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Cross-border marriages [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for cross-border marriages.


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Falling in love is never predictable, and when a couple decides to marry, nationality is usually the last thing on their minds. A growing proportion of EU marriages are between persons of different nationalities, however cross-border marriages do come with additional formalities and legal complexities.

Laws on marriage are decided by individual EU countries. EU powers are limited to facilitating free movement of persons and developing judicial cooperation on cross-border issues.

If you are planning to marry a citizen of another EU country, you will be happy to learn that administrative formalities will soon be easier. Until recently, EU administrations demanded translation and legalisation of foreign documents, but this procedure was simplified in 2016 with an EU law. As of 16 February 2019, couples won’t need to pay for legalisation of their translated documents, and a multilingual standard form will be introduced for documents like birth or marriage certificates.

Wedding rings, bouqet and hands holding

© glogoski / Fotolia

International EU couples may discover, however, that choosing a matrimonial property regime is subject to complicated rules. Recognising the problem, 18 EU countries cooperated to adopt a law in 2016 that sets out the rules applicable to matrimonial property regimes in cross-border situations.

Finally, EU rules come to the help of married couples when they move in together. Freedom of movement is one of the EU’s basic foundations. All EU citizens can move to another EU country to live, work and study. A spouse who wants to join their partner, but does not plan to work or study is entitled to residence as a dependant.

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