This is a work in progress! So far I have the process outlined for Americans, Malaysians and Indonesians. If you are of a different nationality and the process/paperwork has been different for you, please forward the details to me by submitting a step by step outline using the contact form at the end of this page. Thank you!
To facilitate the marriage permission (tasreeh):
Wasta, mukhalis, maraji, mu’aghib and unfortunately bribery. Trust in Allah, patience and hope for the best.
Special notice for Saudi men wanting to marry American women: The Saudi Government has added new regulations for Saudi men wishing to marry foreigners. Saudi men must first sign a binding document granting irrevocable permission for their foreign born spouses and children born of foreign spouses, to travel freely and unhindered in and out of Saudi Arabia before the Saudi Government will give permission for him to marry. This regulation went into force on February 20, 2008, and is not retroactive. The U.S. Embassy can intercede with the Saudi government to request exit permission for adult American women who are not affected by this new regulation, but will not be able to obtain permission for the departure of minor children without the father’s agreement (See Entry/Exit Requirements section above). Obtaining exit permission for an adult American woman can take many months. Source: US Dept Of State
Documents needed (subject to personal circumstances):
Please note: It is your responsibility as the applicant to inquire personally or by phone with the appropriate MOI (Ministry of Interior) or local emara (governor) as to which documents will be needed for your particular circumstances. That includes distinguishing which documents are needed from the non-Saudi spouse and which are needed for the Saudi applicant.
All documents must be in Arabic or translated into Arabic. Documents must be requested
by the relevant Saudi government office in order to be obtained from Civil Affairs. The list is as follows in no certain order:
copies of saudi fiance’s birth certificate,
passport, iqamah/family card, any death/divorce certificates or that one has never
been married before to establish single status, permission of the fiance’s guardian,
medical documents claiming good health for marriage and any other medical documents required,
documents from MOI and Civil Affairs, proof of income from job or that you are self-
employed, approval from the district chief (umdah) emir (governor) of the province
Saudi fiance resides in, shahada certificate of non-Saudi showing that he is Muslim, photos, employment letter with current salary from employer or a certified letter from the Umdah (district official) and the local Police stating that the applicant is not self-employed nor by the government and is rather a house-lady (as in basically unemployed), record print out from Civil Affairs office, copy of the national ID card and original, divorce or widower certificate if applicable, attending a mini-interview at the women’s section of the marriage office, university registration record/transcript or high school degree, copy of the house rental contract or property, document must be provided, or sanctioned certificate must be provided from the Governor and the Police, if employed, identification letter from the wife’s employer, copy of the husband’s Civil Affairs ID or family record, recent coloured frontal angle (without glasses) photograph of the husband, (4X6) cm in size, if one of the couple is divorced or widowed, a copy of divorce document or death certificate is required, valid copy of the wife’s resident permit (Iqama) or passport, approval letter from the wife, medical Report for husband and wife, police certificate, official statement from Civil Affairs Sector, archive documents, marriage request form duly filled in
Saudi Marriage Permit Guidelines: Ministry Of Interior
Marriage Permission Procedures
Advice On Marrying A Saudi And Living In Saudi Arabia
Things You Should Know Before Marrying A Saudi
Pros & Cons Of Being Married To A Saudi Man Living In Saudi
SR100,000 Fine For Violators Of New Marriage Law
Exceptions To The Rule:
Saudis no longer need permission to marry citizens of the five other GCC countries: Bahrain, United Arab Emirates,
Kuwait, Qatar and Oman (Shoura Proposal Allows Saudis To Marry Gulf Citizens, MD Rasooldeen, Arab News, 23 May
2011). They have been banned from marrying citizens from the following countries: Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Burma and Chad (Saudi Arabia Bans Its Citizens To Marry Some Foreign Girls, Diplomat News Network,
