My experience as a UK citizen getting married in Morocco

A remnant of the French colonial legacy of terrible administration, crossed with an archaic reluctance to see Moroccan women married to foreigners, the process for a foreign national to marry a moroccan citizen “marriage mixte”  promised to be an unforgettable dash between 3 cities in 7 days in between consulates, foreign ministries, courts and registrars.

I had taken a week off work (Wednesday - Wednesday) and our goal was to obtain a signed marriage certificate by the end of the trip, thereby freeing us to apply for the UK spousal visa. Therefore, we essentially had 4 working days to complete the process.

Before I left

Despite a terrible tendency to leave things to the last minute, I had read up on the process in the preceding weeks and gathered the following documents:

- Employment letter stating my position and salary
- Scan of birth certificate, it turned out later that I needed an original version
- UK certificate of registration (since I was born in Pakistan and am now a UK citizen)
- DBS criminal record check, takes a few working days to arrive £25 (you can also obtain a free ACRO police check for free, but you need to order one 4 weeks in advance which I didn’t have time for)
- Last 3 months’ pay slips
- Credit card bill as a proof of address

I had also made an appointment at the British consulate for the first morning of my trip in Marrakesh, in order to obtain an affidavit that I was free to marry. You can also do this in Rabat but short notice appointments are harder to come by.

Wednesday

I landed in the red city of Marrakesh on Wednesday evening to attend my appointment at the British consulate the following morning. Waiting for me at the airport was my lovely fiancée. We had decided to marry in Morocco, and not in the UK, because of the £2000 fee for the UK “fiancé visa” which would then followed by the £2500 “spousal visa” free. Whilst we accepted that there’d be an efficiency cost in marrying in Morocco, financially it was a no-brainer.

Thursday

We woke early to attend the 9am appointment at the British Consulate, where we needed to obtain a signed affidavit certifying my ability to marry & certified copy of passport. This was surprisingly smooth. Couped away on the 5th floor of a discrete building, the door to the British consulate is manned by a burly security guard who checked our passports (my fiancée needed hers too) and waived us through to see a commissioner. The young man was polite, well spoken and thorough, and within 45 minutes I had my certificate. As we paid the £75 fee at the Consulate, the young commissioner wished us on the way saying: “Good luck to you. Most couples I see here have a big age difference, so I’m happy to see a genuinely young couple.”

With this slightly strange wish and our affidavit in hand, we jumped in the car and sped toward Rabat, 3 hours drive to the north.

Once in the car, we got to work on our next problem, translating my documents from English to Arabic. I really recommend having this done before you arrive, as it can take up to a few days.

My fiancée had found a website, https://www.atajtraduction.asso.ma/, which lists the contact details of all legally recognised translators in Morocco. As we scrolled down the list, calling one by one to find out whether anyone could translate 5 documents by end of the day, we realised that we had left things a little late. We finally stumbled on a Ms Sanaa (contact details) in Casablanca who agreed to do it by 6pm the same day for 1000 MAD (about £80).

We arrived in Rabat and headed to the Ministry of Justice (more accurately, a little building next to the Ministry called “Casier Judiciaire”) to get my Moroccan criminal record. I was handed a ticket and told to come back 2 hours later. We jumped back in the car and made for the family court in the place my fiancée was born, in nearby Salé, to get her criminal record. We then headed back to the Ministry of Justice where, I picked up my clean Moroccan criminal record (to my relief!).

But we weren’t done in Rabat just yet. We then drove to the nearby Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have both my affidavit and certified copy of passport (issued by the Consulate in Marrakesh) stamped. We could finally leave Rabat for Casablanca to pick up our translated documents from Sanaa (which we had earlier sent her by email). We needed to pick them up in person because the translator needed to see the originals before she could send you the translations.

