Validity and need for registration of foreign marriage in Hong Kong

When people speak of a white wedding, they used to mean the colour of the bride’s dress.  Now they are just as likely to be talking about the colour of the sand on the exotic beach where the ceremony was held.

A survey has claimed that almost one in eight of all Hong Kong couples who marry have their wedding abroad.

But is a foreign marriage valid in Hong Kong?  If so, can you register yours in Hong Kong?

Validity of foreign marriage in Hong Kong

For a marriage celebrated outside Hong Kong to be recognised by Hong Kong courts, it must be essentially and formally valid.

Essential validity means that you and your spouse had capacity to marry and did consent to the marriage in accordance with the law of your and your spouse’s domicile before the marriage.

If you have been living in Hong Kong and intend to make Hong Kong your home for the foreseeable future, your domicile is Hong Kong.  Accordingly the essential validity of your marriage is governed by Hong Kong law.

For a marriage to be essentially valid under Hong Kong law you and your spouse must consent to marry, be of sufficient age to give full and free consent (i.e. at least 16 years old).  Neither party can be a party to an existing marriage and cannot be within the prohibited degrees of relationships, that is closely related.

Formal validity means that the marriage was performed in accordance with the law of the country where it was celebrated.  Failure to follow the formalities of marriage applicable there will result in the marriage being deemed a nullity.   Formalities differ greatly among countries.

Need to register a foreign marriage in Hong Kong

You will only be able to register your marriage in Hong Kong with the Registrar of Marriages if you are married here.

It is not necessary to register overseas marriages with the Registrar of Marriages in Hong Kong when you come to live here.  If you come to Hong Kong single and later married all you need to do is to inform the Immigration Department of your change in marital status by filling in a Form ROP 18, which can be downloaded through the following link:- http://www.immd.gov.hk/pdforms/rop18.pdf

Divorce law in Hong Kong not dependent on place of marriage

It is not correct that you can divorce only in the jurisdiction where you married.  For Hong Kong divorce law to apply to your marriage, where the marriage took place is not the deciding factor.  The circumstances of the parties immediately before the divorce are key.

Here is a link to another note from Tanner De Witt which explores whether you can divorce in Hong Kong: Jurisdiction of divorce; what is the situation in Hong Kong?

Joanne Brown

The above is not intended to be relied on as legal advice and specific legal advice should be sought at all times in relation to the above.

If you have enquiries about the validity of your foreign marriage please contact:

Joanne Brown
Partner | Email

Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.

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