If you are an American planning to marry in Japan, the process is straightforward. With some planning, most people can complete all the things needed to get married in less than one day.
Servicemen and women may have additional steps to take to marry in Japan; contact your unit personnel officer or chain of command. Your partner may also have additional steps to take depending on his/her nationality; contact the appropriate foreign embassy.
Marriage in Japan
If you wish to marry in Japan, you must do so according to Japanese law. Marriage in Japan consists of registering marriage at a Japanese municipal government office.
Only this registration constitutes a legal marriage in Japan. Ceremonies performed by religious or fraternal bodies in Japan, are not legal marriages. Consular officers cannot perform marriages.
Who Can Get Married in Japan?
Article 731 to 737 of the Japanese Civil Code stipulates the following requirements:
- The male partner must be 18 years of age or older and the female partner must be 16 years of age or older.
- A person who is under 20 years of age cannot get married in Japan without a parent’s approval.
- A woman cannot get married within six months of the dissolution of her previous marriage. According to Japanese law, this is to avoid confusion as to the identification of a child’s father if a birth occurs close in time to the end of the marriage.
- Most people related by blood, by adoption or through other marriages cannot get married in Japan.
In addition, for Americans, you must be able to legally marry in your home state; if the legal age of marriage at home is 18, you cannot marry earlier than that in Japan.
For detailed information, please contact a Japanese municipal government office.
For the American Partner …
Japanese law requires all foreigners who marry in Japan to first prepare a sworn Affidavit of Competency to Marry, affirming they are legally free to marry, from their own country’s embassy or consulate in Japan.
- This is a notarial service. You will need to make an appointment.
- Do not use erasable pens to fill out the Affidavit.
- You do not need to bring your non-U.S. citizen fiance/fiancee.
- You can download the blank affidavit form here (PDF 158KB). You should use this form if you are planning to marry someone who is not a U.S. citizen. The form has two pages, one to be completed in English and the other to be used to translate the English page into Japanese. The consular officer will notarize only the English language document.
- If your partner is also an American, s/he must also complete a sworn Affidavit of Competency to Marry at the Embassy or consulate. Use this form (PDF 77 KB) in the case of two Americans marrying one another. The form has two pages, one to be completed in English and the other to be used to translate the English page into Japanese. The consular officer will notarize only the English language document.
- These forms are required by Japanese law and are not a requirement of the U.S. Government. No registration of your legal marriage abroad is required by the U.S. Government, and your foreign (i.e. Japanese) partner need not come to our offices.
- You will need to bring your U.S. passport and the $50 notarial fee.
- Once this is signed and sealed at the Embassy or one of our Consulates, this Affidavit is valid for three months.
Member of the Armed Forces should contact their on-base legal office and/or chain of command for proper procedures.
You will need to fill out a Kon-in Todoke (request of registration of marriage) with 2 signatures from witnesses of any nationality who are over 20 years old. Our staff cannot help you to prepare the documents or be witnesses.
The Japanese Government and/or the local municipal office may also have other requirements for your partner. Please check with the appropriate municipal office.
If your partner is neither Japanese nor American, s/he should also contact his/her Embassy for the marriage procedures needed in their own country.
This is the part of this whole procedure that actually makes you and your partner married.
Once all the paperwork above is completed, proceed to the appropriate Japanese municipal government office to submit your Kon-in Todoke. Be sure to confirm local marriage procedures and rules directly with municipal government officials. (For example, depending on the jurisdiction, you may be required to submit a certified copy of your birth certificate and its Japanese translation.)
Once the marriage procedures are completed, you may ask the municipal government office to issue a Japanese-language “Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage” (Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho). This is your only proof of marriage. The U.S. Embassy/Consulate does not maintain any record of your marriage in Japan, and under Japanese law we cannot later retrieve marriage records for you from a municipal government office.
