How to get married in Canada to a foreigner?

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Last Updated on September 10, 2022 by Allard John Keeley

An in-depth, step-by-step article showing you how to fill out the application and answer the most frequently asked questions

Quick answers:

My foreign partner is already in Canada. Can we get married?

Yes, you can get married to your non-Canadian partner here. Each Canadian province has its steps, but it’s relatively straightforward. You can start by visiting your Provincial Vital Statistics website and looking for “marriage services.” Click here to jump to the article related to these steps.

My foreign partner is not in Canada yet, but we would like to get married here.

If your spouse holds a first-world passport (for example, British or American), or they just need an eTA (for example, coming from Mexico), it’s relatively easy as long as you get your eTA.

Just remember, CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) sometimes has issues with visitors coming to Canada to get married.

If your partner needs a visitor visa before getting here, then in most cases, it will not work (with some exceptions), and you will be forced to get married in your partner’s home country. Keep reading this article to learn why your partner is unlikely to get a tourist visa to Canada.

Tip: Learn more about eTA; click here.

Tip: You may ask yourself, should I lie to CBSA about getting married in Canada? The short answer is “no,” but at the same time, keep your answer as short as possible when at the border. Click here to read more about this topic.

Both myself and my partner are foreigners here in Canada. Can we get married here?

Yes, two foreigners get married in Canada. Each Canadian jurisdiction has its process. Click here to jump to the article related to this step…

Tip: Getting married to a Canadian does not give you any rights to live, work, or study in Canada. Click here to read more…

Need more FAQs, click here

In-depth explanation:

One important note to keep in mind:

Is your partner (newcomer) staying in Canada, or are you simply getting married and moving to another country? 

  • If you stay in Canada, you need to read everything here because you will face some work ahead. 
  • If you’re not staying in Canada and just getting married here, you can skip most of this article and go straight to this part: click here

Are you wondering about a foreign national getting married in Canada? Or whether you can get married in Canada on a visitor visa – assuming you are not Canadian?

Maybe you’re wondering whether you can get married to a foreigner in Canada and how to get married to that person, whether they be a foreign national visiting Canada or an immigrant temporarily in the country on a study or work permit.

Relax, the news is mostly good. But you should be aware that there are certain things that marriage to a Canadian does not get you. First, the good news.

Getting married in Canada is relatively easy; generally, it’s none of the IRCC’s (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) business. Neither of you even has to be a resident of Canada, as long as you are both physically present at the wedding ceremony (whether civil or religious).

Tip: Religious ceremonies can be trickier because some denominations require an interview and have their requirements. Plan ahead! For example, here is what the Archdiocese of Toronto states, “Couples should speak to their pastor at least twelve months in advance.

Tip: IRCC refers to the branch of the Canadian government that deals with immigration issues. This will only be an issue (and a big one) if you plan to have your non-native partner stay with you in Canada. Our website is full of great resources covering this topic. Click the link to look for articles about Sponsorship and Marriage.

However, the IRCC can potentially get involved in assessing the validity of your marriage if and when you apply to sponsor your newly married spouse – assuming one of the partners in the marriage is either a citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

So, let us guide you through the marriage process in Canada with just a caution about the IRCC if and when you take the next step and apply to sponsor your newly wedded spouse. Here’s what IRCC says about marriages of convenience:

“It’s a crime for a foreign national to marry a Canadian citizen or permanent resident only to gain entry to Canada.” 

So be aware that the IRCC can be on the lookout for quickie marriages that soon end in a very convenient divorce. Now, having said that, proving intent is very much another matter. And in practice, the Canadian government has been easing up on the restrictions on sponsored spouses in Canada.

In April 2017, they dropped the requirement that a sponsored spouse who had been in a relationship with the sponsoring spouse for less than 2 years and who had no children with that sponsoring spouse was required to live with the spouse for 2 years in Canada or lose their permanent resident status. The good news is that this requirement has been dropped. As the Canadian government stated, there are 2 main reasons for dropping what was called conditional permanent residence:

  • Most marriages are genuine.
  • The government is committed to gender equality and fighting gender violence.

