Rabat – Marriages between Moroccans and foreigners are becoming increasingly common in today’s globalized world. Unfortunately, the process can be quite complicated, frustrating, and stressful.
Each country has their own specific procedures for their citizens who wish to marry Moroccans, but Western countries generally follow the same guidelines. The following steps specifically pertain to Americans looking to get married in Morocco to a Moroccan citizen.
Keep in mind that your future Moroccan spouse needs his or her own set of documents as required by Moroccan law. Some of these can only be obtained in the town of his or her birth.
If you do not live in Morocco, you must be sure that you have everything you need before you arrive.
You should also give yourself ample time to complete the process in Morocco. Some sources say that two weeks is enough to pull off a marriage in Morocco, but I think this is pushing it.
Places to go
You only need to go once, if all goes well. You will spend a few hours there. Your future spouse cannot come inside with you.
You’ll have to go two or three times depending on your specific situation. The staff seems to only speak French or Arabic, so this may be intimidating for only-English speakers like myself. However, everyone working there was very kind. Your spouse cannot go inside with you but he or she can explain what you need to the guards.
You should only need to go once, but be prepared for multiple visits. Your spouse will do most of the talking here.
You’ll need to go at least three times. You will spend a lot of time here and your spouse will be responsible for almost all communication.
Information regarding religion
He will need a certified and notarized copy of his conversion document from a religious/court notarial, also called an adoul. This is acquired at the Ministry of Justice in Rabat. Otherwise, the couple must be married in another country that does not have this law. France is a good option.
I am a Christian woman, and I had no problems marrying a Muslim man. I did not need proof of my religious denomination, but my experience may not be universal.
Read Also: A Moroccan Wedding: Fairy Tales Do Come True
What is an Apostille?
The word “apostille” is French for certification. An Apostille is needed to verify the legitimacy of government-issued documents or certify authentic copies of these documents so that they will be accepted by foreign governments.
Documents that need an Apostille include birth, death, and marriage certificates. Court documents, administrative documents, and notarial acts may also require an Apostille. You do not need an Apostille for every document you intend to give to the Moroccan government.
Some foreign governments require American Apostilles to be issued by the US Department of State. Morocco does not require this, and state-issued Apostilles are satisfactory.
Apostilles can be obtained by mail for a $15 fee per document.
Throughout this marriage process, I needed an Apostille for my American birth certificate and my Moroccan marriage certificate. The latter was obtained in the family court where I got married.
If you intend to apply for Moroccan residency, you might need to get an Apostille for your criminal record. Experiences with the police vary, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Documents needed before traveling to Morocco
Make at least five copies, especially if you are planning to apply for Moroccan residency or file form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) for your future spouse. You will need them at various stages throughout the marriage process.
I brought my original birth certificate and an Apostille. In hindsight, this was not the most responsible decision.
I recommend ordering a certified duplicate of your birth certificate and an accompanying Apostille so you don’t gamble with the official document. The family court did not want to return my documents back to me even after my marriage was finalized, but luckily, they made an exception for the birth certificate.
You will need a police record from a police department in the state where you last resided, or a criminal background check from the FBI. Both records require your fingerprints.
I got a criminal background check from the FBI. I mailed my fingerprint cards (which cost $20 to have done at a local police station) to the FBI along with a handwritten letter of intent describing what I need the report for. The application fee is $18 plus postage.
Different sources give you a variety of time frames as to when to expect your background check to be processed and mailed to you. I was expecting to receive the report 8 to 10 weeks after sending the fingerprint cards, but it was mailed to me just three weeks later.
If your file is lost in transit like mine was, you can handwrite a request for another copy, scan the request, and attach it to an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I transcribed the handwritten request in my email for good measure.
The FBI destroys your records 90 days after mailing your report. If you need another copy, make sure you request it within this time period, or else you’ll have to get your prints re-done.
If you plan to apply for Moroccan residency (carte sejour), you should request and pay for two copies of your criminal record: One to give to the family court when getting married and one to give to the local police when applying for residency.
Keep the second copy sealed or the police will question its authenticity. The police may need an Apostille for this document as well.
If you do not live in Morocco, you will need to prove that you have stable employment in the country where you reside.
I didn’t need this because I moved to Morocco to live with my husband, and he is financially responsible for me.
