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The Bottom Line

How To Marry In Russia
John Bonar

So, the holiday festivities are over and at their height you decided to pop the question and ask the love of your life to marry you. Or, perhaps, you accepted his offer. Anyway, congratulations. You are headed towards married bliss.

Now, if you want to get married in Russia, you have no choice. You have to beat a path to the appropriate Zapis Aktov Grazhdanskogo Sostoyaniya (ZAGS) office, or Palace of Marriages. Lets be clear about this: it doesnt matter what nationalities are involved. To get married in Russia, you need ZAGS. If you are a European marrying another European, or two Americans planning to wed, or any combination of nationalities, all paths lead to ZAGS. The days of consular weddings are virtually over, and for UK citizens, for example, there are only a few countries left, mostly in the Middle East, where the Consul can marry you.

Before you go to the ZAGS office however a bit of preparation and prior collection of documents is required. Depending on your nationality, this may be an easy walk in the park, or it can be a fraught international paper shuffle. First step: call your consulate.

The Brits and Americans seem to make such a habit of marrying here that their embassies are fed up answering individual questions, and put it all on their web sites to save time ( and All others else are apparently such a rarity (OK, special) that their consulate is prepared to offer individual advice. However, in general they are going to follow the same procedures as the two big Anglo- Saxon embassies.

The easy going Americans lay out five east steps for their citizens to get married here - starting with getting your visa registered. The next step is to draft a letter in Russian of your marital status and then get it notarised by a US Embassy Consular official. This is valid for 90 days from the date of notarisation.

The Brits add a wrinkle or two. A simple self declaration of marital status is not going to suffice here. If you are British, then you need to obtain a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) as proof that you are eligible to marry under British law.

A CNI can be issued either in the UK by a district superintendent registrar or by a British Embassy Consular official. A CNI can be issued by your district registrar in the UK. A notice of marriage will have to be displayed for 21 clear days before the registrar will issue a CNI. Contact your local registry office for more details. Once issued, the CNI should be legalised at the Legalisation Office of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the Old Admiralty Building, in Londons Whitehall.

If you have been married before, then your divorce certificate (Decree Absolute) or the death certificate of a former spouse should also be legalised by the Legalisation Office in the UK.

The CNI (and Decree Absolute, or death certificate if applicable) should then be translated into Russian and the translation notarised by the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in London or a Russian Notary Public. The Consular Section of the British Embassy in Moscow can also translate these documents.

A CNI issued in the UK is considered to be valid by the Russian officials for three months from the date of issue.

You can get a CNI from the British Consulate in Moscow, provided you have been resident in the Moscow consular district for at least 21 days clear before completing a Notice of Marriage which is then displayed on the Consular Sections notice board for a further 21 days.

A CNI Issued in Moscow is also valid for three months. To issue the CNI here, the Brits require your passport (containing your Russian visa); evidence of the termination of a previous marriage for both partners i.e. divorce decree absolute or death certificate (if applicable) of former spouse; and your fiances internal passport The CNI (and Decree Absolute), or death certificate if applicable) and passport should then be translated into Russian and the translation notarised by the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in London or a Russian Notary Public. The Consular Section of the British Embassy in Moscow can also translate these documents. The Translation Bureau in Moscow at Bobrov Pereulok is also experienced in preparing such translations.

With your British CNI or other document attesting your current marital status in hand, you must now visit the Legalisation Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in person, at 12, 1st Neopalimovski Pereulok between Smolenskaya and Park Kultury metro stations. These guys enjoy a two and a half hour lunch, so phone to make sure when they are operating.

The process will cost about 100 rubles and takes five days.

That all done, you are now ready to visit ZAGS.

The ZAGS office where you can get married must be in the district of your fiances permanent residence. If thats Moscow, there is only one ZAGS that can marry foreigners, at 17 Butyrsky Ulitsa. ZAGS officials are going to check your documents, which is why all these translations are needed, and then they will set an appointment for your marriage. ZAGS normally schedules civil service weddings 32 days from the date of registration. Thats a cooling off period, which we all hope you wont take advantage of.

Visa Regime Tightening

Without fuss, fanfare or attracting the attention of AmCham, the Russian authorities have been quietly tightening their approach to issuing visas to foreigners who are frequent visitors to Russia. Most vulnerable appear to be those who continue to flout the need for work permits and those who have not acquired official residency.

Passport Magazine has been alerted by a number of lawyers and accountants representing small- and medium- sized enterprises and individual entrepreneurs that visa applications are now being refused for foreigners, including westerners, who have two strikes against them in terms of recorded infringements of civil or criminal codes, or two administrative violations in the last three years.

Chetwynd Bowling, partner of Alinga Consulting Group, told us In theory two parking tickets are enough. One of Alingas clients was almost barred for not registering his visa on time twice in the last three years.

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