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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Hans + Masha = Love or,
How a Foreigner in Russia Can Enter Into the Bonds of Matrimony
Text Alexander Zorin

Unlike countries, love has no borders. For a foreigner, though, entering into the bonds of matrimony in the Russian Federation has its own set of hurdles. A lot depends, for example — and perhaps unsurprisingly — on the accurate completion of a series of marriage- related documents. So for those foreign lonely hearts who come to Russia and find marital bliss with an enchanting Slavic miss or burly “Siberian bear,” it is important to know how to quickly and correctly register the relationship with his or her new-found life partner.

Russia is quite liberal as far as granting rights to foreigners residing in the country legally. According to the Russian legal code, foreigners enjoy the same rights and bear the same obligations as Russian citizens. And that holds for the main spousal legislation, the Family Code, which says that domestic law applies to the marriage of a Russian citizen, but that the foreign citizen remains subject to the laws of his or her own country.

Russian law prohibits same-sex marriage and polygamy as well as unions between close relatives. Russian citizens entering into marriage must have reached the age of 18, though in some instances the local authorities can reduce the legal age to 16. A foreign citizen must have reached the legal age to marry according to the laws of his or her own country and provide evidence of such. The imposition of additional requirements, such as parental assent, period of betrothal, or membership in a particular religious denomination, is illegal.

Spouses-to-be who want to register their marriage in Russia must complete a series of administrative formalities. First, they must file a joint application at the office of vital records (abbreviated in Russian as ZAGS). Unlike other countries, where a union can be legally registered through a church or other religious institution, in Russia marriages can be registered only by the state.

The ZAGS application includes common personal information such as full name, date and place of birth, age, citizenship, nationality, residence, and the last name to be used after the marriage. In addition, a foreigner must provide supporting documents such as passport and proof of the dissolution of any previous marriages. In addition, to ensure that a marriage concluded in Russia will be recognized in a foreign citizen’s country of origin, any documents connected with additional conditions imposed by the laws of the home country should also be fi lled out at the time of the registration.

The marriage application must be submitted in person. (Exceptions are possible, however, for foreigners who live outside of Russia.) Upon reviewing the marriage application (which is done within a month of submission), Russian authorities assign a date for the actual registration of the marriage. As the formal registration of the union cannot be done without the attendance of both parties, the foreign national must be present on the day of the registration. Under certain circumstances — such as the expiration of a visa or urgent need to leave the country — foreigners may request that the ZAGS delay or expedite the date of the registration, provided he or she can substantiate the need for this. (Also, by Russian law, a foreign citizen may enter into marriage while hospitalized or incarcerated in a Russian prison, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.)

The final step for the foreigner who has been joined with a Russian citizen in the bonds of matrimony is obtaining the marriage certifi cate. This document includes the same personal information for both spouses as the application for marriage registration with the addition of the date and location of the marriage and the date of preparation and number of the official record of the registration. Then you’re done.

Wasn’t that easy? Now you can live happily ever after. Just one last thing: If you and your spouse ever decide to move somewhere else, don’t forget to have your Russian marriage certifi cate properly notarized in accordance with the requirements of the Hague Convention of 1961 (you’ll need a certification called an apostille).

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