There are two versions of the “Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage.” Both versions are legal proof of your marriage. The large fancy version costs around 1,400 yen. The regular A4 size version costs around 350 yen.
You should write down the name and address of the municipal government office that registered your marriage as you’ll need to contact them directly in the future to obtain a record of your marriage.
Getting a “Marriage Certificate issued by the U.S. government”
The U.S. Government does not issue marriage certificates for marriages performed overseas. Your Japanese marriage document will be the only proof of your marriage. If anyone (i.e. Japanese Immigration) asks for your “marriage certificate issued by your own government,” there will be none.
Translating Your Proof of Marriage
While proof of your marriage is shown by the Japanese-language marriage document you get at the ward or city office, sometimes a notarized translation of the Japanese marriage document can be handy for use in the U.S.
If you would like to have the translation notarized, you can use our fill-in-the-blanks translation templates:
- For the large fancy marriage document, use this form (PDF 13 KB) for the translation.
- For the smaller A4-size marriage document, use this form (PDF 16 KB) for the translation.
This is a notary service. Please see our notary page for more information.
Please note that we will be attaching the translation to the original marriage document at the time of notary. Also, whoever translated the document needs to come in for the notary.
Remember, this is not a marriage certificate issued by the U.S. government.
Validity of Marriages Abroad
In general, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States. You do not have to report your marriage to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. For more information please read the Department of State website.
Going to the U.S?
If you wish to visit or live in the U.S. with your spouse please see our website for U.S. visas.
Please also see our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Marriage in the U.S.
If you wish to marry in the U.S., there are two major things you’ll need to learn more about:
- Marriage requirements in the state where you’ll get married and
- How to get the proper visa for your fiance/fiancee before s/he enters the U.S. for the wedding.
Each of our 50 states, and sometimes individual counties within each state, have different requirements for marriage. Some require you and your fiance/fiancee to reside in the state, others have a waiting period between the issuance of a marriage license and when you can actually marry. Age requirements also vary.
You may need a copy of your birth certificate or other vital record to marry. Here’s how to obtain vital records in the U.S.
You can look up your local authorities.
Your Japanese fiance/fiancee may have requirements that will have to be met for the Japanese government in order to marry in the U.S. While the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo does not have this information, the Japanese Embassy and Consulates in the U.S. should be able to help. Start online with the Japanese Embassy, or use the Yellow Pages to locate a Japanese Consulate in a major city near your home.
Visas enable foreigners to enter the U.S. Different visas are issued by an American Embassy or Consulate overseas for different purposes of travel. So, tourist visas go to would-be tourists, student visas go to hopeful students and fiance/fiancee visas go to, well, you guessed it, fiance/fiancees.
All U.S. visas are identified by letters and numbers. You’ll need to help your fiance/fiancee apply for a K-1 visa. This visa allows your fiance or fiancee to travel to the United States, marry you, and then adjust status there to become a legal permanent resident (LPR) in the U.S.
When Should We Apply?
A K-1 visa must be used within six months of its issue date and is good for only one entry into the U.S. Once your intended spouse enters the United States, the wedding must take place within three months. If you decide not to marry, then your fiance/fiancee must depart the United States within that three-month period.
If you and your fiance/fiancee are in the U.S., and have already married, you should contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) office nearest your home to discuss an adjustment of status for your new wife.
How Does the K-1 Process Work in Tokyo?
Follow this link to learn about the K-1 Process in Tokyo
What Happens After We Get to the U.S.?
After your marriage in the U.S., you must file an I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with the INS office having jurisdiction over your place of residence. Please contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) office serving your place of residence to get started. You can download any form beginning with the letter “I”, as in I-485.
If, after the I-485 has been filed, your spouse needs to depart the U.S. prior to adjustment, advance parole must be obtained (see Form I-131). Failure to obtain this prior to departing the U.S. will result in the abandonment of the application for adjustment. If your spouse departs the U.S. without approved advance parole, s/he will not be able to return to the U.S. until the U.S. citizen spouse files a new I-130 petition, and you go through the immigration process again.
