French in the USA: Having your Marriage Recognized in France
Reminder: I arrived in the US on a K1 visa to be able to get married in Texas. Procedures might be different according to the state where you are getting married. I do not aim at providing professional advice here and I only want to recount our own experience with this procedure.
This post is also available in: Français (French)
Before the wedding
Certificate of authorization to marry and publishing of the banns
A few days before leaving France for Texas (even if I hadn’t booked my flight yet), I found out about the procedure we were supposed to follow before getting married to have the marriage recognised in France too. The usual process stated that we were supposed to send a form and a couple of documents (birth certificates, copies of our IDs and proof of accommodation) to the nearest French consulate in the US at least two months before the wedding in order to receive a certificate of authorization to marry and publish the banns.
Simon and I had decided already that we would get married at the courthouse as soon as possible after my arrival in Texas and that we would take our time to organise the ceremony we wanted with our family and friends later. Mental calculation has never been my thing, but it was clear that we would have a time issue. We had 90 days to get married with my visa and that extra step required 2 months, knowing that my French birth certificate would be sent to us within 3 weeks.
After over 3 months away from each other, delaying my arrival didn’t seem like an option at all. I immediately emailed the consulate explaining the situation (as if my flight was booked) although I wasn’t really expecting an answer anytime soon, if at all. I was lucky to receive an email less than 3 hours later (I was wowed!). I was informed that it was too late for us to ask for the authorization from the French government, although it is usually compulsory. The email also explained that a lot of people skip this step when getting married in the US and that the French government is still required to recognize the marriage. What a relief.
The marriage license
The day after my arrival in the country with my precious visa, we headed to the local county clerk office to get our marriage license. We didn’t have to wait and the process was very easy. We only had to fill in a quick questionnaire on a computer with personal information and pay the $72 (in cash) before leaving with our license in hand.
We were given a list of judges we could call to marry us at the county clerk office but we decided to go with a judge a friend recommended. We were able to fix an appointment at the courthouse 2 weeks later (we had to wait at least 72h after getting the marriage license). Again, it went smoothly and quickly. After paying the $50 fee (in cash), we met the judge who read a text from a binder and we were married! It didn’t take more than 5 minutes but we still had our moment. They kept our marriage license and told us we would receive it at home one week later.
After the wedding
We did receive our marriage license back one week after we got married and we went back to the local county clerk (same place that issued our license) to obtain certified copies. We got three copies, for $7 each: one for the marriage transcription, one for my AOS (Adjustment Of Status) to get my green card and an extra one, just in case.
At this point, you are ready to file the proper transcription. Instructions (only in French) are to be found on the website of the French consulate in Los Angeles for Western states (like me in Texas) and Washington if you live in an Eastern state. We needed to gather the following documents:
– Transcription form
– Certified copy of our marriage certificate
– French citizen’s birth certificate
– Copy of US citizen’s birth certificate
– Copy of French citizen’s id
– Copy of US citizen’s id
– A 6”x9” USPS prepaid ($5 worth) envelop with our address (to receive our family record in French ).
I received my family book (livret de famille) about 5 weeks later. The consulate actually also sent us our copy of our marriage certificate back.
Previous step: Our experience with the K1 visa
Next step: The AOS (Adjustment Of Status)/green card, work authorization and travel authorization