To round off the day, we made a trip to a local newsagent to make 5 photocopies of every document that we’d hoarded so far. We then stopped by a doctor’s office, where we had made an appointment, to get a certificate indicating we were both in good health. An interesting side note: given my arabic name and dark skin, most people we come across speak to me first, before seeing my clueless stare and switching to speak to my fiancé. Beyond that, educated Moroccans speak excellent English (much better than their former French colonisers) and waste no time in showing off their skills once they realise you’re an anglophone. The doctor was no different, chirping away to us in a thick American accent as he wrote out our note, without having actually examined us at all.

I have to say that despite the rushing around, it had all been quite smooth and satisfying thus far, we were feeling good about ourselves ourselves. Tomorrow was to be a different story.

Friday

The day started at a local photography shop where I made 8 passport sized photos. We took these and our now satisfyingly bulging folder of documents over to the Casablanca family court and waited our turn in a short queue. 20 minutes later, a nice lady ushered us inside and started inspecting our documents. The discerning look on her face confirmed my greatest source of anxiety regarding the process. She was suspiciously eying up my scanned birth certificate.

I was born in Pakistan in ’91 and emigrated to the UK in ’92.  I have never seen my original birth certificate, and my parents have no recollection of its whereabouts. A few years ago, my father pulled a few strings to have a replica drawn up and the scan emailed over to me - this was the document i had provided and, clearly, it was not sufficient. The kind lady, who felt sorry to see our plight, sent us into the judge’s room for us to try to negotiate with him. The moustachioed judge recommended that we call the embassy in Pakistan to at least try to get our hands on a sworn affidavit, because otherwise he simply couldn’t send our file to the next authority which had to validate it: the police.

Dispirited, we left the court and called the embassy. Nothing doing. They told us to submit a request to the Pakistan Overseas citizenship department, and that I could expect to have a certificate in 7-10 days. 7-10 days! We simply didn’t have this kind of time. I had already taken a week’s leave and couldn’t afford remain in Morocco beyond next Wednesday. We called the British embassy, predictably, they couldn’t help us either.

Our last roll of the dice was to go and see the judge, explain the unsuccessful actions we had taken, and hope that he would take pity on us.

It was our lucky day. After sitting in his office with our best puppy-dog eyes for 10 minutes, he told us to come back on Monday and he would help us to find a solution. It was the best we could have hoped for and we left the court feeling relieved.

But things were about to get even luckier. We had almost reached the car when a man tapped me on the shoulder and told us to go back. Upon entering the court we saw the stocky figure of the judge who asked: “so, you just left?”. The heroic judge then instructed the clerk to complete our dossiers and, just like that, we were back in the game. Lesson learned during this experience: in the majority of cases, as long as you’re sincere and truthful in your efforts (and your puppy dog eyes are on point), authority figures in Morocco will try to help out.

What ensued was what could best be described as a ping pong of our folder between several floors and departments of the family court and the police station. We’d heard this could be a bit painful, but not in our case. My fiancée was instructed what to do at each step (in arabic, I had given up trying to follow at this point) and we flitted between each office getting various stamps and signatures on our documents.

We were then told to take the folder over to the police department, this was unusual because I had read that the court takes the document to and from the police department and this can take a few days. But hey, I bet we could get it over there faster than they could.

So we drove over to the police, situated in the regal building you can see in the below photo, where a bit more ping pong ensued. Then we were taken to see the man that would carry out the “investigation” as to whether this was a legit marriage. It wasn’t exactly a grilling. After seeing us for 10 minutes and asking a few questions about my background, he stamped our paper and told us to take it to one final office. The man there gave us what seemed like our 1000th stamp of the day and told us the folder was to be sent to the Court of Appeal in Rabat and that we should come back on Tuesday morning to get the final authorisation.

Phew. A hectic day but we were looking in good shape.

Monday

We’d been told to report to the police headquarters on Tuesday morning to see if our dossier had made its way back from central police in Rabat. Given that that wouldn’t leave us any buffer at all (I had my flight to the UK on Wednesday morning) I paid the police officer in question a visit to check on the whereabouts of our folder. He confirmed our folder still hadn’t made it back from Rabat and told me to come back tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10.30am. I took this as a guarantee that the folder would have returned by then, but that turned out to be optimistic.

