In general, what are the implications of where a couple of different nationalities gets legally married?

A few examples I can imagine of possible implications follow, but please don't take this as a complete or exhaustive list.

  • Can the location affect the marriage process itself, for instance with the obtaining of marriage licenses or other legal requirements?

  • Can the marriage location affect future residency or citizenship, or the process of obtaining such, of the foreign partner?

  • Can the marriage location affect citizenship of future children?

For reference, my specific situation is that I will be getting married to a Guatemalan/Spanish dual-citizen. I am a US citizen (with Mexican residency). We intend to have our wedding ceremony in Guatemala, but we can do the legal marriage anywhere.

  • Obtaining residency for which country? Easier to marry in what sense?
    – Karlson
    Oct 6, 2014 at 13:19
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    @Karlson: 1) Obtaining residency for any country. E.g. is it easier for her to get US residency if we marry in the US? Is it easier for me to get Guatemalan residency if we marry in Guatemala? Or is all of that irrelevant? 2) Easier to marry in the sense of getting a wedding license, filing paperwork (especially WRT a foreign spouse), etc.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 6, 2014 at 13:22
  • 1. There are 2 different sets of laws in play. 2. Again different sets of laws in play. Can you focus it on one country?
    – Karlson
    Oct 6, 2014 at 13:34
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    There are rules that will depend on country's laws. If you're looking for information for specific country then you should be asking about the rules related to obtaining residency in specific country. So far you have possibility of 3 different ones and rules may vary so if non-answer like "there is no general" is an answer you might as well take it as a basis and follow the flow on whatever you choose. As your question stands it's too broad.
    – Karlson
    Oct 6, 2014 at 14:17
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    The other issue is that you've asked three questions in one there. No wait, four. I realise that they're intertwined/subsets, but the risk is that they can be partly-answered, leading to piecemeal answers. I think the question is essentially great for the site, but I'd edit the title and question to be specific to your ceremony, case and situation firstly (title currently covers everything) and I'd change the question from 'does it matter' to 'what are the ramifications of a guatemalan marriage on US citizenship, children and visas?'...[contd]
    – Mark Mayo
    Oct 10, 2014 at 11:39

5 Answers 5


Don't know about Spain and Guatemala specifically but:

  • Rules do vary quite a bit and it does matter in practice.
  • It might be easier to marry in some place than other. For example, some countries have residency requirements (even a requirement that you live in the specific municipality where you want to marry or some such), others do not. The documentation required is also not the same everywhere; I have a friend who married a UK citizen in the UK specifically because it could be done with his passport, whereas the country where they both live requires a birth certificate (which was a problem for him).
  • Marrying a foreigner might require additional documents on top of what's usually required in the country, like this. It might also be impossible to marry on a tourist or visitor visa and then switch to a more permanent status (there are specific “marriage visas” that must be applied for in advance).
  • It will also have practical consequences to get a visa or residency after the marriage. The rules typically do not make a difference depending on where you were married but any foreign documentation might need to be translated or notarized, which is costly and sometimes troublesome, whereas a local certificate should be accepted directly (and the non-citizen partner might have to wait outside of the country for everything to get sorted out…).
  • I don't really know anything about that but I suspect it might also impact the rules regarding joint ownership and other financial matters and of course what happens if you want to divorce.
  • Thanks for the overview, that's a great starting point for my investigation. I will likely be asking some more specific followup questions.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 6, 2014 at 14:11

My advice is to work backwards - figure out where you both will ultimately be living, and where you both ultimately want to have residency (or citizenship). Contact the State Dept. or equivalent government entity for that country (and state/province, if known & applicable) and find out what their rules for marriage are.

Rules vary widely based on which partner is the foreign national, which countries of origin/residency are involved, and any language or political obstacles. Some countries make it "easy" upfront to marry across nationalities, but then there are difficulties when trying to obtain required later documentation - work/student visas, permanent resident status, "married" tax status, etc.

