I've met some really amazing people, on and offline through my blog, and Mallory and Henrique are some of my favorites. Mallory, an American, recently married Henrique, a Paulista, in Brazil, and she was kind enough to put together a guest post on what it takes for a foreigner to marry in Brazil, inspired by my K-1 visa series. She also wrote a very sweet post about her wedding day on her blog, which you can read here. Hopefully, her guide will be helpful to foreigners looking to marry their Brazilian partners in Brazil, be it to settle in Brazil or before moving to other countries on spouse visas. The process is a bit tricky and requires quite a bit of paperwork, so it's useful to get an overview before you jump in.
Without further ado, here is a guide to getting in married in Brazil.
Guide to Foreign Marriage in Brazil
Rachel began her K-1 visa how-to guide with the opening line, “So you fell in love with a Brazilian”, which uncannily happens to be our step one here for Mallory's Guide to the Obsessive Compulsive Process that is Marriage in Brazil as well. However, unlike in the U.S. where you immigrate first and then marry, in Brazil you marry first and then immigrate. Sounds so much easier than the humiliatingly long and expensive process with the USCIS, does it not? To be honest, I was expecting it to be snap. My thoughts were: marriage has often historically been abused to gain a green card in the U.S., but what are the statistics of an American buying a residency in Brazil through a scam marriage? What a breeze, I thought, all I have to do is say I do. Wrong. Don't let the Brazilian stereotype fool you; there is nothing simple nor laid-back about Brazilian bureaucracy. It is apparent that the words unnecessary and detail were born in this country. Did I cry? Only once. But the consular officer (known as the Michigan Man) at the Sao Paulo Consulate put it best at my final visit—All this to get married? He better be worth it. A great reminder that it really is all worth it, because a life in Brazil with my best friend is more than worth it. So take a breath, and go.
Read the full post after the jump.
While in your Home Country
Before making that final move, that is, the one where you pack up your (essential) belongings, you must send your birth certificate to the Brazilian Consulate General that has jurisdiction over your region/country of residence. The certificate has to be stamped by a Brazilian consular officer before it can be translated into Portuguese. You only need to send the original birth certificate, a USPS cashier's check of $USD20 and a prepaid return envelop to the consulate. I suggest sending a typed document stating what you need (certification of the certificate in order to be valid in Brazil for the purpose of marriage) as well as your name, phone number, address and email. The turn around is surprisingly quick, about one to two weeks for processing, but try not to wait until the eve of your flight to get it done.
Your Parents' Names
Though “your parents' names” does not sound like a document, rest assured that it is. From the moment you get your birth certificate certified at the consulate, the remaining marriage process hinges solely on that information. Everything much match what is on that certificate perfectly, including your parents' names. As fortune has it, every American state has it's own method of issuing certificates of birth; in the state of Washington, for example, my parents' names were listed as John C. Smith and Sally D. Jefferson. Little did the Washington State Department of health know that those at a Brazilian registry office do not accept initials as names. If they had, they would have been sure to put John Colton Smith and Sally Dee Smith on my certificate instead. So if either your mother's maiden name or the middle initials of your parents are present on the certificate, you will need to acquire a “name” document at the American Consulate in your region of Brazil stating what the names on the birth certificate stand for. Cash in another $USD30 and remember that this type of document requires an appointment, so make sure to schedule it online or you won't get past the guard at the gate.
When my husband and I were first doing research on the marriage process, he pointed out that I needed a certificate of being single. A what? I asked, such a document doesn't exist in the U.S., I insisted. It must, he replied. Wrong! The U.S. is apparently one of the few countries that does not require single certificates before marriage, hence the possibility of an overnight Elvis-ministered Vegas wedding. So don't try looking for an issuing agency in the U.S., this has to be done in Brazil at the U.S. consulate. So if you're going in for a name verification affidavit, schedule your single certificate at the same time. Such as two hours after your plane lands. What do you have to do and how do you prove that you are single? You don't. You simply say, i am single, sign the document, pay $USD30 and get on with your merry way. MAKE sure that the single certificate matches the names completely to the ones on your birth certificate or name verification certificate. If there is a single discrepancy in the names, such as a missing middle name somewhere, you will have to schedule to reissue the document and get your tail back to the consulate. This can be quite troublesome, especially if the consulate is open only during weekdays until 3:00 and if your fiance happens to work until 6:00 and owns a Wednesday-banned license plate number. But remember, if he's worth it, then you're worth it all to him. Single certificate: $USD30.