So, don’t worry too much about the IRCC snooping around about the reasons for your getting married. Just go ahead and understand the process and take the necessary steps as we explain below.

Let Immigroup help you with all immigration and document matters. We can help you with your spousal sponsorship application, visitor or student visa & extensions, and authentication and apostille services.

Paid Sponsorship Service from Immigroup

Definitions to help you understand the next part of this article:

What is a Marriage License in Canada: this is what you must get to get married. You obtain it before getting married and generally pay a fee. For example, in BC, only one member of the couple is required to purchase a marriage license at a cost of $100. We’ll get into the steps of this a little further on.

What is a Marriage Certificate in Canada: This is NOT a Record of Solemnization of Marriage. It is an official record of your marriage that you apply for after marriage. For example, in Ontario, you can apply in person, online, or by fax, as we explain further below. While a marriage license is only valid for weddings/civil ceremonies in the same province or territory, your marriage certificate is also valid across Canada and overseas.

Steps you need to take to get married in Canada to a foreigner: 

Remember, the next part is great to look at; it will give you an excellent overview of the process in your area of Canada. We have 3 provincial jurisdictions you can choose from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. Scroll to your preferred location to see an example.

Once you understand the steps, visit the official government websites, and start the process (links below).

British Columbia
Alberta
Ontario
Saskatchewan
Manitoba
Quebec
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
PEI
Newfoundland & Labrador
Nunavut
Northwest Territories
Yukon

Getting Married in BC

  • You must obtain your marriage license before you get married (your marriage certificate is obtained after your marriage ceremony). Your marriage license is valid for 90 days, so your wedding date has to be within 3 months of the date you obtain your license.
  • You apply at BC’s Vital Statistics Agency. Here is the contact information:

Phone: 250-952-2681 (local Victoria, BC number)

1 888 876-1633 (toll-free in BC)

Email: https://www.health.gov.bc.ca/exforms/vs/general-inquiries.html

Mailing Address: Vital Statistics Agency

PO Box 9657 Stn Prov Govt

Victoria B.C.

V8W 9P3

  • Only one member of the couple has to apply in person, as long as they bring primary IDs for both members of the couple, such as the following:
  • Birth Certificate
  • IMM immigration form (visitor/study/work visa for example)
  • Permanent Resident card
  • Citizenship card
  • A passport may be accepted in some circumstances
  • Driver’s licenses may be accepted in some circumstances
  • The fee is CAD$ 100. However, suppose COVID restrictions cause a postponement of your wedding. In that case, you can request a refund directly from Vital Statistics using the contact information directly above (it’s best to phone them first).
  • Go here to look for the nearest Marriage License Issuer in BC.
  1. You must next register your marriage after you have completed the ceremony.
  • First of all, you need 2 witnesses to attend your wedding ceremony.
  • As well, you need an officiant – and who it is will depend on whether your ceremony is civil, which is much quicker, or religious – and the officiant is who officiates your marriage declaring you a legally married couple in accordance with Canadian law.
  • Then after the wedding ceremony, the following people must sign the Registration:
  • The couple getting married
  • The officiant
  • The 2 witnesses
  • Next, the officiant will – within 48 hours of the wedding – submit the signed Registration to the Vital Statistics Agency in BC, at which point your marriage becomes legally registered with the BC government.
  • Finally, the Vital Statistics Agency can issue a Marriage Certificate (see the next step)
  • Remember, if for some reason your Marriage Certificate is lost, and you don’t yet have a replacement, you can ask for a Certified Copy of your Marriage Registration. However, these copies are generally used for courtroom/legal purposes. They do not function as legal personal IDs.