5 August 2014).
Our Marriage Permission
By Umm Riyam
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Saudi Arabia requires that its citizens obtain permission to marry a non-Saudi. The permission is supposed to be taken before the actual marriage takes place; however, in many cases, Saudis marry abroad and then get permission from the Saudi government. That was how it was in our case. We got married in October 2003 in Kansas. At the time, my husband was a student. Saudi students who study abroad usually have a scholarship from the Saudi government or sponsorship through a company. All of these students are required to sign a document before they leave Saudi Arabia stating that they will not marry a non-Saudi while they are studying. The document my husband signed stated that he can be fired and if fired, he would have to pay back the money that was spent on him. My husband seems to think this is mostly just a threat and probably rarely happens, but it was enough that he didn’t tell his company that he had gotten married until after he finished school and started working.
There are no written rules or guidelines about the Saudi marriage permission process that I know of. It seems that each case is a little different and is treated differently. So, what my husband did was to ask around and try to find out what he could before he submitted anything. He was originally told to submit everything to the local police department, and they would forward it on. Well, it took months and months for the paperwork to reach Riyadh, when he could have just driven 3 hours to submit everything directly. And, in the end, my husband ended up dealing directly with the Ministry of Interior in Riyadh anyways. So, we wasted many months because we didn’t know what we were doing.
The list of documents we needed (everything has to be translated into Arabic):
Copy of my passport
Copy of my birth certificate
Copy of our legal marriage license
Copy of our Islamic marriage contract
Copy of my Shahadah letter (to confirm that I am a Muslim)
Copy of his ID
Letter from his job
Explanation letter of our situation
My husband also had to go to the local police department to get a background check and go through a Q & A session.
They give you a reference number to check on your case. In the beginning, we were told NO. Then, my husband talked to someone, and he was told to write a ‘begging letter’ and take it to the prince, and the prince signed it. Then, they told him to give all the documents to another department. (I wish I can tell you exactly what department, but my husband is very vague in his details, lol.) After that, they sent our file to the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC. Once our file was in Washington DC, I was able to apply for my residence visa.
For the residence visa, I basically followed the steps outlined on the Saudi Embassy website. The only difference is that I had to send everything to the Saudi section. I would recommend that anyone who deals with the Saudi Embassy to call them before you send them anything. You need to make sure you send the right amount of money in money orders, and sometimes you need to send more than one money order. It’s really frustrating to call the Saudi Embassy because no one answers the phone most of the time, but it’s worth it to get the correct information before you send everything. Also, you need to send them a pre-paid overnight FedEx (or whatever shipping company you want to use) envelope to return everything to you. If you don’t, they will send through the US postal service, cheapest unsecured mail. I don’t think you want your passport going through the mail that way. lol
The time it took for my husband to finish everything in Saudi Arabia was about a year and 3 months, and it took me about a month to get everything done for the residence visa. but, we ended up spending a year and 11 months apart.
Getting Married in Saudi
July 21st, 2008
The kingdom is advancing greatly in the integration of computers into the government, and also aims to better it’s e-governmental presence.. Aiming to improve the various services offered to the citizens of Saudi Arabia. However, it may seem like great news, but it’s only in few parts of the government services.
The Legal procedure of marriage in Saudi is in two parts, a legally-approved Religious part and a Legal part, and knowing how complex this process can be, one would think the computerized environment would help better it. Well, it would, but is it going to be utilized in that department any time soon?
Other than the old Stamp and Sign procedure with the Marriage Certificate, a paper-back booklet, the remaining steps still remain in the Stamp and Sign. When you’re in the Civilian Affairs Office, Your legal papers have to be signed by an individual and stacked in a folder. Eventually, that folder will be stacked over the other hundred folders until someone takes them to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and logs them in. Notice how the process even avoids the use of Telephones, which are used only for the chatting employees. The only computerized thing about the whole place is the mobiles of the citizens who got bored from waiting, and started checking their falling stock.
