Clearly the whole business of getting married is the subject of much confusion. To my wife’s family, the part in Lanzhou where we obtained the marriage certificate was a mere formality (and one that most villagers might see as an unnecessary expense) but, clearly to the British Consulate, the fact that we’d had a big banquet whilst dressed in new, red clothes wasn’t quite formal enough.
There is information on the British Embassy website that was of use to me but that seems to have been simplified over the last year. This being China, it would seem likely that the It also wouldn't surprise me if the rules in China didn't change regularly, and for that matter, be interpreted differently by different officials. Amongst the things that we produced (based on warnings posted on various websites) that were not needed were:
- A set of translations of every single document we had
- A document from the British Consulate confirming the nationality of my ex-wife
- certificate of decent occupation or reliable income
- premarital medical examination
- A letter from the parents of the Chinese partner giving permission for their child to marry a foreigner
- Birth Certificate and Police Report
- Cash: not sure how much but it’s not a huge amount
- Photos of the two of us - actually a single, wide photo of the two of us side-by-side. The photo shop in Hangzhou we went into knew what was required. At least three photos (one for the marriage bureau and one for each of the two marriage certificates - you get one each!)
- ID: Passport, ID Card, Hukou booklet - you will need photocopies of these so take copies of every page with personal info on it. We didn't and, despite the presence of a photocopier in the room next door to the marriage bureau, we had to go out in the street and find a shop with a photocopier (if you fall foul of this, come out of the Lanzhou marriage bureau building and turn right. There's a little signwriter's just after a small road junction with a photocopier.
- Letters of eligibility to marry. YY obtained hers from the PSB office in her home village and it was just a hand written note. I had to obtain mine from the British Consulate in Shanghai (although it would have been doable via a registry office in the UK). The process is slightly complicated that you (just the British Citizen) need to attend the Consulate or Embassy after you have been in China for at least 21 consecutive days, then you need to wait for 21 days before they will issue the certificate (although you may leave China during the 21 days after application). A quick look at the US embassy website implies that this process is peculiar to British law as there’s no mention of waiting for 21 days.
other consulates) is:
- Your full name and place of residence.
- Your partner's full name and address in English.
- Chinese partner's name and full address in Chinese characters.
- Details of your marital status, i.e. bachelor / spinster / divorced.
- If you have been previously married or you are a widower, we need to see an original divorce decree or death certificate.
With all of that, there’s not really much to it. Fill in a form or two when you’re there, wait in a soulless little grey office and then without any ceremony of any sort, you get your marriage certificates and your done. Seems very matter-of-fact for such an important life event.