Guest post by Ryan Higgins
‘Anhui Province’. Image credit: @thewamphyri.
No, I’m not going to share courtship advice. This article assumes you’re ready to take the next step with your Anhuinese partner (the dress, the rings, the whole bit). I hope sharing my experience helps simplify yours.
On leap year day of the Year of the Dragon (otherwise known as 29 February 2012), my Chinese wife and I (Canadian) were legally married in Hefei. If I am to start with the very basics, I should point out that Hefei is the provincial capital of Anhui, which means all major legal issues related to people of Anhui hukou run through it. This, of course, includes marriage between Anhui locals and foreigners.
￼But before I get to the actual moment when my wife and I put pen to paper and were legally united, I need to backtrack several months.
It was early 2012 and my wife and I were living in Shanghai. With our wedding party only months away, getting our marital licence drawn up was a priority. But we knew little about the hurdles we would have to jump over to do this. And to make things worse, it seemed every website advised a different strategy.
It was thus a stroke of luck that I chanced up the book ‘Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China’ while browsing texts in the foreign bookstore on Fuzhou road. In succinct language, this small book clearly summarizes everything hopeful couples need to arrange when applying for their licence. It even states what departments these documents need to be submitted to.
The first thing the book suggests is for the foreign body to contact their consulate and obtain a Single Status Statement proving they are not already married, and this is exactly what I did. I paid around 400 yuan at the Canadian Consulate to have a draft of this document created, which is a process that takes a couple of days.
But simply having this document is not enough. You need to get it translated into Chinese by a company legally capable of processing foreign documents for official use (not all companies have the authority to do this). I went with Talking China Translation Services in Shanghai, had them translate everything (which takes a day or two) and stamp the translation with their company’s seal (this is a necessary step). I believe the cost for the translation was around 50 yuan and the cost for the stamp was maybe 15 yuan.
Following this, my wife and I got photocopies of my passport, her face card and my Registration Form of Temporary Residence (that document foreigners get after registering themselves at their local police station). We had passport sized photos taken and a special marriage photo of the two of us shot on red background, which is something you can get done at any Kodak store. With these documents in hand, we were ready to set off for Hefei.
Image credit: @pondspider.
We booked a hotel and trained to Hefei in the north of Anhui. The two offices you will need to visit are in the northeast of Hefei, so booking a hotel there can save a trek across the city.
After dropping our bags, we taxied to the Civil Affairs Bureau (232 Shouchun Road, Luyang, 0551-2657961 民政局), which looks so informal it may make you think you are in the wrong place. This department was basically an empty room where a man in jeans and a ski jacket took our photos, passport and face card copies, translated and original Single Status Statement and Registration Form of Temporary Residence, processed them and returned little red marriage licence books to us (books plural, both bride and groom receive a separate one). This step took us about 30 minutes and didn’t cost very much.
￼We were then directed to a separate department a few blocks down (far enough that we needed a taxi) to receive English versions of our marriage licences for international use. These documents are white A4 sized booklets.
To get these translated marriage licences, however, you’ll need to pay some ‘laowai tax’. As my wife and I sat waiting for these documents to be drawn up (which involves the submission of more passport copies and photos), the guys behind the counter debated with each other over how much to charge. 600 yuan was deemed a worthy amount.
How you play this one is entirely up to you. For my wife and I, we shelled out the cash without argument. It’s an obvious sham, but the last thing you want is for some disgruntled guy to make an ‘error’ in your marriage licence because he wasn’t happy with the tribute you presented him.
So we grabbed these documents, bounced out the door and celebrated the evening Anhui style: with lots of food and baijiu. We were married!
Although circumstances and prices may vary, our experience took about 2 weeks and cost us a little over 1000 yuan.
Ryan Higgins is a writer and web developer, he lives in Qatar with his wife. He founded Anhui Expat, a chat and networking site for foreigners in Anhui. He and his wife blog about their travels at Qatar Expat.