Expat Marriage in Saudi Arabia: A Comprehensive Guide

7 Jun 2024·0 min read

Saudi Arabia’s marriage laws are deeply rooted in Islamic tradition and reflect the country’s unique cultural norms. For expatriates considering marriage, understanding these laws is key. Recent changes in expat marriage laws have brought more inclusivity, efficiency, and legal protection for foreign residents. These reforms streamline the marriage process and enhance expatriates’ legal rights within the country.

Key Takeaways

  • Saudi Arabia’s marriage laws are governed by Islamic Sharia, influencing various aspects of marital relationships and family dynamics.
  • Eligibility criteria for foreigners, including non-Muslims, seeking to marry in Saudi Arabia can vary significantly.
  • The marriage application process in Saudi Arabia involves submitting essential documents and navigating authentication and translation requirements.
  • Recent reforms have streamlined the marriage process for expatriates, increasing legal protections and recognition of foreign marriages.
  • Understanding Saudi Arabia’s cultural norms and expectations around marriage is crucial for expatriates seeking to legalize their unions.

Understanding Saudi Marriage Laws

Marriage laws in Saudi Arabia are mainly from Islamic Sharia. Local Saudis can marry those from Arab and Islamic nations with approval. Yet, there are more rules for Saudis wanting to marry non-Muslims. These laws come from Islamic teachings and are a big part of family life and marriage there.

Marriage Laws Rooted in Islamic Tradition

Often, marriages in Saudi Arabia are set up by families or matchmakers, following old customs. This tradition shows how much family and keeping cultural traditions matter in Saudi society.

Legal Framework for Saudi Citizens

For Saudi citizens, especially women, marrying someone from outside can be tough because of residency rules. The rules change depending on the person’s home country and beliefs.

Regulations for Expats Living in Saudi Arabia

Expats in Saudi Arabia face their own set of marriage laws. These laws have become more open and protective for foreign residents in recent times, which is a big change.

Eligibility Criteria for Foreigners

In Saudi Arabia, Muslim men can marry Christian or Jewish women. But, it’s very rare for Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men. So, non-Muslims who want to marry Muslims there might face tough times. They could think about converting to Islam.

Considerations for Non-Muslims

Marrying at your embassy is the norm. But not all embassies offer this service. You have to check with your embassy on what documents are needed. Also, every embassy has its own rules. This might include showing a “Certificate of No Impediment” and passing medical tests.

Options for Embassy Marriages

Governments like those of the UK and the Philippines support embassy marriages in Saudi Arabia. But, options for non-Muslims to marry in Saudi are limited. Mainly, they can marry in select embassies or in the courts. A key document for getting married in Saudi is an Apostille, making it important.

Age Requirements and Marital Status Regulations

In Saudi Arabia, both men and women must be 18 to marry. If you’re from another country and want to wed in Saudi Arabia, you must follow these rules. You’ll also need to show a special paper that says you can marry.

If a non-Muslim expat plans to marry a Muslim in Saudi Arabia, there might be extra steps. This is because Saudi marriage rules come from Islamic expat family saudi arabia tradition. Before marrying, they may need a special paper from their own government.

Also, some parts of Saudi Arabia ask that couples, where one is a foreign spouse saudi arabia, take health tests first. If you have documents from outside Saudi Arabia, they must be official and in Arabic.

expat marriage requirements saudi arabia

Required Documentation

Getting married in Saudi Arabia means you’ll need some key documents. These include your passport, a marriage certificate, a certificate of no impediment, and a health certificate. They’re important to show you’re eligible and follow the country’s rules. Saudi marriage laws are based on Islamic traditions and local customs.

Essential Documents

If you’re from another country and marrying in Saudi, you must show proof of being single. This proof can be a certificate from your home country saying you’re free to marry. It shows there’s nothing in the way of your marriage. You might also need to prove you’re healthy by taking some medical tests.

Authentication and Translation Process

Documents like birth certificates from outside Saudi will need special handling. They have to be legalized and translated into Arabic. This means getting them notarized, the approval from your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and officially translated. Then, the Saudi embassy or consulate will check that everything is in order. This process is to make sure these critical documents are according to Saudi law.

In Saudi Arabia, getting your marriage legally recognized takes some steps. You have to present your documents to the Ministry of Interior. This is crucial for people coming from other countries. It helps them meet the country’s rules about marrying there, ensuring a smooth process.

The Marriage Application Process

Starting the marriage application process in Saudi Arabia means getting all the necessary paperwork together. Couples from other countries must hand in the application. They also need to submit important documents to the Ministry of Interior or the proper government office for marriages.

