【Case Study】Procedure of international marriage
Mr. A (Japanese, 19 years old, a company employee) is planning to get married to Ms. B (21 years old), who is a Vietnamese student studying in Japan, as she got pregnant. Mr. A went to Vietnam with Ms. B to receive permission for marriage from Ms. B’s parents, and successfully received permission from them.
After coming back to Japan, Mr. A searched for the procedures of international marriage, but it was hard to understand since the procedures were too complicated. Then he decided to talk to an administrative scrivener who was a specialist of procedures of international marriage and application for visas, and so he came to us.
International marriage is not so rare any more as Japanese society is getting to be internationalized. Japanese people can go to foreign countries without visa if it’s not for a long period. Besides, recently many foreigners live in Japan or visit Japan for sightseeing, and the chances to meet foreigners are increasing. Internet is another way to connect to the world. There are more and more international couples getting married after a fateful encounter.
In order to apply for a visa for “Spouse or Child of Japanese National” (hereinafter referred to as a “spouse visa”), you must complete the procedures of international marriage in both countries of the wife and husband before visa application, which can be difficult as the procedures for international marriage are not commonly known.
Procedures for marriage of a Japanese couple is simple; just write names, addresses, permanent addresses, witnesses, etc. on a registration of marriage. On the contrary, procedures of international marriage are more complicated. Therefore, in this article, we would like to focus on international marriage procedures required to be completed before applying for a spouse visa.
2. What are the procedures of international marriage?
The requirements of international marriage are 1) “substantive requirements for marriage” such as ages and period of prohibition of remarriage and 2) “stylistic requirements for marriage” such as submission of marriage registration to authorities, and procedures for religious marriage. They both must be fulfilled.
Now, we would like to explain about “substantive requirements” and “stylistic requirements.”
3. Substantive requirements for marriage
What are substantive requirements for marriage?
Substantive requirements for marriage mean ages for marriage, no bigamy (if applicable), period of prohibition of remarriage, and any other requirements that need to be fulfilled by each person for marriage.
The “Act on General Rules for Application of Laws” (hereinafter referred to as the “Act on General Rules”) is the domestic law that stipulates rules concerning which country’s law to apply to international relationships under private laws. Article 24, paragraph 1 of the Act on General Rules requires both the husband and wife to fulfill requirements. To be more specific, it requires a person to be a wife to fulfill the substantive requirements for marriage in accordance with the laws of her own home country, and a person to be a husband to fulfill the substantive requirements for marriage in accordance with the laws of his own home country.
There are 2 types of substantive requirements for marriage; 1) unilateral requirements which need to be fulfilled by one person in a couple, and 2) bilateral requirements which need to be fulfilled by both persons in a couple.
For unilateral requirements, each party needs to meet requirements under the laws of own country. On the other hand, for bilateral requirements, each party needs to fulfill requirements under the laws of own country and the country of the other party.
Whether each requirement is unilateral or bilateral depends on the laws of each country, but in most countries, legal ages for marriage and the consent of a third party for marriage by minors are regarded as unilateral requirements. Period of prohibition of remarriage, and prohibition of bigamy and marriage between close relatives are said to be bilateral requirements.
Let’s talk about the case of Mr. A (19 years old) and Ms. B (21 years old).
In Japan the legal ages for marriage are 18 for male and 16 for female. In Vietnam, the legal ages for marriage are 20 for male and 18 for female according to the family law of Vietnam.
Since age for marriage is considered as a unilateral requirement, Ms. B only needs to meet the legal age for marriage under Vietnamese law, and Mr. A only needs to meet the legal marriage under Japanese law. Therefore, marriage between Mr. A and Ms. B will be approved in Japan.
Next, we would like to explain about the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements which is necessary for the procedures of international marriage.
The certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements is a document certifying the fulfillment of marriage requirements such as age for marriage, or the substantive requirements for marriage, stipulated in the laws of the person’s home country.
In case of conducting procedures of international marriage in Japan first, the foreigner in the couple has to prepare the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements. Conversely, in case of conducting procedures of international marriage in the foreigner’s country first, the Japanese person in the couple has to prepare the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements.
In case of a Japanese person, the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements is issued in offices of municipalities, legal affairs bureaus or district legal affairs bureaus, and government offices abroad (i.e. Japanese embassies or consulates in foreign countries). In some cases, the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements issued by a legal affairs bureau is necessary, so we recommend to first check with the foreign office receiving the certificate. Additionally, required documents for the issuance of the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements vary as well, in is also necessary to find out the required documents in advance.
On the other hand, in case of foreigners living in Japan, basically, the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements can be obtained in embassies and consulates of their countries located in Japan, although it may vary depending on each country. The documents required for obtaining the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements are different depending on each country, so it is necessary to inquire about such documents at embassies and consulates of their country in advance.
