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Two Foreign Nationals Marry or Divorce in China

Foreign nationals marry and divorce in China

There are more and more expats work and live in China nowadays. They fall in love or go out of love here. Neither marriage or divorce is easy. It is certain that a foreign national can marry and divorce a Chinese national in a court of law in China. As a China family lawyer, I am frequently asked whether two foreign nationals can marry or divorce in China.

According to a circular, Several Matters Regarding the Implementation of Marriage Registration Act published by the Ministry of Domestic Affairs, two foreign nationals can marry in China. Foreign national must provide following documents:

(1) his/her valid passport or other valid international travel documents, which shall show that man is at least 22 years old and woman 2o years old;

(2) certificate of his/her marriageability issued by the notary public office or competent authority of his/her country and certified by the consulate of the People’s Republic of China in his/her country, or certified by the consulate of his/her country in China, or certificate of his/her marriageability issued by the consulate of his/her country in China;

(3) certificate certifying that the law of the country where the foreign nationals come from recognizes marriage registered overseas;


Thus, it is pretty much clear that two foreign nationals can marry in China, provided the documentation requirements are met. That said, as China does not recognize same sex marriage, the two foreign nationals must be one man and one woman.

Whether two foreign nationals can divorce in China?

  • If the marriage is registered in China, I believe the marriage can also be dissolved in China too.
  • If the marriage is registered overseas, whether two foreign nationals can divorce in China is not that clear. There is no law exactly specifying this. However, case law says in some court of law in some province, an amicable divorce between two foreign nationals can be done.

In my opinion, in order for two foreign nationals to divorce in China, you have to done this through a competent court. A competent court is located at the place where the defendant has been living for the past year before the plaintiff file a divorce. For example, you have your spouse married in the U.S., and now both of you are working and living in Pudong Disctrict, Shanghai, China. You don't want to go back to U.S. to file a divorce petition and both of you decide to do it in China. You can go to Pudong District Court to file a divorce. Please note different court may have different opinion on this. Many courts probably won't accept your case.

Send email to me if you have further questions.

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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.