Photo by gcardinal

So you bought – or were given – a ring. What comes next? Well in China, you need to register the marriage with the Ministry of Civil Affairs in order to make the wedding official. That means a trip to a Bureau of Civil Affairs office. Romantic!


Things to consider

Processing a certificate of marriage for a foreigner and a Chinese citizen can take some time, depending on your location and documents, so you may want to plan ahead and get the certification done before the ceremony (or after it; there is no requirement to actually have the certification before you can hold a wedding ceremony).

Also, at present does not have a process for formally acknowledging gay marriages, although it does recognize marriages from abroad, so if you want to tie the knot with someone of the same sex, you may need to do so in another country.


The Bureau of Civil Affairs

It is important to note that you cannot go to any random Bureau of Civil Affairs to register your marriage; you have to go to the specific city or district office where your Chinese partner’s household registration (hukou) was registered. That may, unfortunately, mean travelling out of the city you currently live in to get the certificate processed.

You can either turn up at the bureau on the day, or make an appointment first. On most days turning up will probably be OK, but on Valentine’s Day and similar romantic holidays it may be rather busy. Best call ahead and make an appointment, just to be safe.


Required documents

To register their marriage, the Chinese citizen must bring their:

  • Personal household register (hukou)

  • ID card

The foreigner must bring their:

  • Passport

  • Registration Form of Temporary Residence issued by a Chinese PSB

  • Marriage status certificate issued by the embassy of the foreigner’s home country. The certificate is used to prove that the foreigner is not currently married to anyone else. This must be translated into Chinese by a professional translation service company; they will stamp the translation with their official seal to confirm its authenticity.

You must also bring a photograph of you both together (see below).



You also need a photo for your marriage certificate application. You can either take it in an independent photo studio, or in a marriage registration office. The registration office may charge a slightly higher price, but either way you do not need to be dressed up in your fancy wedding ceremony clothes. 

The photo should be a 3.5cm by 5.3cm headshot portrait of you two together, with the bottom of the image running slightly below the shoulder line. Bring three copies of this photo to the bureau. 


Registration processing time

After you hand in these materials and fill in a form with your information, the office will process the registration. If you’re in a small town or relatively remote area, the marriage registration process may take up to a month. In major cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, and you should be able to get the certificate right away, provided your documents are all in order. 

It is worth asking your local Bureau of Civil Affairs how long they the process will take before you start planning your wedding ceremony – you may wish to register well in advance of the ceremony, or maybe even after it; whatever you do, don’t schedule it for the same day as the wedding!


Registration fee is nine yuan. If you have the photo taken in the registration office, it will cost around 50 yuan

Future usage of marriage certificate

Once you have the marriage certificate, keep it in a safe place. You may need it for various reasons, including applying for a Q1 or Q2 family reunion visa, applying for a permanent residence permit, and – though we do hope it doesn’t come to this – divorce. 

If you do lose the document, you can return to the bureau you got it from and apply for a reissue.


Addresses of major marriage registration offices

For those in other cities, consult local authorities.

Go to the district office specified in your Chinese partner’s hukou
Working hours: Mon-Sat 9:00-11:30, 13:30-17:00

F3, Building E, Guangda Conference Center, 82, Caobao Lu, Shanghai 上海市漕宝路82号光大会展中心E座三楼
Open: Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat 9 am-4 pm; Tue 9 am-11:30 am
Tel: 021-6432 5087 (voice); 021-6432 5088 (staff) 

F2, 99 Lu, 广州市西湖路99号2楼
Open: Mon-Fri, 8:30 am-12 noon, 2 pm-5:30 pm
Tele: 020-8317-8772, 020-8334-2349

Go to the district office specified in your Chinese partner’s hukou.
Working hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am-11:30 am, 2 pm-5:30 pm

    Can foreigners buy apartments in China?

    click read more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>