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How to Obtain a Marriage License

Getting married soon? Here are some helpful tips on how to obtain your marriage license


Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! With this exciting life event comes some logistical planning, like where and how to obtain a marriage license.

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Marriage License Basics

A marriage license is a legal document that allows two people to get married. It is issued by an official government agency and typically requires both spouses to apply in person, provide identification and other required information, and pay a fee. The license is valid for a certain period and must be signed by both spouses and the officiant or witness after the marriage ceremony.

Here are some basics about marriage licenses that every couple should know:

  • A marriage license is a legal document that allows two people to get married.
  • Marriage licenses are issued by the government, usually at the county or local level in the U.S.
  • Requirements for obtaining a marriage license vary by country, state, and local jurisdiction.
  • Common requirements for obtaining a marriage license include proof of age, identification, and proof of residency.
  • Marriage licenses typically have a specific validity period after issuance.
  • Both spouses are usually required to apply for the license in person.
  • There is usually a fee for obtaining a marriage license.
  • Marriage licenses must be signed by both parties and the officiant to be considered valid.
  • After the wedding ceremony has occurred, the signed marriage license is typically returned to the issuing office to be recorded.

The process for obtaining a marriage license can vary depending on the country or U.S. state where you plan to get married. Below, we’ll go over the general process and requirements for obtaining a marriage license in the U.S.


Getting a Marriage License in the United States

In the U.S., the process of getting a marriage license varies slightly depending on the state and local jurisdiction. Here is a general guide on getting a marriage license in the U.S.:

  1. Check the legal requirements: The first step in obtaining a marriage license is to check the legal requirements in the state where you plan to get married. Requirements can vary by state, but generally, you must be at least 18 years old and not already married. Some states may require a waiting period after obtaining the license before you can legally get married.
  2. Gather necessary documents: Once you know the requirements, gather the necessary documents, which typically include government-issued photo identification (such as a driver’s license or passport), proof of residency, and possibly a birth certificate. Some states may also require additional documentation, such as proof of divorce or death of a previous spouse.
  3. Apply for the license: To apply for the marriage license, you will need to go to the local county clerk’s office or other designated office in the jurisdiction where you plan to get married. You will need to fill out an application and provide the necessary documents. Some states may require both parties to be present, while others may allow only one party to apply in person.
  4. Pay the fee: There is typically a fee for obtaining a marriage license, which can vary depending on the jurisdiction.
  5. Receive the license: Once your application is approved and the fee is paid, you will be issued a marriage license. The license is typically valid for a certain period, usually between 30 and 90 days, and must be used within that time frame.
  6. Get married: After you receive your marriage license, you can legally get married. You will need to have the license signed by the officiant and witnesses at the wedding ceremony, and then return the signed license to the county clerk’s office or other designated office within the required time frame to have the marriage officially recorded.

It’s important to note that requirements and procedures can vary by state and local jurisdiction, so it’s always a good idea to check with the local county clerk’s office or other designated office for specific requirements and procedures.


Marriage Licenses and U.S. Immigration

If you and your spouse are interested in applying for a marriage-based green card, you may be wondering about the role your marriage license plays in your application and U.S. immigration journey in general.

One of the most crucial aspects of the marriage-based green card process is proving to the U.S. government that you are legally married at the time of applying. This is typically done by providing a photocopy of your marriage certificate which shows the names of both spouses, as well as the place and date of the marriage. It’s important to note that a marriage license (as discussed in this guide) and a marriage certificate are two different documents that serve different purposes.

As mentioned above, a marriage license is an official document that allows two people to legally get married. A marriage certificate, on the other hand, is a legal document that proves that a marriage has actually taken place and the couple are now legally married. It’s typically issued by the government agency responsible for registering marriages, such as the county clerk’s office, and contains information about the couple, the date and location of the wedding, and the signature of the marriage officiant or witness. A marriage certificate is usually required for various legal purposes, such as changing one’s name, obtaining a passport, or in this case, applying for immigration benefits.

In summary, a marriage license is a document that allows two people to get married, while a marriage certificate is a document that proves that a marriage has taken place. Once your marriage has taken place, you can read up on how to obtain a certified copy of your official marriage certificate for immigration purposes in Boundless’ guide.

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