Marriage in Germany: marriage with/to a citizen of Germany, issues of citizenship, residence and law
On this page you will find information about the marriage law in Germany: conditions for marriage, rights and obligations of the spouses. Besides, here we discuss the issues of marriage of a foreigner from other countries with/to a German citizen: what documents are required for marriage, how to obtain the citizenship or a residence permit through marriage, the dangers of a fictitious marriage (marriage of convenience, pro forma marriage) are discussed.
§ German marriage law
The brochure published by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection says: "future spouses, when married, enter into a mandatory, statutory form of marriage/wedlock, which is under the special protection of our Constitution ... This basic principle is embodied in the many legal rules of law that have been established for spouses". Thus, when entering into marriage, the spouses have to know their legal rights and obligations that they obtain cojoining in wedlock; there are special legal provisions regarding the marriages between the country citizens and foreigners.
Marriage and family are under the special protection of the state. (Constitution of Germany, art. 6 para. 1)
The Civil Code (in German: Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) of the country states that valid marriage must be performed at the registry office by its employee. Sometimes bride and groom additionally participate in a church ceremony, however, this does not have any legal consequences. In Germany, getting married is valid only in case of it being fixed at the registry office. It will also be useful to know that same-sex people are allowed to get married in Germany.
Prohibition of marriage
According to the laws of the country, people cannot marry unless the following conditions are met:
- Both or one of the future spouses is not of legal age (there may be exceptions);
- Both or one of the future spouses is already married;
- The couple is directly related to each other (for example, father and daughter) or are siblings.
Marriage is for life, the spouses commit themselves/ undertake to lead a life together and bear responsibility for each other, have the right to demand from each other fidelity, respect, attention and support. The legislation also regulates the issues related to family support, household management and property rights of the spouses.
The spouses are not automatically legal representatives of each other, without a power of attorney, they cannot perform legal or any other actions on behalf of each other (for example, to receive a parcel sent to the post office in the name of one of the spouses). In some cases, the law may establish other rules.
Family maintenance and household
Both spouses are mutually obliged to make a fair share of contribution to providing for the family; they are free in assigning the roles, as to who will work to provide for the family financially, and who will take care of the household. Usually the person who is primarily engaged in household work is already fulfilling his or her duty to provide for the family and is not required to work additionally.
Agreement of marriage in Germany
A marriage contract may be entered into by the spouses, but it is not binding. In the case of a marriage contract, it has to be signed by both spouses in the presence of a notary. The contract may change some property relations of the spouses regulated by law, however, the marriage contract cannot cancel or replace all the provisions of the German marriage law, as well as infringe on or damage the rights of one of the spouses. Thus, the concluded marriage contract or some of its provisions may be non-valid. Typically, such an agreement is concluded if the spouses wish to establish their own rules on maintaining the family, division of property upon divorce/ dissolution of marriage, etc.
§ Documents for registering marriage with a German citizen
A German citizen who wants to marry a foreigner shall first contact the registry office to get advice on the procedure for the marriage with a foreigner and the provision of the documents required.
A foreigner, in order to marry a German citizen, is first required to provide a certificate from the responsible state body in their country stating that s/he does not have any legal hindrances to marriage regarding the legislation of his/her country (in German: Ehefähigkeitszeugnis). This certificate is limited in validity to 6 months. Furthermore, in some cases, for example, for stateless people, marriage is possible without providing such a certificate. If the foreigner's state does not provide for the issuance of such certificates, the certificate stating that s/he is not married is most likely to be obtained, this certificate can be taken into account when deciding on the registration of marriage; besides, an application for exemption from providing the Ehefähigkeitszeugnis certificate will also have to be submitted.
To register a marriage in Germany, the following basic documents are required:
- Application to the registry office (in German: Anmeldung zur Eheschließung);
- Birth certificates (in German: Geburtsurkunde);
- Passport (in German: Personalausweis) or an international passport/ a foreign passport (in German: Reisepass);
- Certificate from the local residents' registration office (has a limited validity period).