  1. You can apply for a Marriage Certificate in 4 ways:
  • Use Vital Statistic’s online ordering service: https://ecos.vs.gov.bc.ca/
  • Use the mailing address given above.
  • Go to any Service BC counter in person. Go here for more information. You will need to provide the same information that you provide when filling out the Marriage Certificate Application form (see below).
  • Phone Vital Statistics at the numbers given above.
  • Here’s an example of an application for a Marriage Certificate:

  • Vital Statistics will mail your Marriage Certificate to the mailing address you provide when you apply for a marriage license, as shown in the image above. It generally takes around 3 weeks from the date you register for the wedding to arrive.

Getting Married in Alberta

The basic requirements are relatively similar from province to province, as you’ll see as we work our way across the main provinces in Canada.

In Alberta, as in BC, you have to first get a marriage license before getting married and obtaining your marriage certificate.

Step 1. Eligibility

  • As is the case across Canada, there are no restrictions on foreign nationals getting married in Canada. Specifically, there are no residency or citizenship restrictions to getting married in Wild Rose country. (That’s a nickname for Alberta, by the way)
  • The marriage license is valid (as in BC) for 3 months from the day it’s issued. You can also get married as soon as you receive your license – that is, on the very same day.
  • PLEASE NOTE: An Alberta Marriage License is only valid for marriages in Alberta.
  • This may seem painfully obvious, but whatever province/territory you are in, you must receive your marriage license from that and only that provincial/territorial government.
  • Why? Because marriage is considered a health issue and is dealt with by the vital statistics agency or its equivalent in each province/territory in Canada. That means you have to get married in the same province where you obtained your marriage license. Your marriage certificate, however, is valid anywhere in Canada, and generally abroad as well.
  • Moral of the story is? Please don’t show up in Radium Hot Springs, BC, with an Alberta Marriage License. It won’t be accepted, even if Alberta is just across the provincial border. You’ve got an Alberta Marriage License? Get married in Alberta.
  • Unlike BC, both couple members have to apply at the Registry Agent Office. Go here for more information. As well:
  • You will have to swear an affidavit
  • You cannot be under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances (Alberta is not Las Vegas)
  • You cannot be related to each other as grandparents, parents, children, siblings, or Grandchild. PLEASE NOTE: This prohibition for immediate family members is true across Canada.
  • If you are 18 or older, you can get married without conditions.
  • If you are between 16 and 17 years old, you must have your parent’s or guardian’s approval.
  • You must have valid personal identification that:
  • It must be the original document and not a copy
  • Must still be valid (have not expired)
  • Must have been issued by a provincial/territorial government or the federal government of Canada OR by a state, provincial, or national government (for example, California or India)
  • Must contain: your photo; your first and last name; a unique identification number
  • You must be:
  • Divorced (proof of divorce needed), OR
  • Widowed (death certificate needed), OR
  • Never Married (no proof needed – CANADA DOES NOT HAVE A REGISTRAR THAT RECORDS PEOPLE’S MARRIAGE STATUS UNLIKE MANY OTHER COUNTRIES)
  • If your marriage was annulled, your condition will legally revert to whatever condition of the above three applied to you before you got married. For example, if you got divorced in India and later had a marriage annulled in the UK, then your status after the annulment goes through would be divorced.
  • PLEASE NOTE: This condition applies across Canada. You cannot be married to more than one person.

Step 2. What you need to bring

Make sure you have an acceptable ID as explained above – you can contact your registry agent through the link above to ensure your documents are adequate. You should also ensure you have any other required documents – like death certificates, or divorce certificates or court documents proving divorce.

Step 3. Who has to go

Both members of the couple then should go to the registry agent with their ID and supporting documents (if needed) and a Marriage License will be produced while you wait.

  • The document you will be issued is a 2-part document:
  • The top part is your Registration for Marriage
  • The bottom part is your Marriage License – (it’s this part that you give to the person performing your wedding)
  • The cost is CAD$ 40.
  • PLEASE REMEMBER TO REVIEW YOUR DOCUMENT FOR ERRORS RIGHT THERE AT THE REGISTRY AGENT.
  • The registry agent can correct errors if spotted before the wedding ceremony.
  • If spotted after the wedding ceremony, your document (registration and license) will have to be corrected by amendment. This takes time and is a setback you should avoid by carefully checking the Registration/License document as soon as you get it.

