When U.S. Citizens Get Married in Colombia
This information sheet provides guidance to U.S. citizens on getting married in Colombia. It does not discuss how to obtain a visa for your spouse or fiancé(e) to travel to the United States. For visa information, please click on “visas” above.
Marriage in a foreign country is performed by authorities in that country, according to that country’s own laws. The U.S. Embassy and its officials cannot host or perform marriages. In Colombia, marriage can be a complicated, document-intensive process for U.S. citizens, and careful advance planning is essential. Colombian procedures for marriage have been established with Colombian citizens in mind, and as a result U.S. citizens sometimes have difficulty meeting all requirements.
As in the United States, marriages in Colombia can be contracted in a civil or religious ceremony. Civil weddings are performed by a Colombian official known as a notary (called a notario in Spanish). Notary offices are located throughout Colombia and are plentiful in large cities. Your first step should be to contact a notary to discuss required documents and other procedures. Many notaries have websites with helpful information. Alternatively, you or your fiancé(e) can call or visit one in person.
Because Colombian marriage laws leave room for interpretation, marriage requirements sometimes vary from notary to notary. Once you select a notary, it is important to find out what he or she will request. You can use any notary, so if yours makes unrealistic demands, you may want to contact another one.
In all cases, the notary will likely require certified copies of both spouses’ birth certificates. For birth certificates issued in the United States, you will need to obtain a Spanish-language translation of the document, as well as an apostille.
Both spouses will also be asked to present proof that they are eligible to marry — in other words, that they are not currently married. For a Colombian citizen, this is a relatively simple matter of requesting a copy of his or her civil registration, a document issued by the Colombian National Registry that indicates marital status. No such document exists in many jurisdictions in the United States, however, and most U.S. citizens will therefore have to discuss with the notary what substitutes will be acceptable. Some notaries may allow you to present signed, notarized letters from friends or family, swearing that you are unmarried. If prepared in the United States, these notarized letters would have to be accompanied by a Spanish-language translation and an apostille.
Religious weddings in Colombia are handled by individual religious officials and involve similar documentary procedures, along with additional religious requirements. After a religious wedding, the marriage must be registered at a notary’s office. For further details about religious weddings in Colombia, you or your fiancé should contact the religious organization that will perform the ceremony.
Once you are married, there is no legal requirement that you notify the Embassy of your marriage, or that you otherwise register the marriage with the U.S. government, except in the course of requesting a foreign spouse’s immigrant visa.
Please see the Department of State’s website for additional, general information about marriage in a foreign country.