to give consent ( free to marry)...I am so nervous because i have never traveled outside the US before, and this is all new to me..I am searching all information i can find..so any help will be greatly appreciated..I am planning to be there from Dec 1 to Dec 15 is this enough time, as he plans to travel back to USA with me after the honeymoon in Alexandria... please any help or information will be so greatly appreciated...

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  11. Yes, you can get the marriage affidavit. It takes approximately 2 days to get married in Egypt. One day to visit the Embassy and get the affidavit and then get all the necessary stamps on it. Then plan to spend the greater part of the second day at the Ministry of Justice. Then you are married. However, unless your husband already has a visa to travel to the US then the chances he will travel back to the US with you after the honeymoon are absolutely zero. If you have not started the immigration process it will take 12 to 18 months. The fastest I have ever heard of anyone getting the process completed is 6 to 9 months. If he already has a valid visitor visa or an immigration visa obtained on his own (through lottery) then it may be possible for him to return with you. However, if he only has a visitor (tourist) visa and you show up at immigration in the airport with a marriage certificate there is a chance they might suspect he will try to overstay his visa and could possibly deport him. Just because someone holds a tourist visa it does not guarantee entry into the US. If you have any other questions feel free to email me.

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  12. please i need your email ,facebook anything i can contact u and ask u couple of questions?

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  13. Hi, I'm an Australian who intends to marry an Egyptian very soon and in Cairo. Now I have got the Aussie Embassy to send me via email the relevant information but they can't tell me the court costs for Egypt. Do you know them? How much do you have to outlay at the Ministry of Justice? How long does it take - 5 minutes and you're married? What do you wear? Why do the documents have to be both in English and Arabic - more costs... just want to get married.Keep it simple. The embassy sent me a list of people who do the translation... why can't we? I'm English and he is Egyptian so we can both do the documents ourselves and I'm sure they should have someone who reads both English and Arabic like my husband to be can. This can confirm that we have provided truthful documents. Sadly, I feel this is just a cost revenue method for you do not need that document...'No Impediment to Marriage' for Australia to recognise the marriage. It is just for Egyptian authorities.

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  14. I need to ask some questions please contact me at laker.fan4ever@hotmail.com

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  15. Hi,

    I have a question....can i avoid going to the Canadian Embassy in Egypt and get the affidavit while im in Canada? or does this have to be done in egypt?

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  17. I know a British friend who got married in Egypt and was able to do her paperwork in Dubai where she was living at the time. They do it slightly different and actually post a notice of the intended marriage in the Embassy (I'm assuming in case anyone has any objections to the marriage.) I found this link for the Canadian Embassy in Egypt info on marriage: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/egypt-egypte/consular_services_consulaires/marriage-mariage.aspx?lang=eng
    It looks similar the the process for the American Embassy. I would contact the Canadian Embassy directly and ask them if you can do the paper in Canada. Just as a side note many Embassies in Cairo have been closed because of the political crisis there. I know that the American Embassy said a few weeks ago they were not issuing visas. so I'm not sure if marriage affidavits were still being issued.

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  18. Link for Canadians: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/egypt-egypte/consular_services_consulaires/marriage-mariage.aspx?lang=eng

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  19. hi how can you know if the man you want to marry is already married i ask this for a bad feeling

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  20. I have been dating a Muslim Egyptian man for quite some time now here in the US. Now he is doubting our relationship due to feelings that there is no way for us to have a big wedding ceremony that is a valuable and extremely traditional in his family in addition to something I would really like too. I keep telling him that there has to be more Egyptian-Muslim men who marry American-Christian women in Cairo than he thinks, but he keeps telling me it would be awkward and simply impossible. My concern has nothing to do with citizenship or anything as he has dual already, but I just want to know, can we have an immaculate wedding like many have there or what can I or he expect if we took the next step to marry and we wanted to marry in Cairo? I appreciate any comments! Thanks.

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    1. if he is muslim then he knows he is doing it wrong something similar happened to me but his problem was I became muslim I told him he knew we could not date we had to marry (we had lived together for a year and dated for 2 years) he moved out he gave me the "family" speech but now i understand he was using me and i let him but when i stood up and learned about islam and demanded respect as a muslim woman things changed and he moved out now i find myself marrying a good muslim respectful man. Muslim men are allowed to marry a woman from any other religion Allah takes and gives just trust Allah :)

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  21. Hi, I wonder if you can help me. I want to marry my Gazan fiancée in Cairo. I met him in Ireland, but he is now living in Gaza (which of course I am not allowed to go to). Is it possible for us to get married in Egypt? Our plan is that I will travel to Cairo in April this year and we will go to the embassy and wherever else and sort things out. Then I will come back to Ireland, gather the necessary documents (because I know that I need to get a 'Freedom to Marry' form which will take four months) then go back in Aug/Sept to, hopefully, get married. I know that, if he was Egyptian, it would be ok, but does the fact that he is from Gaza pose any difficulties? He is Muslim and I am agnostic, although technically Catholic as I was baptised and confirmed. Any information or advice u can give me would be much appreciated! Thank you :)

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  22. •Hello, I would really appreciate your help. I'm getting engaged to an Egyptian. We will have our engagement in Egypt and his church’s Pastor will legalize the engagement. Now the pastor asked us to marry instead because the paperwork will be costly and just about the same documents will be needed for the marriage. The thing is I wont graduate till next year, so wedding will not take place until after I graduate. With that said I need several documents ready one of them being an official document of my family tree. I have no idea where to obtain this "official" document given that I have never heard of such a thing. This document is like a "family tree" of some sort but it has to be official. The only thing this document requires is to state both my parents and my sister since it’s the only close family I have. He says I need: an official paper of my family tree "my dad, mom and sister". An official paper from a church in USA that proves that I have never been married before, a health certificate, 5 personal photos of myself, and of course my passport. I’ll then go with these papers 2 an Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC and register them 2 consider these papers in Egypt. I understand everything except the family tree. What is this and where do I obtain this from?? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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