Step 4. Take your Marriage License to the Wedding Ceremony (it can be the same day as stated above) and present it to the person performing the wedding ceremony.

Step 5. Apply for your Marriage Certificate

  • Go here and scroll down to the end of the webpage where it says How to Apply.
  • Click on here for requests for application forms from within Alberta.
  • Take your completed form along with your valid ID to the Registry Agent. DO NOT SEND TO VITAL STATISTICS OF ALBERTA
  • Vital Statistics in Alberta usually takes only 3 business days to process your request for a Certificate which is typically mailed to the address you gave in the application form.
  • However, you can also have the certificate sent to your registered agent if they have call box service and as long as you made the arrangement previously with them.
  • Here are the contact phone numbers for Service Alberta:

780-427-7013 (local Edmonton area only)

310-0000-427-7013 (toll-free in Alberta only)

Getting Married in Ontario

As you’ll notice, the basic requirements and steps are fairly similar to those in BC and Alberta. Let’s start with eligibility.

Step 1: Who can get married

  • You must be at least 16 years old, and if you are under 18 years of age (but 16 or 17) then you need your parent’s or guardian’s consent. Consent forms are available where you get your marriage licence.
  • Go here to ensure that your officiant (the person who performs the marriage ceremony) is registered and authorized in Ontario to do weddings.
  • For civil marriages, the following occupations are authorized in Ontario:
  • A municipal clerk
  • A judge
  • An Ontario justice of the peace
  • An Ontario case management master

Step 2: Get your marriage license or Church Banns

  • You either need a marriage license or a church banns to get married in Ontario. Please note that if someone has been previously married, they cannot obtain a church banns and must get a marriage license instead.
  • Your marriage license will have to be signed by both members of the couple, the witnesses, and the person officiating the ceremony.
  • Your marriage license is obtained at your local municipal offices, where you will be getting married. You will need 2 pieces of ID, such as:
  • Government-issued birth certificate
  • Valid passport
  • Record of immigrant landing
  • Canadian Citizenship Card
  • Valid Driver’s license
  • Government-issued photo ID from abroad
  • As in BC and Alberta, your marriage license is valid for 3 months from the date of issue. However, because of COVID restrictions, expiry dates have been extended as follows:
Date issued Valid until
Dec 1, 2019, to July 24, 2020 July 24, 2022
July 25, 2020, to September 30, 2020 3 months from the date issued (not extended)
Oct. 1, 2020 until the end of the second Ontario province-wide emergency declared on Jan 12, 2021 24 months from the end of the second province-wide emergency
  • If either partner has had a name change or a change in marital status since their unused marriage license was issued, AND your unused marriage license has expired, then you can apply for a replacement license.
  • Go to the municipality where you originally purchased your marriage license
  • Bring your unused marriage license if you still have it
  • Bring your required ID and any other supporting documents needed
  • There is NO provincial fee for a replacement marriage license.
  • There may be municipal fees.
  • Unfortunately, because of the province-wide emergency declared in January of 2021 in the city of Toronto, marriage licenses can only be obtained by appointment for the time being. Go here for an online guide to filling out the form.
  • There are 8 steps:

Step 1: Enter the place and date of marriage as well as the language for the license.

Step 2: Enter the applicant’s information (one of the couple)

Step 3: Enter the joint applicant’s information (the other one of the couple)

Step 4: Review the application

Step 5: Submit the application

Step 6: Download and print the completed application form

Step 7: Record the application number – you will need it when getting your marriage certificate.

