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Weddings in Ireland

Rolling green hills...wave-carved, rugged seashores...ancient, historic monuments...Sounds romantic, doesn't it? Sounds like just the place to get married, doesn't it? Pack a bag, honey, let's go. Hey, we can even stay in a quaint old castle for our honeymoon!

Sorry. It's not that easy. The key restriction for non-residents is time. The 1995 Family Law Act mandates that couples notify the Registrar in the district in which they wish to be married of their intent to marry. The Registrar must have that written notice in hand 3 months(!) before the wedding. That letter may come from overseas so that's not a problem.

The essential thing is that there can't be any spur of the moment weddings. Heck, there can't even be any spur of the month weddings.

Not that you should let that stop you from getting married here. It really is a beautiful, romantic place. But getting married in Ireland requires a certain amount of planning - especially if you want to rent that quaint old castle - some of them have waiting lists as long as your arm.

A neighbour planning a wedding in early 2007 for the summer of 2008 went down to our local hotel to book a room. Almost ludicrously, she was putting down a deposit 18 months in advance. Sorry - the weekend she wanted was already taken! As were most other slots for a full two years in advance.

What's happened is a reflection of modern Ireland. Couples live together for years before the big day and when it dawns, they pull out all the stops. And, thanks to the Celtic Tiger and two incomes, they've got the money to indulge themselves. Plan ahead.

irishweddingsonline.com boasts that they are the "Busiest Irish Weddings Website". And irishweddingweb.com labels itself as the one-stop wedding planning resource for Ireland. Both are basically huge advertisement sites, but they do include an awful lot of businesses in the Irish wedding business.

Marriage Laws

The General Register Office has a detailed description of Irish laws relating to marriage. To summarize

  • You have to be 18 or else get a court's permission to marry
  • You must give three months notice to the proper Registrar (links to registrars are on the page as well as a pre-printed page). If you can't give three months notice, then you have to hire a solicitor and convince a local court to forgo the 3 month requirement.
  • Civil marriages require residence in the local Registrar's district for at least 7 days prior to marriage. There are little complications, so be sure to read the details.
  • Marriages by religious ceremony have to satisfy the unique requirements of the religious denomination presiding over the ceremony. Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Society of Friends, Jewish and Muslim ceremonies all require different authorizations.
  • Remarriages have special requirements of their own.
  • Marriages outside Ireland also have unique legal requirements. Irish citizens wishing to be married in the very popular location of Rome should contact the Italian Embassy. "Certificates of Freedom to Marry" are frequently required by foreign jurisdictions.
  • Useful address (Registrars, etc.) are given

Marriage in Ireland to a non-EU Citizen

If your non-national spouse entered Ireland on a visitor's visa or authorization, you may be worried about their status after your marriage in Ireland. Don't be - unless the new spouse is from a visa-required nation. In that case, see below.

There is no problem if you celebrate your nuptials before the visa expires. If the wedding ceremony will take place later than the non-national's visa allows, he or she will have to report to the Dublin Garda National Immigration Office or the local Garda station. This visit must take place prior to the date stamped on the passport or visa. For an extension, the non-national will have to present pre-nuptial papers.

In other words, the wedding will have to be scheduled and official documents to that effect have to be presented in order to get an extension. Once married, both non-national and the Irish spouse need to go back to the Garda Station/Immigration Office. Both partners will need to present passports and the marriage licence. If you do this in Dublin, the non-national will walk out of the office with a residency permit. If you do it outside of Dublin, it will take a few days for the permit to arrive. Once the permit has arrived, the non-national is free to work without any need for a work permit.

Non-EU Spouses and Immigration Controls

I've answered hundreds (thousands?) of questions over the years, but still new ones come in that no one asked before. Here's an example. I was asked about the procedure for a non-EU national married to an Irish spouse when entering the country for a permanent move. Danged if this obvious question had ever occurred to me before someone asked about it.