But I was told that K-1 visas are hard to get, and my fiance/fiancee should go into the U.S. with only a tourist visa…
Unfortunately there are people who, usually for a tidy sum of money, will offer inaccurate or bad advice
For example, some travel agents will advise you that a tourist visa is the way for your new spouse to enter the U.S. to begin your new life there. Such advice can, at best, waste time and distract you from the necessary paperwork. At worst, it can lead to fraudulent statements that can see your new spouse found ineligible for any visa to travel to the U.S. It is always the type of travel– a short visit or a new life living and working in America– that governs what visa is appropriate.
K-1 and immigrant visas do require more time and preparation than a simple tourist visa, but, in the end, allow you and your spouse to begin your new life in the U.S. without the worry and hardships that fraud can place on your relationship. If you begin early, and follow the instructions carefully, your new spouse can begin life in the U.S. with the proper visa. Let us help you get your new life off to the right start!
You Cannot Get Married or Divorced at the Embassy
There remain persistent untruths among Americans in Japan that you can get married and divorced at the Embassy or one of our Consulates; you can’t and never have been able to do so. Many people also believe that they have or must register their marriage or divorce with the Embassy or one of our Consulates. The U.S. does not have a federal marriage or divorce registry and the Embassy does not maintain any records of marriages or divorces involving American citizens.
Did I Get Married at the Embassy?
The only place you can get legally married in Japan is at a ward or city office. We get requests frequently from persons who recall “being married” at the Embassy or Consulate in the past. While they may have done some paperwork here, it was not a marriage ceremony.
The Japanese government requires Americans who wish to marry in Japan to obtain a Certificate of Competency to Marry from the Embassy or one of our Consulates; this is not a U.S. requirement and signing one at our office does not make you married. The Certificate only enables you to get married in Japan at a city or ward office. The Embassy and our Consulates do not maintain any record of the issuance of these Certificates.
Obtaining Copies of Marriage Certificates
Many couples seek a notarized translation of their Japanese marriage certificate. This translation can be a handy English language document for use in the U.S. It is not a formal marriage certificate issued by the U.S., and is not required by us.
The Embassy and our Consulates do not maintain any record of these translations or any other record of your marriage (or divorce) in Japan. The only official record of your marriage is the one issued to you by the Japanese ward or city office at the time of your marriage, and copies can only be obtained from that issuing office. The Embassy or one of Consulates cannot obtain such documents on your behalf. You will need to contact the issuing office directly.
If both partners are non-Japanese, these records are maintained at the city or ward office for 50 years.
If one of the partners is a Japanese citizen, marriage documents will only be kept at the city or ward office for one month or one year. They are kept one month if the Japanese partner registers his/her marriage at his/her office of permanent domicile, and one year for other cases. After that, marriage records are forwarded to the nearest Legal Affairs Bureau, where they are kept for 27 years.
If your partner is a Japanese citizen, then the facts of a marriage or divorce in Japan are also recorded on their family registry, the koseki. This record is kept in the ward or city office where the Japanese Citizen is permanently domiciled, and can only be obtained directly from that office. The Embassy or one of Consulates cannot obtain such documents on your behalf. You will need to contact the issuing office directly.
Follow this link for contact information for ward offices in Tokyo.
Because the U.S. does not have a federal, central or nationwide marriage or divorce registry as in some European countries, if you were married or divorced in the U.S. you will need to contact the state in which the marriage or divorce took place directly. The Embassy and our Consulates do not have access to marriage and divorce information.
Registering Your Marriage with the Embassy or Consulate
While we are happy about your marriage and know that sometimes divorces are necessary, there is no need or requirement to inform us of either event. No U.S. state requires you to register either event with the Embassy or one of Consulates. Your legal marriage in Japan is automatically valid in the U.S.