By Fahd Al-Dheyabi
Saudi Gazette | Riyadh
17 July 2010
The Ministry of Interior has said that Saudis abroad wishing to marry foreigners are now required to sign a commitment to the laws of the countries of their future spouses.
The written pledge includes commitments to child custody laws should the marriage end in separation, as well as Islamic Shariah laws governing women in those countries.
The ministry has taken the measure in response to legal action in courts abroad by foreign women against their Saudi husbands over a range of family disputes, including their children adopting the nationality of the mother in accordance with their national laws.
The Ministry of Interior issues 25 permits every week for Saudis to marry foreign women.
Applications are first presented to the regional Emir’s Office and the applicant is asked to fully explain the reasons behind his or her request and provide information on the potential spouse. Once ministry consent has been obtained, the marriage procedures are completed through Saudi Shariah courts.
The Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad – Awasir – has said that precise figures for Saudi families living abroad are difficult to ascertain as many marriages are not officially documented. A source said that “this makes it difficult for Awasir to conduct the very work for which it was set up”.
Last month Awasir revealed that unlicensed marriages to Saudis, many conducted “in secrecy”, had left homeless or in poverty over 1,500 widows and children in 19 countries across the world.
Unofficial statistics say that Saudis spend over SR50 million a year on marrying foreign women, expenses which are said to include dowries, gifts, accommodation and catering costs.