Step 8: Both members of the couple must sign and date the application

  • As this is an official legal document, we did not fill out the rest of the form, but from the images, you now have a pretty good idea of how to proceed.
  • Go here to book your appointment. You can only book one appointment per couple. Do NOT book multiple appointments in the hope of jumping the queue. Remember to print your Appointment Permit.
  • At your appointment, you will need:
  • Completed application form with original (not scanned) signatures and dates
  • Appointment Permit
  • 2 valid Government-issued pieces of ID
  • Divorce documentation, if applicable
  • If an interpreter is required, you must hire or provide someone to interpret for you.
  • Only 1 of the couple should be at the appointment and take all security precautions like wearing a mask, etc.
  • The municipal office issuing the marriage licenses is in the North York Civic Centre at 5100 Yonge Street. (Don’t get off at the Eglington Station – keep going to North York Centre or Sheppard/Yonge subway stops).
  • The cost of a marriage license is CAD$ 145

Step 3: Order your Marriage Certificate

You can order your marriage certificate online if the marriage is registered in Ontario. You will also need the following to order online:

  • First and last names of both parties to the marriage.
  • Dates of birth of both parties to the marriage.
  • Date of marriage.
  • Name of city, reserve, or town where the marriage took place.

Go here to order your marriage certificate online. This is what you should see after you click through a couple of pages at the website and are ready to begin the process:

Scroll down to the bottom where you see the following and click on the Next> button to begin.

  • Your fees are paid online using the following methods:
  • Visa, Visa Debit
  • Mastercard, Debit Mastercard
  • Interac Online
  • The fees are as follows:
Marriage Certificate service Processing & Delivery Cost
Regular Service – Online 15 business days + delivery by Canada Post (No service guarantees) $15
Premium Service – Online 5 business days, including delivery by courier (No service guarantees) $45
Emergency Service – In person at 47 Sheppard Ave. East, Toronto 5 business days, including delivery by courier (Valid reason for urgency will be required) $45

Here is the list of all other provinces in Canada; just apply the steps we’ve outlined above in the 3 principal English-speaking provinces in Canada. Remember, the steps will be similar, but with some differences, especially in Quebec.

British Columbia
Alberta
Ontario
Saskatchewan
Manitoba
Quebec
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
PEI
Newfoundland & Labrador
Nunavut
Northwest Territories
Yukon

FAQs

Can I stay in Canada if I marry a Canadian?  

Your foreign spouse does NOT gain the right to become a Canadian citizen merely by marrying. Your partner will remain with the same rights they had before marrying you.

You must apply first for permanent residency in Canada, and after some time, they can then apply for citizenship like anyone else – which means you still have to take the required steps. That usually means getting sponsored by your Canadian spouse – a lengthy process in and of itself, as we explain at the link just below – to get permanent resident status.

Tip: Immigroup has a 38-chapter Free Sponsorship Course; look to see what is required of you.

In other words, marrying a Canadian gets you NO special treatment in the process which any foreign national has to undertake to obtain citizenship. It certainly can give you a pathway to permanent residence but as we said above, being sponsored by your spouse is a detailed process, one where success cannot necessarily be guaranteed.

The unavoidable conclusion is that getting married as a quick ticket into Canada is a strategy that will backfire on you. Canada’s immigration authorities – whether IRCC or CBSA – will often sniff that out, and you’ll find yourself with an unsuccessful sponsorship application and maybe even a rejection on a visitor visa, as we explain below.

My partner is not in Canada yet. Can they get here so we can get married here in Canada?

Short answer: it depends.

It depends on the specifics of your wedding, your personal and economic situation in your home country, your home country, and your relationship with your newlywed Canadian wife/husband.

To make this point clear, let’s consider a couple of theoretical, contrasting scenarios:

  • You’re an Irish national with an engineering degree and over five years of experience in the utility sector, and you own a property in Dublin. Your partner is from Calgary and owns a 2-bedroom house. Both of you met in Europe while working, started dating and now that a few years have passed, you want to get married and start a family in Calgary. Both of you think it would be great to have the wedding in Banff, Alberta.
  • You meet your partner in the Philippines while on vacation. You are both in love and want to start your new life in Canada. Your Philippine partner has a high school degree and works at a local call center. She lives at home with other family members. She has never visited a first-world country, does not own any property, and her job is with a small company.