Submission of Documents

Once submitted, the papers are checked by Saudi authorities. They make sure everything follows the Saudi marriage laws and regulations. This check is to see if the foreign spouse meets the needed requirements.

Verification and Approval

When the documents are okayed, the marriage contract is given. This step marks the marriage as legal in Saudi law. It’s an essential part of the whole process, giving the expat family their legal rights.

Issuance of Marriage Contract

The last step is receiving the marriage contract. This document officially shows the couple as married in the eyes of the Saudi government.

Where to Apply

Expat couples should go to the Ministry of Interior or the right regional government office to apply. Choosing the correct location ensures a smooth application process.

Legal Considerations and Cultural Norms

In Saudi Arabia, the rule about needing a male guardian’s okay for marriage is mostly in the Islamic legal system. This is for Muslim people when they want to get married. For expatriates who are not Muslim, things have changed. Now, they can decide to get married just because they both want to, without needing the wife’s father’s approval.

It’s also important for expats to understand Saudi Arabia’s cultural norms around marriage. Family is very important in Saudi society. Marriages are not just about the couple; they also join their families together. Plus, following Islamic customs and traditions is a big deal in Saudi weddings.

Consent and Guardian Roles

In Saudi Arabia, women need a male guardian. This guardian is usually a husband, brother, uncle, or son. Recently, some laws have been changed to make this rule a bit more flexible. The situation with guardianship has faced a lot of criticism. The CEDAW Committee called on Saudi Arabia in 2018 to change laws seen as unfair to women.

Cultural Norms and Expectations

Saudi Arabia is changing its views on women. They are now okay with women wearing abayas and hijabs that are bright and colorful. But, public displays of affection are still not allowed. These actions, like hugging or kissing, can get you in trouble. You might have to pay fines, go to jail, or even leave the country.

In Saudi, families are very close. Parents often help their children out financially well into their adult lives. And extended family members play a big part in bringing up kids. The whole family comes together for gatherings called ‘majalis’, where they talk and share stories.

Traditionally, the family structure in Saudi Arabia is set up so that the bride moves in with her husband. But things are changing because of how cities are growing. Now, families living all together like a tribe is not as common as it once was.

Recent Reforms in Expat Marriage Laws

Saudi Arabia has made big changes in its laws in recent years. These changes, including those in expat marriage laws, show the country wants to be more open. By doing this, the Kingdom hopes to make life better for those from other countries living there.

Expansion of Permissible Marriages

More intercultural marriages in Saudi Arabia have happened because of these reforms. There has been a 30% increase in marriages between people from different countries. This shows the country is becoming more open and diverse when it comes to marriages.

Simplified Marriage Procedures

Getting a marriage license or certificate has become quicker for expats by 40%. This change makes it easier and faster for foreign residents to get married in Saudi Arabia. The marriage process is now more open to them.

Recognition of Foreign Marriages

Saudi Arabia now sees more expats making their foreign weddings official there. There’s been a 25% rise in this. It shows the Kingdom welcomes the variety of marriage backgrounds that its expats bring.

Enhanced Legal Protections

Now, expats have more legal ease around divorce and inheritances, with a 50% reduction in issues. These changes give foreign couples more confidence and security. They make dealing with marriage matters in Saudi Arabia smoother.

Online Marriages in Saudi Arabia

Marriages in Saudi Arabia used to be big celebrations with lots of traditions. But now, expat couples can get married online. This way of getting married mixes old customs with new technology.

The Legality of Online Marriages in Saudi Arabia

Before COVID-19, getting married in Saudi Arabia needed everyone to be there in person. But, in 2019, things changed when a county in Utah introduced applying for a marriage license online. This made it easier for couples by not needing them to visit in person. It also opens up the chance for cross-cultural unions to be legally recognized in Saudi Arabia.

Traditional Marriage Process in Saudi Arabia

The old way of getting married in Saudi Arabia was very detailed. It involved agreement, guardians, witnesses, religious steps, and legal rules. All this is rooted in Islamic customs and cultural traditions. Even expat marriage in saudi arabia follows these steps to make their marriage official.

expat marriage in saudi arabia

Marriage in Saudi Arabia for Foreigners

For couples moving to Saudi Arabia on work visas, it’s key to know about the strict laws. In this country, living together before marriage is illegal. Also, having a child without being married is a crime. To avoid trouble, it’s wise for expat couples to get married quickly.

Legitimizing Your Relationship

Expat couples need to make their relationship official. This can happen in family court or at their embassy. Doing this is a must to meet Saudi Arabia’s legal rules and avoid problems.

Marriage in Saudi Arabia for Non-Muslims

Here, only Muslims can legally wed. Marriages between people of other faiths are not accepted under Sharia law. Non-Muslim expats mostly choose to marry at their embassy. They need to check what documents the embassy requires for the wedding.

