Recognition of a marriage contracted abroad

A marriage abroad is not immediately valid in Switzerland. Swiss authorities need to authenticate the marriage. This article explains the recognition of a marriage contracted abroad.

Quick Summary

  • Swiss citizens and foreign residents in Switzerland must notify the Swiss authorities about the marriage abroad.
  • Marriages contracted abroad are generally recognised in Switzerland. This includes same-sex marriages.
  • Same-sex marriages recognised as registered partnerships in Switzerland before 1 July 2022 will continue to be regarded as such. Same-sex couples can apply for an update of the civil status.
  • Under certain conditions, an authority may refuse to recognise a marriage contracted abroad.

A marriage contracted abroad does not automatically take effect in Switzerland. This requires a corresponding entry in the civil register. To this end,

  • Swiss nationals,
  • persons resident in Switzerland whose data is recorded in the civil status register, and
  • certain foreign nationals with family relationships to Swiss nationals

must notify the responsible authority of a marriage contracted abroad. After that, the marriage is generally recognised by the Swiss authorities.

Is marriage recognised for same-sex couples?

Same-sex couples can get married in Switzerland since 1 July 2022. They are considered equal to mixed-sex couples. This equality includes the recognition of marriages contracted abroad.

A special regulation exists regarding same-sex marriages contracted abroad that were recognised in Switzerland before 1 July 2022. In Switzerland, these were previously entered into not as marriages but as registered partnerships. Couples concerned can apply for an update to their entry in the Swiss civil status register. The authority then changes the entry from «in registered partnership» to «married». The responsibility lies with the cantonal supervisory authority for civil status in the home canton. After the update, these couples are also considered married in Switzerland.

Who must be notified of the marriage abroad?

Foreign civil status authorities usually don’t report a marriage to the Swiss authorities on their own initiative. Notification by the spouses is therefore required. In order for a marriage contracted abroad to be recognised, the marriage documents must be submitted to the Swiss representation abroad. The Swiss representation abroad then forwards the documents to the corresponding authority in Switzerland. If you have any questions, the authorities in your home canton or canton of residence or the Swiss representation abroad can help.

What are the requirements for marriage abroad?

Marriage abroad is not subject to Swiss law but to the corresponding foreign law. Thus, for questions regarding the requirements for marriage abroad, contact the foreign civil registry office at the place of marriage.

Which marriages contracted abroad are not recognised in Switzerland?

There are a few exceptions to the principle that a marriage validly contracted abroad is recognised in Switzerland. In certain cases, the authorities may refuse recognition. This happens if the marriage violates fundamental Swiss values.

An example of this are marriages between relatives in a straight line or (half) siblings. The authorities also refuse recognition if Swiss nationals or persons resident in Switzerland deliberately move the marriage abroad in order to circumvent the provisions of Swiss law. This is the case with «marriages of convenience», which are entered into in order to circumvent provisions under the law on foreigners.

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