I called the Alien Registration Office. Here's their answer. If, upon passing through Passport Control, the non-Irish spouse is asked the reason for their visit, the complete truth is the best response. The non-EU spouse should tell the Immigration official about the marriage to an Irish citizen. If asked, he or she should explain that the two of you are planning to move to Ireland.

Make sure you have an official stamped, certified copy of your marriage certificate with you!

If you're coming via plane from outside the EU, you'll probably pass through passport control together at the overseas airport and there shouldn't be any hassles.

Since a spouse has a legal right to reside here with an EU citizen, there should be no problem in just passing through passport control in the simplest way possible - assuming the non-national is not from a country requiring a visa to simply visit Ireland. If he or she does require a visa, you'd best contact your local Irish embassy for a visa - explaining the situation and providing the documentation.

Visa Required Nationals Marrying an Irish Citizen

One harassed "Visa Required" national came to Ireland on a standard travel visa in order to marry her Irish spouse. That's when the trouble began: "On proceeding to the local Garda station to apply for said residency permit, I was told to apply to Dublin. Hence began the start of a merry-go-round of sorts where I have been given wrong information regarding the departments concerned with my case or have been pushed around from one department to the other!!!"

I ended up tracking down an official who sounded like he knew what he was doing. He told me that the situation can be a bit "messy" for "Visa Required" (C visa) nationals who get married here in Ireland to Irish citizens. It turns out it's much easier if you enter the state after getting married outside the EU. Then your entrance visa is stamped as "Spouse of an EU citizen" and all goes smoothly.

This advice does not apply to Americans and the many other nationalities who travel to Ireland for 90 days on a standard travel visa. In fact, getting married in Ireland is a growth industry of importance to the hotel and catering industry. The other thing is that, whatever the paperwork hassle, in the end anyone married to an Irish citizen has the right to reside here. Eventually, the paperwork snarls will be cleared up - but better not to put yourself in such a situation in the first place. Traipsing back and forth between government offices is NOT fun.

For more on visas, click here.

One Person's Experience - Paperwork Counts

"Entering the country was not a problem for my husband or daughter, as he had an Irish passport and they both had foreign birth records. My citizenship papers hadn't come by the time we moved, and the immigration official saw fit to give me a hard time. We had to wait until every single person on 2 planes AFTER ours had cleared customs in Shannon before she would talk to me. Then, when she finally had time for me, she told me I would have to show proof of health insurance and 1 year's worth of bank statements when I registered with the Garda. I explained that I had spoken with both the Irish Embassy in Boston and the State Department in Dublin, and had been assured that all I needed was my passport & marriage license if I entered the country along with my husband."

"And in fact, when I did register at the Garda station, all the detective needed to see was my passport, marriage license, and my husband's passport - but not my actual husband. So I guess immigration officers can make up whatever they want at the airports, just to give you a hard time at 5:30 a.m." (Sa.)

CJ relates her experience: "I came in two years ago. I brought the original marriage cert with me and they didn't even look at it. No problem at all. Went into the garda station to register (bring 2 passport type photos with you), no problems and then got my resident ID (like a green card type thing) in the post a few weeks later."

Spouses and Citizenship

Under Irish law, the spouse of an Irish citizen may obtain Irish citizenship by making a declaration of acceptance of Irish citizenship The declaration may be made not earlier than three years after the marriage to the Irish spouse. In cases where the Irish spouse obtained Irish citizenship after the marriage by birth or descent, a further three years of marriage from the date of the granting of citizenship must elapse before the application may be made.

As a result of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 2001, it is no longer possible, after 30 November 2005, to become an Irish citizen by lodging a post-nuptial declaration at an Irish Embassy or Consulate. Instead, it is necessary to apply to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in Ireland for a certificate of naturalisation based on marriage to an Irish citizen and subject to a number of conditions, including residency in Ireland.

Please note that residency part! For a spouse to become an Irish citizen it is now be necessary to reside in Ireland for three out of the last five years. One of those three years has to be the year just before the application is filed.