Who do you think has a better chance of getting to Canada? Unfortunately, applying for a visitor visa to get married in Canada is simply not recommended.

Understand that most cases lie somewhere between these two rather extreme scenarios. The devil is indeed in the details. There are several scenarios when considering coming to Canada to get married.

What happens if I marry my partner and they are on a tourist visa?

If you marry your partner as a tourist or, in this case, using any type of visa, nothing will happen. They can keep the current visa status, but at some point, when they need to renew, it can cause problems. It is recommended if you are planning to, say in Canada, that you file a Family Class Sponsorship Application within the first few months after the marriage or before their visa expires.

We are engaged overseas but want to have the marriage in Canada – Is this possible?

This can be a little trickier. If your foreign spouse is from a First-World country or only needs an eTA and has stable ties in their home country and a successful career, then getting to Canada to get married has a pretty good chance of succeeding, especially if they’ve visited Canada previously or have travelled elsewhere and always complied with their visa requirements. It might not seem fair, but First-World travellers will often have an easier time getting that visa to go and get married in Canada.

This doesn’t mean, however, that foreign partners from other countries will always face difficulties getting that visitor’s visa. For example, imagine a successful software developer from India with a consulting company who frequently travels to Europe and North America on business and has substantial economic and personal ties in their home country. They become engaged to a Canadian citizen and decide to get married in Canada. Because of their ties to India and their record as a traveller, they should be able to get that visitor’s visa.

  • An important point is what to say to immigration officials at your POE (Port of Entry – generally the airport in Canada you arrive at). There’s no need to go into a lengthy explanation of your situation. Just a brief answer saying you’re getting married in Canada should suffice. If CBSA officials decide they want more information, they’ll ask you.

Tip: Did you know we have a do-it-yourself visitor visa article? Click the link

Remember, CBSA officials have the final say on whether to let you into Canada, even if you’ve obtained a visitor’s visa before arriving at your Port of Entry. As they say here at the travel.gc.ca website:

Many factors come into play when Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) determines if you are permitted to enter Canada. It is important to note that the final determination is made by a border services officer at the port of entry. They base their decision on the information they presented at entry into Canada.

How long does it take to get permanent residency after marriage in Canada?

A quick and short answer is:

Assuming the application that is filed is 99% perfect.

  • 1-3 months to put the Family Class Spousal Sponsorship Application together and submit it to the government.
  • 6 months before you can file an open workpermint
  • 4-8 months before a decision is given (approved or disapproved)

Note: read here about what to do if the application fails

Congratulations! You’ve jumped through the hoops, got your license, do the wedding ceremony, and ordered and received your marriage certificate for a marriage performed and now legally registered in Canada.

Now …

The issue of where to spend the next years of your lives together will be something you’ve both thoughts of from when it became apparent that your relationship was a serious and lasting one. What should you do next?

A sponsorship application where the Canadian citizen or permanent resident sponsors the foreign national for a permanent resident visa is the next step for most couples.

But spousal sponsorship – as we stated at the beginning – is a detailed and lengthy process. Suppose you get it wrong by rushing it and sending an application full of mistakes which also lack sufficient supporting documents. In that case, you will end up facing a lot of wasted time, worry, expensive legal costs and, in the worst-case scenario, needing to move from Canada to be with your spouse.

So again, congratulations on your marriage. But please, make sure you take the time and effort and get your spousal sponsorship application right.

Immigroup has been dealing with spousal sponsorship applications since 2004; our firm will help you with the entire process from beginning to end, or we can just review it before you file your application. A paid review should be the absolute minimum you should do before filing your application. Check out our sponsorship service landing page by clicking here.

Paid Sponsorship Service from Immigroup

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Allard Keeley has been a published writer on immigration policy since 2013. Has written for publications like The Federalist. Fluent in Spanish and English. BA Honors Economics Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

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