There is one thing that needs to be acknowledged, which is that some countries do not issue any certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements. In such case, you need to inform the person in charge of marriage registration at the city hall, ask the person which documents are required instead of the certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements, and understand clearly as to the required documents. If you appoint an administrative scrivener who is experienced in negotiation with administrative officers, you can complete marriage procedures smoothly without feeling stressed. If you are reaching a dead end in the course of marriage procedures, we recommend you to talk to administrative scriveners who are specialized in international matters such as spouse visas.
4. Stylistic requirements for marriage
We would like to explain as to stylistic requirements for marriage.
Stylistic requirements for marriage mean procedures that should be taken by the couple to form marriage legally. Specifically, submission of marriage registration to relevant offices, religious marriage, marriage ceremony are stylistic requirements.
Article 24, paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Act on General Rules provide rules concerning the governing law for method of marriage. It provides that the method of marriage is governed by the law of the country where marriage is taken place or where the parties are from. If one party is Japanese and the couple is getting married in Japan, Japanese laws are always applied to the method of marriage (therefore, marriage registration is necessary).
Let’s talk about the case of Mr. A and Ms. B.
Mr. A and Ms. B want to get married in Japan. As Mr. A is Japanese, the marriage registration is necessary to get married.
5. Procedures after marriage
After marriage is legally registered in Japan, the couple needs to inform their marriage to an embassy or a consulate or official organization of the country of the foreign spouse, in order to form marriage legally in the foreign country as well. If marriage is legally formed in the foreign country, they need to submit a notification of such marriage to an office of municipality of the permanent address in Japan. This procedure is called informative notification (hokokuteki todokede).
Here is another example. Mr. J, who is Japanese, meets all the substantive requirements for marriage and gets married to Ms. C, who is a Chinese, in a Chinese way.
Mr. J and Ms. C collected necessary documents such as Mr. J’s certification of fulfillment of marriage requirements, applied for marriage registration at marriage register office in China, and certification of marriage was finally issued.
Now, they are legally married in China, but Mr. J is still single on a Japanese registerer because he has not gone through any procedure in Japan. To become legally married in Japan, Mr. J and Ms. C needs to submit notification of marriage registered in China to an office of a municipality together with the certificate of marriage (with translation), marriage registration and any other necessary document.
6. Relationship between procedures of international marriage and a spouse visa
As explained in 5 above, for completion of international marriage, marriage must become effective in Japan and in the country of the foreign spouse, in principle. (Substantive requirements as well as stylistic requirements for marriage must be fulfilled in the country of the foreign spouse.)
In some countries such as the United States and Canada, the completion of marriage procedures in Japan is treated as the completion of international marriage procedures in the country of the foreign spouse. Except for such countries, marriage procedures in Japan and in the county of the foreign spouse must be completed.
In principle, application for a spouse visa can be submitted only after the completion of marriage procedures in Japan and in the foreign country.
For a spouse visa, there are 2 elements that are important in examination.
1) Substance of relationship and marriage (authenticity of the record from first-time encounter to marriage and of the marriage itself）
2) Financial basis (Stability of financial status for the foreign spouse to have marriage life in Japan)
In case of a foreigner already living in Japan like above case, the current situation of residence is also an important element for the examination.
It is not until you satisfy all the examination points that you receive a spouse visa.
7. Case Study
Let’s look at the case of Mr. A and Ms. B.
After discussing with us, Mr. A and Ms. B decided to complete the procedures of international marriage in Japan first. When registering marriage in Japan first, they later need to notify about their marriage to an embassy or a consulate of Vietnam located in Japan. Otherwise, Ms. B stays as a single in Vietnam.
Mr. A and Ms. B managed to complete procedures of Japan and Vietnam, changed Ms. B’s visa from a student visa to a spouse visa. Currently, Ms. B peacefully lives in Japan with Mr. A and their newly-born child on a spouse visa.
Thus, procedures of international marriage are pretty complicated, but marriage is possible as long as necessary documents are prepared and necessary steps are taken. A spouse visa, however, is a different story. The success in forming marriage in both countries does not necessarily mean that you can obtain a spouse visa.
The immigration officers who examine a spouse visa strictly check the substance of relationship and marriage as well as financial stability, and therefore application for a spouse visa is the most difficult part.
Administrative scriveners like us are the specialists for procedures of international marriage and spouse visas. We always gather information on procedures of international marriage and application for a spouse visa and are also experienced in procedures of international marriage and application for a spouse visa. If you would like to make sure to complete procedures of international marriage and obtain a spouse visa, please feel free to contact us!