Here is the relevant paragraph of the The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act as amended in 2005:

Naturalisation of spouses of Irish citizens.
15A.31(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 15, the Minister may, in his or her absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation to the non-national spouse of an Irish citizen if satisfied that the applicant
(a) is of full age,
(b) is of good character,
(c) is married to that citizen for a period of not less than 3 years,
(d) is in a marriage recognised under the laws of the State as subsisting,
(e) and that citizen are living together as husband and wife and that citizen submits to the Minister an affidavit in the prescribed form to that effect,
(f) had immediately before the date of the application a period of one years continuous residence in the island of Ireland,
(g) had, during the 4 years immediately preceding that period, a total residence in the island of Ireland amounting to 2 years,
(h) intends in good faith to continue to reside in the island of Ireland after naturalisation, and
(i) has made, either before a judge of the District Court in open court or in such manner as the Minister, for special reasons, allows, a declaration in the prescribed manner, of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State.

The Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service website has a section on citizenship and also the full text of the The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act in their legislation section.

Maria's Advice on Reckonable Residence:

If you are married to an Irish citizen & want to apply for naturalization on the basis of that marriage you must satisfy a 'reckonable residence' requirement:

You must have been living in Ireland for a full year immediately before you applied AND within the 4 years previous to that, have lived in Ireland a total of 2 years (anytime within those 4 years) So, 1 year of continous + the 2 years = 3 years reckonable residence.

Say you arrived in Ireland 2002 and stayed 1 year (2002-2003) then went home for 2 years (2003-2004) and came back to Ireland for another year (2004-2005). That adds up to a total of 2.

Similiar to the option of applying for citizenship through naturalization on your own, without an Irish spouse BUT the residence rule of 2 of previous 4 years rises to 5 of previous 8 years.

My situation:

I arrived in Ireland and stayed 1 year (2000). I went home & came back to Ireland and have been here ever since (2002-2006) = 4 years. So, from the previous 8 years (1998-2006), I would have lived in Ireland for 5 years.

It can be a bit confusing when you read it on Irish government websites, but if you sit down with paper & pen and work out your time year by year it's easier.

EU Citizens Marrying Non-EU Citizens In Ireland - A Big Warning

Ireland has instituted its own interpretation of the EU Directive (2004/38/EC) which says that non-EU family members of EU citizens should be automatically permitted to live and work in the EU.

 

The Irish government, probably trying to stamp out ‘marriages of convenience’, has issued notices that it intends to deport the non-EU spouses of non-Irish EU citizens. Ireland insists the non-EU spouses must live in another member state before residing here.

 

Deportation n otices have been issued only against couples who married in Ireland. Those marrying overseas will already have gone through much of the paperwork rigamarole and for now are not receiving the notices.

 

A spokesman for the Department of Justice stated that those non-EU spouses who were in Ireland legally at the time of their wedding should “contact their local immigration office with a view to regularising their status in the State by renewing their original permission to remain.”

 

Those who where here illegally when they married, however, “are unlawfully present here”. These spouses can appeal to the Minister to stay on humanitarian grounds.

 

The European Commission is investigating the Irish government’s interpretation of the EU directive.

If you fall afoul of this rule you can contact the Migrant Rights Centre - http://www.mrci.ie - for advice. But, being realistic, for now you should think about spending 6 months in the EU spouse’s homeland.

Wedding Gifts and the Tax Man

Those guys at the Revenue Commissioners wouldn't want to spoil your big day. So, if you hold your wedding outside the EU, you don't have to pay customs duty or VAT on Trousseaux and Household effects and wedding presents given to you.

To quote the man: “'Household effects' means personal effects, household linen, furnishings and items of equipment intended for the personal use of the persons concerned or for meeting their household needs." Sorry, that appears to mean that new yacht you purchased as a "wedding present" doesn't fit the bill.

There are various time frames and legalities to be observed and papers to file. For more information, download the explanatory leaflet from the Revenue Commissioners site.


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