I just received a lovely and quite helpful update of rules — about being an American living in England — from the US State department. The email covers all subjects and plenty of helpful advice like:
“Visitors uncomfortable with, or intimidated by, the prospect of driving on the left-hand side of the road may wish to avail themselves of extensive bus, rail and air transport networks that are comparatively inexpensive.”
I agree completely, especially the parts about “extensive” and “inexpensive”. One line in the section on “Entry and visa requirements” caught my eye and caused me a great deal of puzzlement:
“Foreign visitors who wish to marry in the UK must obtain a visa as a fiancée or marriage visitor prior to entering, or obtain a UK Home Office certificate of approval.”
Hmmm. I knew about the wedding visa requirement from my British friend who had an arranged marriage in London to an American groom, but the other statement was more puzzling. A certificate of approval? Sounds intriguing and being a research maven, I had to find out more. It appears that this part of the rule would apply to me (as a work permit visa-holder) and after some digging I finally found this explanation:
“The Home Office certificate of approval represents the written permission from the Secretary of State to marry in the United Kingdom. The need for this written permission was introduced in the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004.”
Now as a divorcee, I’ve never been 100% sure how I felt about the idea of re-marriage, and being a busy career girl it’s not really been an issue I’ve spent much time pondering in the last few years. But it’s amazing how being told you have to jump through hoops to do something — something you weren’t even sure you wanted to do in the first place — can still make you mighty indignant.
Let’s check the converse requirement, for a Brit who wished to tie the knot in Vegas:
A man and woman who are unrelated and are both at least 18 years old may be issued a marriage license in Clark County. … Couples from outside the United States can be married in Las Vegas. Most countries will want a certified copy of your marriage certificate and an Apostille from the Nevada Secretary of State. The marriage certificate costs $10 and the Apostille costs $20. The Nevada Secretary of State can send the Apostille and certified marriage certificate copy directly to your government for you.
So anyone can marry in the US, there’s a $20 surcharge for an extra form if you’re not American, but we’ll send it directly to your government so you don’t have to worry about it! Americans want everyone to marry (do it early and often!) but the Brits would really rather save marriage as a special reserved privilege for Brits and maybe for other Europeans. But definitely not for Americans.