If you are an unemployed woman, you will probably not run into any problems as men are expected to provide for their wives under Islamic law. Bear in mind that this is a different story when attempting to move your spouse to the US.
You will need an Apostille for any death certificates or copies. It’s better to get a certified copy in case the court does not want to return the original.
If you have been married before, you need proof that this marriage was officially terminated.
If you have never been married, you will need to prove it.
I had not been married before, so I asked for a single status letter from the Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans Court from the county of my American residence. This document proved that I had never been married in the county. The fee for this was $65.
Documents obtained in Morocco
Take your passport or residency card to the Ministry of Justice in Rabat. They will record your biographical information and give you a form to fill out.
Go outside and complete the form, then return it. They will give you a ticket that says when you should come back; usually this will be after a few hours. Make sure you go in the morning so they will not make you wait until the next day. If they try to tell you it will take weeks, insist that you’re leaving the country tomorrow.
When it’s your time, take the ticket and your passport or residency card back to the office, and they will give you your Moroccan police record. There was no fee for this, in my experience.
Make sure to bring a pen with you, or simply borrow one from a nearby shop.
This document is obtained from the US Consulate General in Casablanca for a fee of $50. Make an appointment online for American Citizen Services/notarial services, and print your appointment confirmation. Download the confirmation page because you will not be able to find it later.
You will need to bring your passport to the US Consulate. You may also need proof that you are eligible to marry (single status letter, proof of divorce, or death certificate). They will give you a form to fill out, and then you will take it to the cashier for payment. Take the receipt back to the desk where you got the form and wait for your name to be called.
Upon calling your name, an official will return your passport and other documents. They will give you the official affidavit and the documents listed in the next item.
This is done at the US Consulate General in Casablanca for a fee of $50 (not included in the affidavit fee). You do not need a separate appointment for this service.
Please note that you need your most recent date of entry notarized. Before I could get married, I had to travel out of the country to renew my tourist visa, so I did not get any documents from the US Consulate until I returned to Morocco.
You should call a few offices and ask if they are familiar with this service as it specifically pertains to mixed marriages. When you find one, head in for a check-up, and they will give you the proper write-up. I did not need my medical records for the appointment but you may want to bring them just in case.
You and your significant other each need four for the marriage. The required size is 3 centimeters by 4 centimeters.
If you are going to apply for residency in Morocco, you will need another six of the 3 centimeter by 4 centimeter photos.
If you are planning to file form I-130 for your spouse, you will need two more passport-style photos of yourself and two of your significant other, measuring 5 centimeters by 5 centimeters.
I found it to be less expensive to have pictures taken and printed in Morocco than in the US.
The next steps
You need to get all of these documents translated into Arabic, including your notarized passport pages (biographical and date of entry) and your birth certificate.
It is best to go to a government-appointed translator if you can afford it. The total cost for this was around MAD 2,300 ($230).
You only need one original translation for each document. Ask the translator for at least four copies of each document and their translations.
The translator may need a day or two to complete this.
They will review your documents, let you know if you are missing anything, and give you an envelope. This may take a few days.
You and your spouse will be interviewed about your relationship, your education, each of your families, and so on. The police will create a file for you and send it back to the family court. Again, this may take a few days.
Now is the time to request your original documents back, but do not be surprised if the court refuses. This is why it is important to get certified copies of any documents you may need in the future, such as your birth certificate or criminal record.
The adoul will handle your marriage application for a fee of $15.
The adoul will ask you a few questions, clarify some information, and draft your marriage certificate in Arabic. You and your future spouse should carefully review it to ensure there are no errors. You will have to write your name in Arabic in his record book, so start practicing!
The adoul will issue your marriage certificate and you will be legally married. Feel free to ask for multiple copies if you need them.
You should also take it to a certified translator and have it translated into the official language of the country where you plan to reside.
If you are filing form I-130, you will need to include an English translation of your marriage certificate in your folder to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
If you make it this far, the fun begins! You can enjoy your wedding and honeymoon stress-free knowing that if you and your spouse made it through this, you can make it through anything.
This all may seem daunting, but do not let it scare you. Most of the process is going back and forth between buildings and waiting around.
If you come to Morocco prepared, you should not run into any problems. All you need is enough time and patience and you will have your happily ever after—plus, it makes for a great story to share with your friends and family!