The working hours of the office begins from 7 am, you’ll wait in a long long long line, waiting to get a number, with the possibility of the person in charge of handing them out yelling that the numbers for the National ID, for instance, are out and everyone should come tomorrow. Or suddenly pointing out that if you wanted to get a certain issue done, it’s done in the other part of town. When you get your number, you’re given the proper forms and asked to sit down, fill them up and wait until the employees arrive. They arrived at 9 am.
Now, looking through the marriage process, you’re asked to get copies of every legal paper, fill a form, get a picture, dump your folder with a person who stacks it in the folder, and then you’re asked to CHECK the next day, or the same day after Dhu’hur prayer.. However, the process never finishes in a day, being that it’s taken to another office, that uses an old cashier-like XEROX printer to print your name and information. The next day, another person would get a stack of certificates and then call out names, and later on organize them in a wooden box according to the Arabic alphabets.
Nothing’s computerized so far? well, the numbers you take and wait with in line are shown on an LED screen.. Happy now?
Assuming that you were told to come back After Dhu’hur prayer, you’re not expected to leave the office and pray and come back.. No sir. Why? because they stop taking citizens in AFTER the prayer, and only those inside will get their deal done. And that’s all the working hours of the office. A lousy, unproductive, 3 and a half hours.
I had a conversation with a very “happy” citizen, saying that he gave them his papers to add his daughter to his Folder, and they happen to lose his photocopied ID. They stopped his process for 2 weeks now, while he went to Makkah and came back thinking it’s all over.
Ironically, thinking of the Flentstones City Hall scenes, they used Historic technologies to achieve modern-day tasks.. However, we choose to finish our work in the most historic way possible, while leaving those modern-day technologies aside.. Unless there’s an interesting game of Solitaire that people are betting on.. Moreover, you’d be able to skip the whole process by knowing the right people, or by going to any smaller city or county in the kingdom and get it done in less than an hour. Amazing how advanced the kingdom is, and how it manages to keep such a stupid infrastructure in one piece.
I got my Marriage certificate finally, and thinking am done with all this bull, They seem to keep a small gift intact.. They logged me in the record as a 170 cm tall male, with hazle eyes.. However, am 185 cm tall with dark brown eyes.. It’s ok, i guess i can live with this legal distortion.. Since they told me happily that i’ll have to change the papers Anyways to the new small Card format, but they had to finish the remaining Old certificates, since they think it’s a waste of resources to throw all of that away.. And they say Saudis have it easy, wait till a Foreigner tells you how his process goes.
Does marriage seem that appealing now that you’ve lived through a semi-3-day story? Single N Proud should get a kick out of this 😀
Maid For Each Other (the “Saudi Gazette”‘s headline, not mine!)
….but before we get to the serious stuff, it’s an everyday tale of human frailty.
SAMIRA Khalid was always left puzzled by the mystery of coming home daily to find her pictures turned to the wall or face down. I work as a teacher so I leave my house at 6:30 A.M. and come back at 2 P.M. , Samira said. But each day I came back, I noticed that my pictures were facing away or down.
Perhaps her husband was doing that, while he went round doing the dusting? But, no need, this is Saudi Arabia, we get someone else to do that.
In desperation she quizzed the maid about the bizarre going on. She was the only person who could enter my room to clean it while I am out. But she denied having any idea about what is going on, recalls Samira.
Returning home early one day, Samira discovers the awful truth….
To her surprise, her husband’s car was parked outside the house. That was the last hour of my marriage, she says without a hint of remorse on her face. Shocked Samira entered her home to discover that instead of going to work daily, her cheating husband had been staying at home, sleeping with their oriental maid.
Sadly, these things happen. But then it got even worse….
The end of the mystery also signaled the end of Samira’s marriage, as she learnt how the amorous pair had gotten married during her annual vacation. That wasn’t all either; apparently the new wife was also pregnant.
Only in Saudi Arabia! He’s married the maid as well, and now has two wives, but there are still slots for another two! Truly, guys, this is the “Land of Opportunity”! Except it’s not supposed to work that way. You’re supposed to provide each with their own house. I know it’s a great money-saving idea, but you shouldn’t really have them both in the same house doing different shifts.