In some cases, other documents may be required. Foreign documents have to be translated, attested and legalized or apostilled.
If a person used to be in a marriage that has been dissolved or their former spouse has died, the relevant confirmation of divorce or a death certificate will have to be produced.
§ German citizenship, residence permit through marriage
The right to enter Germany for marriage
If a person who does not have the European Union citizenship, marries a German, s/he needs a permit to stay in Germany (in German: Aufenthaltstitel). This permit is not issued to a person only because s/he wants to marry, so to come to Germany for marriage, you must first obtain a national visa of Germany, which gives the right to stay in Germany for up to 3 months; this period can be extended at the Foreigners Registration Office (in German: Ausländerbehörde).
Obtaining a permit for a long- term stay in the country as the spouse of a German
In ordinary case, when entering into a marriage with a German, a foreigner has the right to obtain a permit for a long-term stay in the country (in German: Aufenthaltserlaubnis), however, under certain circumstances, the authorities may refuse to issue the permit. Below are the conditions that may be an obstacle to obtaining the said permit:
- The spouses are planning a life together not in Germany, but in another country;
- The foreign spouse is under 18 years old;
- The foreign spouse does not have initial knowledge of the German language (the required German language knowledge level is A1);
- The German spouse does not have a permanent place of residence in Germany;
- The foreign spouse is prohibited from entering or staying in the country, or there are reasons for his / her expulsion from the country.
A stay permit is issued for a period of 3 years, after which an indefinite residence permit (in German: Niederlassungserlaubnis) is usually issued in the country.
Naturalization of a spouse
By and large, for foreigners who wish to obtain the German citizenship, the general German naturalization rules, apply, however, under the conditions specified by law, earlier admission to citizenship is possible.
A foreign citizen married to a German man / a German woman may apply for the German citizenship if the following general requirements are met:
- Marriage is recognized under the German law;
- Marriage has been in existence for at least 2 years;
- The German spouse has at least a 2-year-long German citizenship;
- Residence in Germany for at least 3 years;
- Availability of a permit for the permanent residence in Germany;
- Adequate knowledge of the German language;
- Knowledge of the legal and public order, as well as living conditions in the country;
- Livelihood support, independent of the state financial support (there are some exceptions);
- No criminal record;
- Renunciation of the existing citizenship of another state (there are some exceptions);
- The spouses live together without planning a divorce.
The German law provides for various rules and exceptions to the rules for obtaining the citizenship by a foreign spouse, therefore, when deciding to obtain the citizenship, you have to always consult the responsible institution in the place of residence.
§ Fictitious marriage (Marriage of convenience, Pro forma marriage, business marriage) in Germany
In order to emigrate to Germany, some foreigners seek to conclude/enter into a fictitious marriage (in German: Scheinehe) with a German citizen; often this is done on a paid basis. Before taking such a step, take into account the following points:
- When the state becomes aware of a fictitious marriage, it is annulled by the state authorities and the foreigner loses the right to stay in the country;
- A fictitious marriage, or rather the provision of false data for marriage, in Germany is a violation of the law and a criminal offense, which is punishable by fines/monetary penalties and imprisonment;
- By entering into a fictitious marriage, a person may become a victim of blackmail by those who know about it and who can report the conclusion of a fictitious marriage to the police;
- In case of suspecting a fictitious marriage with a foreigner, the Foreigners Registration Office (in German: Ausländerbehörde) may simultaneously interview bride and groom separately from each other, as well as use other instruments of control and clarification of circumstances;
§ Useful links about the marriage in Germany
- Civil Code § 1309, on the provision by a foreigner of a certificate for marriage
- Personal Status Act/Law on Personal Status § 12, on the marriage registration documents
- About marriage in Germany on the website of the German Embassy in Russia
- Brochure on the German marriage law published by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection