The UAE goes by the Sharia Law, and according to this law, marriage is the only legal bond for a man and woman to establish a relationship and have children. Due to the economic boom in UAE, and particularly Dubai, several professionals from across the world have begun to settle down in Dubai, and raise a family, given, all top class facilities, including education and entertainment options that it offers.
In Islam, marriage is a legal contract between a man and woman, aimed at safeguarding the rights of the couple and their children. The marriage contract needs to be registered in a Sharia court in the UAE, which ensures that the marriage meets legal requirements.
Expatriates do get married to Emiratis, and it is allowed in Dubai. However, the rules and procedures vary depending on nationality and/or religion. Usually, a man and woman belonging to the same religion are allowed to marry without difficulty. However, people belonging to different religions may face some problems organizing a wedding. For instance, when a Muslim man and Christian woman wish to get married, a Christian man will have to convert into Islam before marrying a Muslim woman.
For non-Muslims, marriage laws that are applicable in their home countries will be applicable. The spouses are required to possess a valid Dubai residence visa. In case one of the spouses is on a visit visa, he/she should undergo a medical examination in Dubai prior to marriage.
In the case of a court marriage, Dubai Courts is offering online services for marriage applicants, wherein registration formalities can be completed on the online portal http://www.dubaicourts.gov.ae under eZawaj.
Currently, a new complex, namely, Dubai Personal Status Courts Complex, is coming up in Al Garhoud area, which will deal with all family issues, including marriages, reconciliation session, divorcees and settlements. The court will be ready in 2013, and the complex will include 15 court chambers, visitation centre and a wedding chapel.
However, getting married in Dubai may not be one of the easiest things to do, even if you live here, as if you aren’t a Dubai resident, and still want to exchange vows here you should be ready to undergo lot of paperwork. Mentioned below are some legalities involved for getting married in Dubai.
Legal requirements for getting married in Dubai (for expatriates)
Although, residency requirements are not a must for getting married in Dubai, it takes a minimum of four weeks to sort out the paper works involved. The legally permissible age for marriage is 18 years for both men and women. The bride and groom should not be related. Two witnesses are required, and they will have to produce their Ids. However, such legalities vary depending on nationality. Therefore, it is best to check with your respective embassy in Dubai, prior to planning your marriage.
To obtain a marriage license (for expatriates)
UAE is a Muslim nation, and, if you are a non-Muslim, you may have to plan your marriage in a church, or at your respective embassy. You may have to bring along certain papers such as complete birth certificates, your ten year passports and photocopies, passports and photocopies of witnesses, UAE Medical Fitness Certificate and blood test undertaken at Health Ministry, the final divorce papers and former marriage certificates (in case of divorcees), or death certificate of your previous spouse (in case of a widow/widower).
If you are married in English, you will be given a marriage certificate in English. However, this requires translation into Arabic, by an official translator, to gain validity in the UAE. On receiving both English and Arabic versions of your marriage certificate, you will have to take it for certification by Notary Public at the Dubai Courts.
This certification needs further authentication by Ministry of Justice (MoJ). This MoJ authentication will have to be further authenticated by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Then, you need to visit your embassy, to obtain the MoFA authentication authenticated for using it in your own country.
Further, if both of you are of different nationalities, you will need to go to both embassies.
Islamic Marriages (in case of non-UAE nationals)
In cases where marriages are being conducted as per Islamic law, a valid UAE residence visa is a must for both bride and groom (in case of non-UAE nationals).
The bride's father or guardian or his attorney, will have to accompany the couple to the Marriage Section of Dubai Court, along with the following documents, as applicable:
- Two male Muslim witnesses.
- Passports and copies and identification papers for the guardian and witnesses.
- Proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse, if applicable.
In cases where the bride is a Muslim, while her father is non-Muslim, the bride will have to produce a no-objection letter from her embassy in Arabic, attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On paying the requisite fee, along with producing the said documents, a UAE marriage license will be granted. However, to authenticate it for validity in your home country, you will have to take it to the Ministry of Justice, and then to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then to your respective embassy or consulate for authentication.
Islamic Marriages (in case of UAE nationals)
The Shariaáh Law demands that the wedding should be performed in the Marriage Section of Islamic Courts. Both bride and groom should be UAE nationals or should hold a valid UAE residence visa.
Sharia'ah Law emphasizes that the groom should be a Muslim, though bride can be of any religion. In case of any dowry agreements, it should be specified and paid directly to the bride beforehand. Else, a written declaration, confirming about no dowry requirement should be produced. All emirates in the UAE, mandates that the bride’s father be present at the time of wedding, including two additional male Muslim witnesses.
The following documents need to be produced for receiving the UAE Marriage License.
- Original passport plus photocopies of the couples, apart from identification papers for the bride's father or guardian and witnesses.
- In cases where the bride’s father is deceased, a Shariaáh Declaration of his death and consent of the bride’s brother or an uncle from the father’s side is required. In cases where there are no male relatives to offer consent, a documentation proving this will have to be produced. In cases where bride’s father cannot be present at the time of ceremony, a letter of consent is required, along with certified copy of his passport, for signature verification.
- In cases where the bride is a Muslim, and her father or guardian is a non-Muslim, a no objection certificate from the bride’s embassy or consulate is required.
- In cases where the bride is divorced or widowed, proof is required.
On completion of the ceremony, a UAE Marriage License is granted. This document will have to be taken to the Ministry of Justice for authentication.
Christian Weddings in Dubai
This varies depending on nationality. However, the general procedure of Christian weddings in Dubai is as follows:
Visit your respective embassy to know about the procedure. You will have to carry passports and sign affidavits to say you are not already married and that there is no hindrance in getting married or something similar. You may also need to bring along witnesses. Check if it is possible to get married at your embassy, else, you will have to go to a church.
If you belong to different nationalities, you will need to contact your respective embassies to find out what the correct procedure is. For instance, US citizens may require a pastor to get married (can be organized by contacting one of the churches), while Indian citizens apparently get married at their embassy in Abu Dhabi.
If the marriage takes place in an English speaking church, the marriage certificate will be in English. This will have to be translated into Arabic by a court approved translator, for the marriage to be valid in the UAE.
Thereafter, you will have to submit both documents to the Notary Public Office at Dubai Courts for certification. This may require UAE Residence Visas to be able to do this.
Then visit the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to get the certification authenticated. The next step would be to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to get the MoJ authentication authenticated. Then you need to get back to your embassy to get the MoFA authentication authenticated.
It is said that more details about the procedures are being explained by priests at St. Mary’s Church in Bur Dubai, during their talk from 8am to 12pm and 4pm to 6pm, except on Fridays and Sundays.
Mixed Religion Weddings in Dubai
In cases where the bridegroom is a Muslim and bride is a non-Muslim, contact the Marriage Section of the Dubai Court. Check for the procedure of Islamic marriages.
But, in cases wherein bride is Muslim and bridegroom is non-Muslim, marriage can be performed in Dubai, provided, the bridegroom converts into a Muslim.
For religions other than Islam or Christianity, contact respective embassies to find out about the best procedure. Christian churches permit only marriages where both bride and bridegroom are Christians.
Contact details of offices in Dubai that help with marriages:
- Al-Diwan (Legal Translation Division), Office 209, Modern Pharmacy Building, Nassar Square, Al Maktoum Street, Deira. Tel +971-4-2232189.
- Arabian Translation Center, PO Box 6549, Sharjah. Tel +971-6-5615552.
- British Embassy, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3094444.
- Christ Church (Anglican), Jebel Ali. Tel +971-4-8845436.
- Consulate General of India, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3971222 or +971-4-3971333.
- Dana Translation, PO Box 7992, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3935702.
- Diamond Legal Translation, Office 07, Block C, Golden Fork Restaurant Building, Rigga Road, Dubai. Tel +971-4-2273133.
- Dubai Courts Marriage Section. Tel +971-4-3347777.
- Eman Translation Services, Modern Pharmacy Building, Office 104, Nasser Square, Al Maktoum Street, Deira. Tel +971-4-2247066.
- Embassy Of India, Abu Dhabi. Tel +971-2-4492700.
- Emirates Baptist Church International (Southern Baptist). Tel +971-4-3491596.
- Holy Trinity Church, Oud Metha Road, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3370247.
- Ministry of Justice, near Garhood Bridge. Tel +971-4-2825999.
- St Mary's Church (Catholic), Oud Metha Road, Dubai. Tel +971-4-3370087.
- St Francis of Assisi Church (Catholic), Jebel Ali. Tel +971-4-8845251.
Please note: This information is for guidance purposes only and liable to change without notice. Please check with respective embassy of the country in which you intend to marry regarding latest details and marriage laws applicable.