Registering a marriage between an Indian and a foreign national in India

My husband and I met at a Yoga Teacher Training program in an ashram in India. We fell in love and decided to get married. Getting married was the easy part. Registering this marriage was one uphill task. And the fates were out to make it very difficult. My husband is Norwegian and since it is difficult for me to get a visa to go to Norway, we decided that we would register the marriage in India. We were met with resistance at almost every turn.

I am posting this article for those of you, who, like me, wanted a legal recognition of the marriage and you were marrying a person who is not of the same religion or country.

Disclaimer: This post should only serve as a reference and should in no way be construed as the only way to go about registering a marriage. Our situations and yours may be completely different, so please use your discretion.

Steps:

Step 1: if you are Indian, find a foreigner to be your partner.

Step 2: date for a while, so that neither side is shocked by culture clashes.

Step 3: propose marriage and set a date for the wedding.

Step 4: go through with wedding. In our case it was Arya Samaj who conducted the wedding. Arya Samaj can only issue certificates if both bride and groom are Hindu.

Step 5: wonder how the registration of a marriage takes place.

Step 6: look at options – register marriage in India or in your partner’s country. Option 2 is not feasible. They won’t give you a visa to go there, especially if you are an unmarried woman (since marriage is not registered) with no ties to your own country.

Step 7: begin the process of registering the marriage in India. Remember that bureaucracy is what it is. There is no reprieve. You just have to be disappointed and want to tear your hair out and yell and scream at the officials.

Step 8: find lawyers. They turn out to be useless.

Step 9: DIY. And this is where the fun begins.

The following is in brief what we did to get our marriage registered in India.

The inability to Register

We went to everyone from Sub-registrars of different regions in Bangalore, even met with the Deputy Commissioner right up to the Assistant Commissioner of Police – to ask for help for our particular, peculiar situation. However, they seemed to be equally clueless about what to do.

We asked different lawyers what their opinions were. Some of them had no idea how to go about it. That didn’t stop them from charging us for their services. Some others promised to speak to other colleagues and call us back. We never heard from them again. Other lawyers were a bit more helpful, tried speaking to the registrar a few times to convince them that this was a registration of a marriage that had already taken place, but they were adamant that we would need a local address proof for the foreigner.

What it came down to was this:

Since I am Indian and my husband is, well, not Indian, we would have to register under the Special Marriages Act. To apply for the marriage certificate under said Act, we would have to obtain a certificate of local address proof for the foreigner. What we understood this to mean was we had to get Registration Certificate stating that ‘this foreigner is currently residing at XYZ address, in Bangalore’ from FRRO. But since my husband was on a tourist visa, the FRRO could not provide this address proof. We went to the Commissioner of Police to ask if they could. They almost scoffed at us. (They DID tell us that I, as an Indian citizen was quite able to get a local address proof as well as a Police verification certificate. I told them that I would think about it.)

Special or Not to Special?

So, we decided that we would, instead of registering under the Special marriages Act, for which we have to provide all these certificates and what-nots, register under the Hindu Marriage Act. Hindu marriages can easily be registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, with a letter from the wedding hall or priest stating that the wedding was conducted on “date” at “time” and was attended by many guests. Much simpler, right?

WRONG!

Although Arya Samaj had conducted our wedding ceremony, they would only issue a certificate once the husband became Hindu. Religious conversion being a very sensitive issue, we had to present notarised affidavits[1] to state that we were doing this of our own free will and were not under coercion. One affidavit from my husband stated that he was converting of his own volition without any compulsions. Another affidavit from both of us expressed our desire to marry and continue to ‘live in the Hindu faith’. So the husband was cleansed and converted in a ritual and then we had another wedding ceremony. Not simple at all, and definitely not without drama. However, we were granted a certificate of marriage from Arya Samaj.

Off we went with affidavits and certificates, back to the registrar.

You Shall not PAAASSSS!!!

Register our marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, please, we said.  They threw the papers back in our faces and asked us to get out! After waiting for many hours and anticipating that this would be all over and done with, and inviting other witnesses to come forth and sign for us; but once again thwarted!

We could not, apparently, register under the Hindu Marriages Act, because, there is in fact, no legal conversion system available. In other words, there is no legal “conversion” to the Hindu religion. While this might be a good thing for society as a whole, it was the continuation of a frustrating nightmare. Back to the drawing board.

Entry Visa to the Rescue

Now we had a marriage certificate from Arya Samaj, for what it was worth. My husband had to go back to Norway, because his tourist visa to India was expiring. (All of these back and forth trips took almost 4 months!) While he was there, he went and spoke with the agency that processes visas to India. They told him that in order to be able to get a local proof of address in India, he needed to get an entry visa – which was a single entry visa, valid for 6 months. He was able to get this visa based on the fact that he was coming to visit his ‘spouse’ in India, based on the certificate from Arya Samaj. (So twisted.)

Entry visa in hand, we trotted off to the FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Office) at the Shanti Nagar Bus Stand to register him as a foreigner. (All foreigners are required to do this if they are living in India on long-term visas. This is a way to ensure that they can be located easily if needed.)

Mission Accomplished

We were thus provided with a registration certificate – with a local address filled in. All of this was done based on the Arya Samaj marriage certificate – which the FRRO told us was the first time they were issuing a Registration Certificate using a marriage certificate that was not provided by the Registrar’s office. We explained the situation to them, and having heard the case, they were willing to provide us the RC. (As an aside, another couple who were going through this same hair-pulling registration of marriage procedure were told that based on our case, they were able to get their Registration Certificate as well).

We submitted this certificate, along with all the other required documents to the registrar, to register us under the Special Marriages Act. We had to wait at least 30 days from when husband entered the country to submit the papers to the Registrar. Then, there was the usual 30 day waiting period from the date of submission.

Just to make things more difficult, we also had another catch. Husband had to leave the country during the 30-day waiting period. We checked with the registrar to ask if this was ok. Yes, it is*. So we went back in 60 days from when we submitted the papers. We were presented with our marriage certificate. All is well. And it made me want to write this post out to help other prospective brides and grooms.

We wish you all the best!

P.S. We paid no bribe, took sweets to “celebrate” our marriage and went many, many, many times to the registrar’s office. Be prepared to spend a lot of time there.
P.P.S. Entry Visa: Can be extended. Ask questions at the FRRO. Ask many, many questions. It can be extended for up to 5 years. It can only be stamped from the country of origin.
P.P.P.S. Conversion: The Hindu “religion” does not accept conversions, by law. No matter how Hindu you are in your heart, if you are not born a Hindu, you can never register as a Hindu.
* It seemed that it was ok for us. It is obviously better to stay in India and finish this whole process. Also, in our case since we did not know that the Entry visa could be extended or could be converted into multiple entry. But these are questions that should be asked.
[1] These had to be notarized so that, in this case, Arya Samaj would not be implicated in any negative way – implying forced conversions and whatnot. However, as we found out later, conversions cannot be made to the Hindu faith.
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