But having an international wedding is a bureaucratic nightmare. When can we get married? Where? By whom?
About a month and a half out, we’re making serious progress. We have a humanist celebrant. We have a venue. We have a wedsite. We have our invitations sent. We have, as of yesterday, The Dress. We have the cake, the train tickets, many of the decorations, my shoes. Russ still needs his suit and I still need to iron out a ring, but we’re nearly there.
Including our official documents.
As someone who has spent most of her adult life navigating immigration and visas, this should have been a cakewalk. Unfortunately, there are not many resources on how one goes about applying for a licence to wed in the UK in our particular situation. Especially if one is attempting to get married in Scotland, so that the Humanist celebrant can make a legally binding ceremony. In this article, I’ll tell you how to apply for a marriage schedule if you happen to be a student in the UK, marrying a UK citizen in Scotland.
OBLIGATORY LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This article does not amount to legal advice. I am not a lawyer. I am not a registrar. Your situation is very likely to be different from ours in ways salient to the State. You should use this as a guide, and not as legal advice. I am a US citizen, and as such this information should be taken with a grain of salt for other non-EU migrants in the United Kingdom.
Step 1: Decide to get married and check that it’s legal.
I am currently in the UK on a Tier 4 Student visa as a result of my MA in Linguistics at UCL. I outlined how to deal with the incredible hoops one must jump through to get that particularly expensive sticker in a passport around this time last year.
It is legal, according to all of the information available to me, to marry on a Tier 4 student visa. You must be in status (compliant with the rules). You must be in the UK at the time you apply for the marriage schedule. You must not leave the country after your programme ends because the border may not allow you back in (read: I’m trapped in the UK until such time as I leave…).
Got all those things? Move on to step 2.
Step 2: Research the Registrar
Know your shit. Read the Tier 4 student visa guidance from the UKBA. Make sure you know the policies and the rules as well as you possibly can. You need to prepare for the inevitable; people (often even the registrars) will get confused. You need to know everything back to front and front to back.
In England and Wales, the process is different than in Scotland. If you intend to marry in England, this is where I can no longer help you.
Getting married in Scotland? Find the register’s office that has jurisdiction over the region in which you will marry.
Step 3: Call the Register
You will need to know the following:
- Who is marrying you? You need to have a celebrant (religious, civil, or humanist). Name and contact information is necessary.
- Where are you getting married? You need to have a venue. Make sure you know the address.
- Know your immigration status. Explain the Tier 4 visa if necessary. Know that it is legal for you to marry.
You will need to ask the following:
- Where and how will I need to submit the necessary documents?
- How much will it cost?
- Is there anything else I need to know?
Once you’ve called the registrar, you can move on to the filling out forms portion of the process.
Step 4: Get the forms you need.
Go to the website of the General Register for Scotland. If you want to have a ‘surprise’ wedding, forget that. Not legal. You must give notice of your intent to marry, and your intended partner must also do so.
Fill in the M10 form (available here). You will need:
- Your address
- Your partner’s address
- Your intended date of marriage, and celebrant
- The names and occupations of your parents
- A certificate of no impediment
This is where it might get complicated.
Step 4: Go to the US Embassy
You need a Certificate of No Impediment to marriage for your application at the register’s office. This is a legal document that states you have never been married, or that you have completed dissolved any previous marriage through divorce or death. If you are a US citizen, bad news: the USA does not issue such certificates.
However, you can obtain a sworn statement in its place from the US embassy. You will need an affidavit like this one (which is the one I printed in a panic in the corner shop 45 minutes before my appointment), and the following:
- An appointment with a notary at the US Embassy in London. Get one here.
- The affidavit.
- A nice pen. (DO NOT sign beforehand. You must sign in front of the notary).
- $50 (in cash or credit)
- A bag/backpack free of the things the US Embassy does not allow inside. Laptops, iPads, keyboards, and wires are out (along with weapons, obviously). If you forget, you can store your shit for 4 GBP at the pharmacy down the street.
- Your passport.
When they call you after the line and the other line and the other other line before you meet the notary in the embassy, and you walk up to the window, they will ask for payment first. Your documents will be taken into what looks an awful lot like a US Postal Office (even the cabinets are the same) for around five minutes.
When they call you, you will approach the window. Be prepared to swear a statement. This means that the notary behind the glass will raise their right hand and ask you to do the same (I had always seen this in paintings and photos, and never done it myself. Yet somehow I knew this US ‘Vulcan Salute’ by heart). Swear solemnly to the contents of the documents you submitted. Note: if you swear a false oath in this context, you may be prosecuted for perjury.
Take your documents and keep them in a safe place.
Step 5: Post your documents to the register’s office
Once you and your partner have filled out the documents (M10, witness details, and the notarised copy of the affidavit) you should submit them to the Scottish office with jurisdiction over your wedding region. You can do this by post. You will need:
- Your M10
- Your partners’ M10
- The witness details form (available here)
- The sworn affidavit
- A note saying you would like to pay via credit card, with a phone number OR a cheque for 30 GBP per person
- Copies of your passport face page and the UK visa page of your passport
Step 6: Talk to the Register and Confirm Details
The registrar will call you to confirm your details, those of your partner, and those of both your parents. You may wish to write these things down before you submit the paperwork. You will need to know the specifics of each person, especially about their occupation. I don’t know why this matters. It just does.
This is also when you will pay via credit card for the 30 GBP per person.
Step 7: Collect your Marriage Schedule
You must do this in the week before the wedding. The registrar will talk to you then about returning it.
Step 8: Return the Marriage Schedule: Receive Marriage Certificate
You must return the Marriage Schedule within three days of the solemnisation of the marriage to the office of the registrar.
Boom! You’re legally married! Bear in mind that this has very little to do with you being able to stay in the UK or in the ability to bring a non-EU spouse into the UK. That’s a whole separate process.
Please feel free to correct this information as it changes. How was your marriage in the UK? What documents did you need?