So there's this one job in Brazil that seems too good to be true; sworn public translating. There are only ever a certain number at a time, and once you win the position, you have it for life. Supreme Court for all the Henry Higgins' out there. The only document that needs a public translator is your birth certificate. Here's that bloody certificate again. You can research regional public translators on the internet or access a complete listing by city and language through the U.S. (or other country) consulate. Schedule a meeting, deliver the certificate, and pay $R30. If you luck out and live in the Sao Paulo countryside and a city-based translator happens to be visiting her nearby cottage during the week of inquiry, don't hesitate to swing by and have a coffee-table translation certification afternoon tea. Save the name of your translator because if on the day of your wedding the judge finds you inept at the Portuguese language, you will need her assistance.
Never finished with the birth. When your translation is complete, you must submit both the original and translated birth certificate to a city licensing office. Both documents are kept for about a week to be stamped yet again. Good news, however; this is the final resting point of the birth certificate. At the same time, you will need to have official copies (made and stamped by an authorized authority) of your passport information page and of your Brazilian visa, whether tourist, work, student etc.. Inform the copier that they must be in color and include the signature page and the page of Brazil exit and entry stamps as well. Luckily, the copies cost around $R8.
Cartorio X 4
At this point, you have all of your required documents, and all you need to do is submit them at the cartorio civil registry office. Have no idea what that means? Your fiance(e) will. First, visit the office to gather the forms needed to apply, they will give you a list (everything listed above) of documents that need be submitted along with the form. Your application will be processed and you will be given a date and time to come back in and sign a few forms, pay $R266 and present two character witnesses. The witnesses must be people who know you well, but are not parents, and can verify that there is no legal reason why you two cannot be wed. At this visit, you must make known to the officer that you have at least a basic understanding of Portuguese, if you don't, they will require you to hire a public translator for the actual day of marriage. Once everything is signed, the documents are sent to yet another official office in the city. The registry office will notify you when your documents are approved, and you will be asked to return to sign one more round of papers. At this round you will be given a form on which to list two godfathers (yes, men, not women) as the witnesses for the marriage. You will need to attach a certified copy of their identification to the form, so either plan ahead or return another day with the completed form. Once it is returned, you are cleared to marry on the date that you select.
The Big Day
Whether you are having a ceremonial wedding or not, it is necessary (for all Brazilians) to be legally married inside of the registry office as well. You'll be given a time, such as 10:35 in the morning (these are scheduled in 5 minute increments, though expect a 15 minute delay) to spend your 5 minutes with the judge. Both the bride and groom are allowed 8 people present,* or in some cases the groom is allowed 16 people present, and they will likely dress up in their finest with cameras in hand. And if, as a bride, you want to wear a white dress, pretty gold heels and carry a pink and white rose bouquet, you are perfectly in your right to do so.
And Now Immigration Begins
Now that you are married, it's time to start immigration. How soon? The day after you get back from the beach. Marriage is not a visa, though it can be the path to one. The application is quick as long as you have all the documents, however, processing and surprise interviews take from six months to a year. So, i'll get back to you on that one. Until then, I have a temporary number stamped in my passport and thus I am legal, and, I'm married!
*Scheduling, persons allowed at signing and general procedures may vary depending on the particular registry office you are getting married at.
* Birth certificate
o certified by a Brazilian consulate
o translated by a sworn public translator
o stamped by the city
* Certificate of Single Status
* Name clarification affidavit (if necessary)
o certified copies of information and visa pages
* Marriage application
* Certified copies of the identification of two godfathers