Can a foreigner marry a South African?

The simple answer to “Can a foreigner marry a South African?” is YES, a foreigner can marry a South African in South Africa. There are a few requirements that must be met, but the process is relatively straightforward.

Requirements for a foreigner to marry a South African:

  1. Have a Letter of No Impediment: The foreign national must obtain a Letter of No Impediment from their home country’s embassy or consulate in South Africa. This document confirms that the foreign national is legally eligible to marry.
  2. Complete a BI-31 Form: The couple must complete a BI-31 Form, also known as the Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage, Letter of No Impediment Form. This form provides basic information about the couple and their intentions to marry.
  3. Apply for a Marriage License: With the Letter of No Impediment and BI-31 Form, the couple can apply for a marriage license at a Department of Home Affairs (DHA) regional office. The DHA will review the documents and conduct a premarital interview to ensure that the marriage is not being contracted for fraudulent purposes.
  4. Obtain a Marriage Certificate: Upon approval, the couple will receive a marriage certificate. The marriage can be solemnized by a registered marriage officer, such as a magistrate, minister, or registrar of marriages.

Documents required to enter into a marriage

On the day of the marriage a couple must present the following documents to the person officiating at the wedding:

  • Identity documents(for each person getting married)
  • If a foreign national is marrying a South African citizen, they should both present their valid passports as well as well as a completed BI-31 Form (Declaration for the Purpose of Marriage, Letter of no impediment)
  • If the wedding is for a minor (a person under the age of 18 years), the written consent of both parents/ legal guardian or the Commissioner of Child Welfare or a judge should be submitted on Form DHA-32 as well. If the minors getting married are under the ages of 18 for boys or 15 for girls, the written consent from the Minister of Home Affairs will also be required
  • If any of the persons getting married are divorced, then the final decree of divorce should be furnished
  • If any of the persons getting married are widowed, the deceased spouse’s death certificate must be submitted.

Conducting a marriage

Only marriage officers authorised in terms of Act No. 25 of 1961 to perform marriages may do so. Presently civil marriages are solemnised at offices of the Department of Home Affairs and at churches (by authorised marriage officers). 

A marriage must be conducted in the presence of at least two witnesses in:

  • a church or another building used for religious services
  • in a public office or private house, with open doors
  • in the case of serious illness or injuries, the marriage may take place in a hospital or any concerned facility.

Marriage certificates

Two witnesses and the marriage officer must sign the marriage register after the solemnisation of a marriage. Then the marriage officer must issue the parties with a handwritten marriage certificate (BI-27) free of charge.

The marriage officer must then submit the marriage register to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs, where the marriage details will be recorded in the National Population Register (NPR).

Any additional abridged copies or unabridged copies of the marriage certificate can be requested by:

  • Completing Form BI-130 in black ink and submitting it to the nearest office of the Department of Home Affairs or to the nearest South African embassy, mission or consulate abroad
  • Paying the prescribed fee

The first issue of an abridged marriage certificate is free, and a re-issue is R75.00

In addition to abridged or unabridged copies of a marriage certificate, you may also request the following documents after completing Form BI-130 and paying the prescribed fees:

  • A vault copy of the register
  • An abridged marriage certificate that is either computer-printed or handwritten  

Prohibited Marriages

The law states that certain categories of people may not marry. These include:

  • Minors, unless the prescribed consent to the marriage has been given
  • People who are already married. bigamy is a punishable offense in South Africa. Such marriages are also null and void under South African law
  • In the columns below, a man may not marry any person mentioned in column 1; and a woman may not marry any person mentioned in column 2:
Father’s mother
Mother’s mother
Son’s daughter
Daughter’s daughter
Wife’s mother
Wife’s daughter
Father’s wife
Son’s wife
Father’s father’s wife
Mother’s father’s wife
Wife’s father’s mother
Wife’s mother’s mother
Wife’s son’s daughter
Wife’s daughter’s daughter
Son’s son’s wife
Daughter’s son’s wife
Father’s sister
Mother’s sister
Brother’s daughter
Brother’s daughter’s daughter
Sister’s daughter
Sister’s daughter’s daughter
Sister’s son’s daughter
Father’s father
Mother’s father
Son’s son
Daughter’s son
Husband’s father
Husband’s son
Mother’s husband
Daughter’s husband
Father’s mother’s husband
Mother’s mother’s husband
Husband’s father’s father
Husband’s mother’s father
Husband’s son’s son
Husband’s daughter’s son
Son’s daughter’s husband
Daughter’s daughter’s husband
Father’s brother
Mother’s brother
Brother’s son
Brother’s son’s son
Sister’s son
Sister’s son’s son
Sister’s daughter’s son

Additional Considerations:

  • The foreign national should have a valid passport and visa for South Africa.
  • If the foreign national intends to remain in South Africa after marriage, they may need to apply for residency or citizenship.

It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that all legal requirements are met and to understand the potential immigration consequences of marriage to a South African.