But then we come to the really nasty bit. You see, the husband turns out to be illegally married. Why?
Saudi law forbids a Saudi from getting married to a non-Saudi without governmental permission, something Samira’s randy husband did not bother to think about.
Oh, did I never mention that before? And you thought you’d heard everything about Saudi Arabia? You see, we can’t just marry whom we want. No, we have this law, you see. You can have up to four wives, no problem. But they need to be Saudi. It’s not a religion thing, although there are a whole other set of rules about that. No, it’s a nationality thing and, because we don’t have permanent immigration, it de facto is also a race thing.
The Kingdom’s marriage procedures demand that a Saudi must seek permission from two civic authorities before he is allowed to marry outside his own race.
So, in theory, you can marry a non-Saudi, outside your own race. Surely, you just ask for permission? Isn’t that simple enough?
Firstly from the Emir of the region in which the marriage will take place.
Sure, just drop in and ask some crusty geriatric misogynist Prince. One whose only notion of foreign women is based on his silent and subservient Indonesian and Filipino domestic staff. He’ll want to know what’s wrong with you, why can’t you find “a nice Saudi girl” to marry? Still you may get lucky. He may be in a good mood, and give you permission. But if he does, we have a special “Gotcha”!
Secondly permission must be sought from the Ministry of Interior….
That’s Prince Naif’s people. Really warm and lovable, they are, and to get permission from them….
…. the non-Saudi in the marriage has to be born in Saudi Arabia.
Gotcha! Nobody off the plane will do. They must be born and bred in the country. So the hordes of domestic staff who come for a few years are completely off-limits, such as Samira’s maid. The only women who are elegible, are the daughters of men who have been here two or three decades at least. And for those men to bring their wives and be able to stay for that length of time and raise families, they must be in good professional jobs. So now we’ve screened out the poor and humble.
But still it’s not all plain sailing. There are more hurdles, and several layers of Saudi bureaucracy to navigate – and imagine how quickly they move! The next bit of “small print” is best read out in hushed tones but at breakneck speed by those people who do financial services or medical adverts.
In addition, the man must provide information about his financial status, a letter of confirmation from his employer, a copy of his fiancee’s iqama, as well as her father s Iqama and passport. To prove that the wife was born in Saudi Arabia, a birth certificate and a medical report must also be included in the application. To have official approval, the wife should be born in Saudi Arabia and both the husband and wife should be older than 25. They have to submit their papers and then go through several interviews with officials. During these interviews the Saudi must also provide valid reasons as to why they want to marry a non-Saudi.
Oh, and both need to be 25. Didn’t I mention that before? Not to worry, start your application when you are 20, you’ll be old enough by the time you’ve gone thru the whole process. But as you may imagine, very few do actually succeed.
(This of course applies to Muslim-Muslim marriages. It gets a lot more complicated if one of you is not Muslim. Let’s save that for another day. I’ve also not dealt with Saudi women marrying non-Saudi men, which might occasionally happen abroad. That’s a whole other “can of worms”, and don’t expect their children to be able to live in Saudi Arabia.)
Is there any other country in the world that has laws limiting mixed-race marriages in such a way? I’m not aware of any.
Marriage To A Malaysian Woman (submitted by Nadia Ramli)
Basically I have made a few enquiries. It seems quite simple to get married in my country. There are different requirements for non Muslim and Muslim marriages. For Non Muslims , basically we just need to obtain a license and fill a few forms from the Registration Department and Immigrations. Basically, since Malaysian Syariah law does not allow a muslim to marry a non muslim, both parties must be muslims. All Muslim Marriages must be registered with The Religious Council.
Here are the requirements :
Copy of certified passport of spouse
Letter of Consent from Embassy
Certificate of Citizenship of Spouse from the Immigration
If spouse is women, must have letter of consent from wali ( guardian ) or guardian must be there.
Marriage will be registered and conducted by the Religious Council.