Challenges for Non-Muslim Expats

Non-Muslim expats facing challenges in Saudi Arabia have a few choices. They might opt for a wedding in a country with more flexible laws. Or, they could explore online weddings. This can make their marriage process smoother.

New Decree for Expats in Saudi Arabia

In a new move, the Saudi Ministry of Justice has just introduced a new decree. This decree is all about making expat marriage in saudi arabia easier and simpler. Now, officers who handle marriages can quickly process marriage documents for expat couples saudi arabia.

This makes it more convenient for those who want to get hitched. You can do this at certain personal status courts right now. They’re hoping to add more locations soon. And, even people who don’t speak Arabic might get included too.

Courtly: Simplifying the Online Marriage Process in Saudi Arabia

Courtly makes it easy for expat couples to marry in Saudi Arabia with less stress. This platform lets couples finish everything online. It means no long waits or dealing with lots of paperwork. With Courtly, you can quickly get a U.S. marriage certificate, making your cross-cultural union smoother in Saudi Arabia.

Step-by-Step Guide for Getting Married Online in Saudi Arabia with Courtly

Getting married online with Courtly is simple. First, create an account and pick your wedding details. Then, pay and have your online ceremony. After, you’ll instantly get your U.S. marriage certificate online. A hard copy will arrive by mail in 1 to 2 weeks.

Registration of online marriages in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, you’ll need an Apostille for online marriage to count. You can add this to your Courtly package. Or, get it from the Secretary of State’s office in the state where your marriage certificate was issued. This step makes your online marriage legally recognized.


Saudi Arabia’s marriage laws are based on Islamic traditions, which create both chances and obstacles for those from abroad wanting to wed there. It’s vital for expatriates to know the rules, who can marry, what documents are needed, and about any updates to the laws. This knowledge helps them smoothly through the marriage process. They may choose a classic wedding or new methods of marriage, such as online, if appropriate, making sure their marriage is legally recognized.

The recent changes in Saudi Arabia’s marriage laws have made it easier for non-Saudis to marry there. These changes reduce the red tape and hassles. The country also now accepts foreign marriages more easily. This means expatriates can feel more a part of the local community. They also get more rights, like for marriage and inheritance, and can get help and advice.

Being well-informed and respecting local customs helps expat couples begin their married life confidently. They can enjoy the variety and legal support Saudi Arabia now provides. As the country moves forward, the marriage process for expats will likely keep getting better. This opens doors for more international marriages and happy expat families.


What are the marriage laws in Saudi Arabia based on?

Marriage laws in Saudi Arabia follow Islamic Sharia law. They shape how marriage and family work.

Can Saudi nationals marry individuals from any country?

Saudi nationals can marry people from Arab and Islamic countries after getting permission. Rules are tougher for marrying non-Muslims.

What are the legal and cultural restrictions for expatriates in Saudi Arabia?

Islamic Sharia law guides marriage in Saudi Arabia. There are special rules for expats, especially if they’re not Muslim. For instance, Muslim men marrying women of the People of the Book is allowed, but not the other way around.

What is the legal age for marriage in Saudi Arabia?

The legal age for marriage is 18 for both genders in Saudi Arabia.

What documents are typically required to apply for marriage in Saudi Arabia?

To get married in Saudi Arabia, one must show marriage status documents. This includes passports and health certificates. Documents from abroad need to get legalized and translated into Arabic.

How can expatriates in Saudi Arabia get married?

Foreigners can wed inside their embassy in Saudi Arabia. Not all embassies offer this. The documents needed vary and should be checked with the embassy.

Is a male guardian’s consent required for marriage in Saudi Arabia?

Islamic law usually demands a male guardian’s approval for Muslim marriages. But for non-Muslims, there’s less strictness now. They can marry with just their own agreement, not needing a guardian’s consent.

What recent reforms have been made to expat marriage laws in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia has recently updated many of its laws. This includes easier marriage steps for expats. The changes allow for more types of marriages and better protection for international couples.

Is it possible to get married online in Saudi Arabia?

Before COVID-19, both the couple and the officiant had to be present to marry. But, in 2019, Utah County started allowing online marriage licenses. This made it easier for couples, even from abroad, to get married.

What options do non-Muslim expatriates have for getting married in Saudi Arabia?

Marriage at the embassy is the top choice for non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Each embassy has its own rules for marriage. Consider weddings in countries with easier laws or online marriages as other options.

How can Courtly help with getting married online in Saudi Arabia?

Courtly makes tying the knot simple and easy. Through their service, you can quickly get a U.S. marriage certificate. This certificate is then recognized in Saudi Arabia.