Getting Married in the Philippines
There often is a lot of confusion surrounding the requirements of getting married in the Philippines. Part of the reason for this is that the LCR (Local Civil Register) in each municipality is run slightly differently. Although theoretically, they run by the same laws and regulations, each office, and sometimes each individual in some of those offices, interpret the guidelines and regulations slightly differently. So when inquiring to these offices you may get a different answer from a different person at the same window, and sometimes you may even get differing answers from the same individual on a different day! Therefore, the first thing you must do is go to the local civil register and ask what THEY require, hopefully, they will give you the requirements in writing, and those requirements will not change on your next visit. The marriage license must be applied for in the last place one of you (usually the Filipina fiancée) last resided for 6 months or more. I will outline the requirements individually, then explain where/how to get it, and describe the various possibilities you may run into while undertaking what would seem should be an easy task.
Affidavit in Lieu of Legal Capacity to marry;
To the best of my knowledge, every LCR will require the US citizen foreigner to acquire this affidavit. This is basically just a notarized document stating to the effect you are free to marry. You can obtain this document at the Manila Embassy or the Cebu Consulate. In order to get it at the Manila Embassy, you must make an appointment online, go here;
You must have your valid passport, and it is best if you take all divorce decrees as well. Your fiancée does not need to go with you to do this in Manila. The cost is $50, and it takes just an hour or two.
In some ways, Cebu is easier, but Cebu also has requirements that Manila does not. In Cebu it is a walk in service, Mon-Fri 9-11, no appointment is necessary. However, in Cebu, you must take your fiancée (and her ID) with you, and you must present all previous divorce decrees, and it will be best to have a copy of your birth certificate with you as well. If you are there at 9 am, you should be out the door by 11, the cost is $50.
As of a few years ago, some LCRs started also requiring the foreigner to obtain a CENOMAR (Certificate of No Marriage) from the NSO (National Statistics Office). Not all LCRs will require this, but most now are. If you have never been married in the Philippines previously, or your marriage to a Filipina abroad was not registered with the Philippine Embassy or Consulate, then you should have no problem getting this document. You can order it from any NSO office, or order it online here;
However, if NSO has a former marriage for you on record, this can become quite problematic. Under the Philippine law, a foreign divorce is valid in the Philippines. However, in order to get it registered as valid with the NSO, your foreign divorce must first be authenticated by the Philippine embassy or consulate abroad with jurisdiction over the state where the divorce took place. THEN, you must get a judicial order in the Philippines to have it recognized as valid by the NSO. This means you must hire a Philippine lawyer and petition the court in order to have NSO update your record to reflect your foreign divorce as valid.
If you fall into the trap of having to do this, this can easily cost you an additional $500 and take an additional 6 months or more. This has been the cause of many people who were thinking of marriage in the Philippines to instead partake of a fiancée visa, where no CENOMAR is required of the foreign citizen.
Marriage Counseling Seminar
By Philippine law, all marriages where one or more applicants are under 25 years of age, both parties must attend a marriage counseling seminar. In practice, it seldom works that way, and couples applying for a marriage license where both are in their 50s have still been required to take the seminar. The marriage seminar varies considerably from LCR to LCR. Some don’t require it at all, some require it but will waive it, some will make you attend a two hour seminar, while other LCRs will make you sit through a grueling all day presentation of grade school level sex education, how to buy a dozen eggs, cooking rice on a propane burner, about sewing holes on clothes rather than replacing them etc…, all in a language you are not likely to understand, in a small room with no ventilation, no fan, in 90 degree weather with 20 other couples. To make matters worse, the teachers of this class may take 2-hour breaks, while the entire class sits in sweltering heat waiting for them to re-appear.
Again, you will need to inquire at the LCR where you must apply for the marriage license in order to determine if you can get out of this class or not. If you can get out of it, I would highly recommend doing so.
Parental advice or parental consent
Under the Family Code of the Philippines, anyone between 21 and 25 years of age who wishes to apply for a marriage license must have “parental advice”, whereas, anyone 18 to 21 must have “parental consent”. Actually, there is very little differentiating the two. This is yet another area where each individual LCR has their own interpretations. Under the law, 18 to 21-year-olds must have parental consent. This is pretty self-explanatory and seldom overlooked. Those 21 to 25 must have “parental advice”. This, in theory, means the parents must write a letter stating they are aware of the marriage and have advised the child about it. Some LCRs will produce a form that the parent must fill out. If for any reason the child cannot get parental advice, they can still marry but must wait 90 days for the marriage license to be issued. Some LCRs will make the parents appear in person to give the advice/consent, others will not require this.
The following are the basic documentary requirements to apply for a marriage license. There are small fees and surprises to be expected of all requirements. Again, these will vary widely by location;
For the foreigner;
Passport with valid visa
Certified copy of birth certificate
Copies of all divorce decrees, death certificates, etc.
NOTE; There is a new Philippine requirement that the foreign spouse must submit proof of good moral character and evidence of ability to support. This is likely to come in the form of another affidavit from the embassy and/or tax return or financial information. We have yet to hear of this being enforce, but be prepared for this to happen.
For the Filipina fiancee
NSO ‘Certified Copy of Birth Certificate’ – 2 copies can be obtained at the NSO or ordered online at www.ecensus.com.ph
‘Barangay Clearance’ (has its own requirements-obtain at local Barangay hall)
‘Police Clearance’ (has its own requirements-obtain at local police station)
“CEDULA” (Community Tax Certificate-apply at city hall)
NSO “CENOMAR’ (Certificate of no marriage- apply at NSO or order online at www.ecensus.com.ph)
Apply at LCR at city hall, they will have all the local information pertaining to where/when to attend the marriage seminar, what requirements they may waive, etc. Once all requirements have been met and the application submitted, there is a 10 day waiting period for the marriage license to be issued. Some LCRs will waive the 10 day waiting period, some won’t. Sometimes you can find a Judge/Priest who will alter the dates of the marriage contract to reflect the 10-day waiting period as having been completed.
Above is the process to obtain a marriage license for a simple civil wedding. Once issued, the license is valid for 4 months, and you can wed anywhere in the Philippines.
Church wedding requirements are not so simple, the Catholic Church here has it’s own guidelines and personal agendas. If you have had a previous divorce, you will probably not be getting married in the church. The church also requires letters from your “home parish”, and has their own “counseling seminar”. I will not go further into the church requirements as they are forever changing and capricious.