Monday, January 24, 2011

Registering a marriage

Did you know that even if you get married you might still be single??
Hum... A.'s not free, but he is among the best ;)

Let me explain: A. and I had our legal marriage in the US in May 2010. But we are still single in both India and Brazil. Neither of these countries recognizes our US marriage. Both of these countries have VERY bureaucratic processes to get married and also to recognize foreign marriages. That's why we got married in the US in the first place.

But now A. wants to apply for a Brazilian permanent visa (which would allow him to work there) and the easiest way is to apply as a spouse of a Brazilian national. So the first step is to register our marriage in Brazil, which can be done in any consulate abroad... if only it was this easy...

When applying for A.'s residence permit here the Norwegian police, registry and immigration office had no problems in directly accepting our US certificate as being authentic and valid proof that we are married. Hoping for a similar procedure I took the certificate plus a bunch of other documents to the Brazilian embassy in hopes of being able to register the marriage. They replied that they did not know what an American marriage certificate looked like and I needed to have the certificate notarized by the American embassy in Oslo.

So I off I went to schedule an appointment at the American embassy. No one answered the phone for a week, so I decided to show up at the embassy myself. To anyone versed in American embassies, this action did not carry many hopes for an immediate answer,  as expected no walk-ins allowed... But I did get another phone number, called and scheduled the appointment. At the embassy I was told that they do not notarize any documents and that I would have to send it to the US to notarize (why did they offer the service on their webpage is still a mistery). I still decide to give it a try at the Brazilian embassy saying that the US embassy does not notarize documents from the US but got a pleasant answer that the document then has to be notarized by the Brazilian consulate in Atlanta. How can Brazilians be pleasant while being soooooo annoying is still beyond me.

Then comes the chapter in which we try to figure out if we can get a Norwegian marriage certificate since this would be readily accepted by the Brazilian embassy in Oslo. Well, problem is that we are already married in Norway! Since they accepted our US marriage certificate we cannot get married again, end of story.

So now we are trying to figure out if we can legalize the US certificate at the Brazilian consulate in Atlanta by mail... Which seems possible, except that they want the original document to be notarized by a notary in the county where the document was issued and then "go to the county clerk’s office of the county where the document was notarized and request a certificate stating/proving the notary is, in fact, registered." (directly pasted from the consulate's website).
Ahhhhhhhhhrgh! How much bureaucracy can you have???

Summarizing I think the main issue is that in developed countries documents are rarely forged and therefore accepted at face value unless proven false. In the other hand in developing countries (or, at least, Brazil) documents always need to be proven to be authentic before being accepted. The "originality proof" creates a whole sector of the economy in these countries that depends on these bureaucratic rules to survive and therefore create an inertia for change and a big headache for people that live in complicated cross-cultural situations like us.

I've told A. it might be simpler to just keep on being single in our home countries :P


  1. Yeah same here, I'm legally married in India, have my PIO card, but in Switzerland I'm still single.
    We could register the whole thing 40k rupees and zillion affidavits and police verification forms later, but for what? DH and I don't plan on going to live in Switzerland, DH and my daughter can't be dual citizens anyway, Switzerland won't allow me keeping my maiden name as it is if I register the marriage meaning I have to change name, explain the Indian authorities why, get my PIO card, my PAN card, my bank account name changed too whcih I don't even want to start thinking about :)

  2. I'm always amazed by the situations you two face - with your Brazilian, Indian, American, Norwegian and French ties - and more amazed by how you overcome them! Kudos to you!

    ~ Krishanu

  3. Hi Cyn,
    Switzerland has some weird rules regarding citizenship and women's rights in a marriage. Why should anyone but yourself decide on your name?

    Thanks Krishanu!!