Tuesday

In the morning, my fiancée and I were buoyant as we walked to the police headquarters knowing that this was our “big day” when we would hopefully be legally married.

We were deflated to learn that our folder still hadn’t made an appearance. But, if we’d learned anything during this process, there was always a way to speed things along given our circumstances.

We explained that I had to leave the country the following morning, and our case was escalated to the Chief of Police. We were ushered into a large office where well-dressed man with striking orangey / hazel eyes sat behind an enormous desk. Once again thinking that she was the foreign one, he turned to my fiancée and asked in perfect English “So, what can I do for you?”. He heard our situation and called in a couple of members of staff. The Chief’s intervention was decisive. I noticed at this point a phenomenon I’d often seen in my native Pakistan: a marked behaviour shift toward us once we had the backing of a powerful person. It was as if we’d been bumped up a social class in the space of minutes. Now the same inspector that had given us short shrift, was at our beck and call. He took my fiancée’s phone number and promised to call her within the next 30 minutes. He did, and he had some good news. The central police in Rabat had called and given us the OK, we could proceed to the family court to obtain the authorisation.

Once at the family court, we bounced customarily between a few different rooms and we had our authorisation within 20 minutes! Such a relief. We now needed to find an Adoul (a registrar) in the city that would marry us at short notice. One adoul told us he was fully booked for the rest of the day, so we went to another close to the Hassan II mosque. The old man told us that our marriage would be more “religiously secure” if my fiancée’s father was present to sign, but he was currently in my fiancée’s town, Kenitra, and would not be able to get to Casablanca until the evening. I had to leave Casablanca at 9am the following morning, so this was our only window of opportunity. In a final stroke of luck, the adoul told us that he could see us at 10.30pm that evening (after the night prayers).

We returned that night with my soon-to-be father in law and my fiancée’s uncle (who proved very useful in holding the camera whilst my parents watched on through FaceTime). In a sort of ceremony that seemed to take at least 1h30, we signed the papers and were officially married. Hooray!

Congratulations and all my best wishes for the couple.

Administration in the French way, the great subject, and whatever it is in France or in an old country subject to their laws, it has always been a nightmare. But rest assured anyway because there are countries where it's even worse.

Dilly228 :

A remnant of the French colonial legacy of terrible administration, crossed with an archaic reluctance to see Moroccan women married to foreigners, the process for a foreign national to marry a moroccan citizen “marriage mixte”  promised to be an unforgettable dash between 3 cities in 7 days in between consulates, foreign ministries, courts and registrars.

I had taken a week off work (Wednesday - Wednesday) and our goal was to obtain a signed marriage certificate by the end of the trip, thereby freeing us to apply for the UK spousal visa. Therefore, we essentially had 4 working days to complete the process.

....

we signed the papers and were officially married. Hooray!

Hi and welcome to the Forum.

Wow; first off, please forgive my editing your post (only for brevity) in this response and my congratulations to both you and your wife on your wedding.

On behalf of us all on Expat.com, thank you for taking the time to write the diary of your journey.  It will no doubt be invaluable to the next person contemplating what you've just achieved and make no bones about it, it was a considerable achievement.

Again, thank you and my regards to all your family.

Cynic
Expat Team

Thank you sir for your detailed experience in the marriage process.

I am from UK and have noticed you completed the process which I have previously read takes no less than a week in 3 working days! Congratulations to you.

Is there any advice you can give to anyone who is about to embark of a similar journey?

Thank you for the post. Very informative and helpful as I am looking to get married soon. My fiancee said once I get the affidavit from the British embassy that I need 20 days to get married due to the amount of paperwork is needed to sign for! I was shocked at the thought so please to read you did This in a week! Congratulations to you

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