My (American) brother met my sister-in-law here in the States (she was on a vacation-tourist visa), but they married in her home country of Lithuania, because of love/romance. The first problem was that our English name does not directly translate into current Lithuanian-government regulations, so the spelling is slightly different from US-legal on their marriage certificate. Since they both moved back to the US, there has been a multi-year process where she has had to renew her visa (back in Lithuania), and jump through a bunch of documentation & interview hoops to comply with US Immigration & State Dept. statutes. There was at least a 6+ month period before she was able to get approved to work here, and even then there have been issues.

Keep in mind that you can have your ceremony wherever you want, and consider yourself married. However, you are probably better off getting legally married in the country that will be your primary residence.

(Also, I don't know if it applies in your case, but the future-citizenship of any children may well be affected by the country-of-marriage. Again, rules vary.)


I would start at the registry office in Guatemala - they will tell you what requirements there are to get married in Guatemala, and one would hope that they would know whether your marriage will be legally accepted in other countries. And that's the main point: Whether Spain and/or the USA accept that marriage as legal, and whether they accept it as the same as a wedding in Spain / USA.

It might be a good idea to check this with a registry office in the USA or Spain as well. One, depending on what requirements there are, it might be easier to get married in the USA or Spain. Or it might not. But also, I would expect a US registry office to be able to tell you exactly what your US state would be after getting married in Guatemala. More so than a place in Guatemala.


Where you get married will have no bearing on your eligibility for residency. Residency status depends on obtaining a residency permit for the country if you aren't a citizen. Where you get married will also have no bearing on the future citizenship options for your kids. That will come from you and your spouse's citizenship country rules as well as where the children are born and the rules of the country where they are born.

As gnasher729 states, the key is whether your home countries or the country where you want to gain residency accepts the marriage documents from the country where you get married. Probably they do, but confirm.

I was married in France (which wasn't easy) and my marriage was accepted in the U.S. and everywhere else I resided. People I know were married in Costa Rica while vacationing there. Their marriage was recognized in the U.S. So it's not a likely scenario that your marriage won't be recognized by other countries.

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    Having a marriage not recognized or being formally unable to get residency is not the main worry. Practical trouble with transliteration, names, translation and authentication is. From that perspective having French documents recognized in the US or vice versa seems like a relatively simple case.
    – Gala
    Oct 6, 2014 at 20:41
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    Well, this isn't strictly true. I've discovered that getting married in the US will make residency for her much easier to obtain than if we get married outside the US. It's not less possible if we get married outside the US, there's just more complicated paperwork to do.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 6, 2014 at 22:30

Can the location affect the marriage process itself, for instance with the obtaining of marriage licenses or other legal requirements?


Can the marriage location affect future residency or citizenship of the foreign partner?


Can the marriage location affect citizenship of future children?


  • Since asking this question, I have confirmed that the answer to the second question is a resounding yes.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 7, 2014 at 13:14
  • @Flimzy: Nope. Show me any legal distinction.
    – user102008
    Oct 7, 2014 at 18:06
  • A foreigner married in the US can (must) apply for a K-1 visa prior to marriage, and then can apply for permanent residency immediately after the wedding, while still in the US. A foreigner married outside the US must visit the US embassy in the country where they were married to apply for US residency status. In many cases, it will be far simpler to get the K-1 (from anywhere in the world) than to return to the country of marriage to apply for residency.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 8, 2014 at 11:33
  • @Flimzy: That's not a difference of marriage location. That's a difference of process of applying for permanent residence in the U.S. vs. outside the U.S. If the foreigner married outside the U.S. somehow enters the U.S., they can also apply for Adjustment of Status. Conversely, if the person married in the U.S. leaves the U.S. and cannot enter again, they have to go through Consular Processing.
    – user102008
    Oct 8, 2014 at 18:35
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    An affect on the process is relevant to the question, and I think that's the only reasonable way to read the question, but I have made that clear just to satisfy your overly literal interpretation.
    – Flimzy
    Oct 9, 2014 at 0:02

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