An NRI, a PIO or a Foreigner (American, Canadians, British, and others) who wants to marry in India has the following choices:
1. Religious Marriage Ceremony
2. Civil Marriage Ceremony
In India, a religious marriage ceremony is considered a legal marriage. However registration of marriage is now a legal requirement in most of the states in India. Moreover, for visa and immigration purposes a formal marriage certificate from the Registrar of Marriages is required. There are different rules and regulations for different religions. For example there are Hindu Marriage Act, Muslim Marriage Act, and Christian Marriage Act and for the Parsee there is Parsee Marriage and Divorce Act.
The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 is applicable to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. A religious marriage which has already been solemnized can be registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The Hindu Marriage Act is applicable in cases where both husband and wife are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs or where they have converted into any of these religions. The Hindu Marriage Act provides for the conditions of a marriage where under the bridegroom should be the age of 21 years and bride of 18 years, they both should not be within the degree of prohibited relationship.
The documents required for registering a marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act are as follows:
Verification of all the documents is carried out on the date of application and a day is fixed and communicated to the parties for registration. On the said day, both parties, along with a Gazetted Officer who attended their marriage, need to be present before the SDM. The marriage certificate under the Hindu Marriage Act is issued on the same day or within a few days.
Parties who do not wish to marry in a religious ceremony can instead opt for a civil ceremony pursuant to the Indian Special Marriage Act of 1954.
In case a marriage between an Indian and a foreign national is to take place in India, generally its required to file a notice of intended marriage with a Marriage Registrar of your choice in India. That notice is required to be published for the stipulated 30 days. At the end of the 30 days the Marriage Registrar is free to perform the marriage.
The notice of intended marriage can only be given in India, if at least one partner is permanently and the other partner temporarily resident in India.
If one partner is residing in a foreign country then the partner who is resident in India will have to fill out the “Marriage Notice” collected from the Marriage Registration Office of his/her choice in India and send it to his/her partner in the foreign country who will also have to fill it out. This “Notice” should then be sent back to the partner in India who will have to re-submit it at the Marriage Registration Office. After the stipulated waiting period of 30 days the marriage can take place in India. Under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 a certificate showing the signatures of the persons married, the registrar and the witnesses will be issued. This Certificate is required as proof of the marriage and when applying for a visa to for a foreign country.
The following documents are required for both the partners:
The American citizen who wishes to participate in a civil marriage ceremony may be required to present to the marriage officer a “no objection letter” from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, as well as proof of termination of any previous marriages. Similarly, a citizen of another foreign country may be required to present to the marriage officer a “no objection letter” from the Embassy or Consulate of his country, as well as proof of termination of any previous marriages.
In a nutshell, under the Special Marriage Act, the parties generally are required to wait at least 30 days from the date of initial application to formalize the marriage so that the marriage officer can publish a newspaper ad allowing for the opportunity for any objections to the marriage to be voiced.