Expat Marriage in Saudi Arabia: A Guide for Foreigners

9 Mar 2024·6 min read
Expat Marriage in Saudi Arabia: A Guide for Foreigners

Marrying in a foreign country can feel overwhelming. Every year, over 150,000 couples say "I do" in Saudi Arabia. This guide will walk you through the essentials of expat marriage in the kingdom, simplifying processes and requirements for you.

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Key Takeaways

  • Over 150,000 couples get married in Saudi Arabia every year, including many expats.
  • Foreigners need special documents like the Free-to-Marry Affidavit and Marriage Permission Application to marry in Saudi Arabia.
  • Embassies offer services such as notarial services, cultural orientation sessions, legal assistance referrals, and translation to help expats with the marriage process.
  • Guardianship laws require a woman to have approval from a male guardian to marry, which affects both local and foreign women.
  • Divorce for expats involves specific procedures and understanding child custody laws is important for those planning a family.

Overview of Expat Marriage in Saudi Arabia

Expat marriage services are available in Saudi Arabia, with specific guidelines and conditions for expat couples. Understanding the procedures and legalities of getting married as an expat in Saudi Arabia is crucial for a successful marriage.

Services offered for expat marriages

Saudi Arabia offers a range of services to help expats get married in the country. These services make the process easier and more understandable for foreigners living there.

  • Free-to-Marry Affidavit: Foreigners can obtain this document at their embassy or consulate in Saudi Arabia. It proves they are legally free to marry.
  • Marriage Permission Application: For a Saudi woman to marry a foreign man, she must use this specific service. The same applies when a Saudi man wishes to marry a foreigner.
  • Notarial Services: Embassies provide these services for marriage documents, ensuring they are recognized by Saudi authorities.
  • Saudi Female Citizen Marriage Permission: This allows a Saudi woman to apply officially for marriage to a foreigner, following the proper legal channels.
  • Guardianship Laws Advice: Many embassies offer guidance on how these laws affect marriage in Saudi Arabia, particularly for female expats.
  • Cultural Orientation Sessions: Some embassies and expat community centers hold sessions to explain the cultural expectations and legalities involved in marrying in Saudi Arabia.
  • Legal Assistance Referrals: Expats can receive recommendations for local lawyers knowledgeable about marriage laws and processes in Saudi Arabia.
  • Translation Services: Since all documents must be submitted in Arabic, translation services are crucial for non-Arabic speakers.
  • Registration of Marriage with Embassies: For marriages that occur within the kingdom, some embassies will register these unions on behalf of their citizens.

Guidelines for marriage in Saudi Arabia

  1. Obtaining marriage permission in Saudi Arabia allows foreigners to marry Saudi citizens, with over 150,000 marriage ceremonies held annually in the country.
  2. Notarial services like the Free-to-Marry Affidavit provide a general guide based on information from relevant authorities for those seeking to marry in Saudi Arabia.
  3. The process involves applying for marriage permission through specific services offered in the country, taking into account new marriage laws that may impact foreign marriages.
  4. Foreigners seeking to marry a Saudi citizen need to navigate discreet dating and apply for approval through the Emirate where they reside.
  5. If a Saudi man wants to marry a foreigner, he must first obtain approval before proceeding with the marriage process.
  6. Marriage and family are highly valued in Saudi Arabia, making it a privilege to get married in the country for expatriates.
  7. Cultural norms and traditions surrounding love marriage also need consideration when planning to marry as a foreigner in Saudi Arabia.
  8. While challenges exist, there are established processes and guidelines for expat marriages in the Middle Eastern country.

Conditions for expat marriages

Conditions for expat marriages:

  1. Foreigners can apply for marriage permission to a Saudi female citizen or a Saudi male citizen can apply for marriage permission to a foreigner, in accordance with the laws of Saudi Arabia.
  2. Notarial services offered in Saudi Arabia include the Free-to-Marry Affidavit, which is a general guide based on information provided by relevant authorities, and must be completed accurately.
  3. If a Saudi man wants to marry a foreigner, he must first apply to the Emirate where he resides to obtain approval before proceeding with the marriage.
  4. The husband must apply for approval if he is of Saudi nationality and the woman is a foreigner, following the procedures set by the authorities.

Procedures for Getting Married in Saudi Arabia as an Expat

Expat marriages in Saudi Arabia follow strict guardianship laws, requiring foreign spouses to fulfill specific requirements before the wedding. Marriages between Saudi women and foreign men entail adhering to regulations determined by the Saudi authorities.

Guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia

Guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia specify that a woman needs approval from her male guardian, typically her father or another male relative, for various activities, including marriage.

This regulation applies to both Saudi women and foreign women seeking to marry in the country. It's important to note that this requirement is deeply rooted in Saudi culture and tradition.

Additionally, the recent changes in regulations have given more autonomy to women concerning certain activities without needing consent from their guardians.

Requirements for marriage if the woman is Saudi and the man is a foreigner

To marry a Saudi woman as a foreigner in Saudi Arabia, certain requirements must be met:

  1. The foreign man must obtain approval from the Emirate where he resides to proceed with the marriage.
  2. The couple needs to comply with the guidelines set by the authorities governing such unions.
  3. Notably, the husband-to-be is required to submit an application for approval as per Saudi legal regulations.
  4. The approval process involves adhering to specific conditions and providing necessary documentation.
  5. The new marriage law in Saudi Arabia may have implications on this particular type of union.

Marriages at embassies of certain countries

Marriages at embassies of certain countries in Saudi Arabia provide a convenient option for expats. Some embassies, such as those of Great Britain and the Philippines, offer marriage services to their citizens residing in Saudi Arabia.

The embassies typically help with the necessary paperwork and guidance on legal requirements for marrying a foreigner within the country. These services can simplify the process for expats seeking to marry fellow foreigners or Saudi citizens of different nationalities.

When applying for marriage permission through an embassy, it's essential to adhere to the specific regulations set by each country's diplomatic mission. These may include providing documentation regarding eligibility, such as affidavits affirming free-to-marry status and other required certificates.

Divorce and Child Custody in Saudi Arabia

Understanding the process of divorce for expats and the laws regarding child custody in Saudi Arabia is crucial for foreign couples. Read on to explore these important aspects in detail.

Process of divorce for expats

The process of divorce for expats in Saudi Arabia involves filing a petition at the relevant court, with specific regulations and procedures based on the couple’s nationality. The applicable law depends on whether the marriage was conducted under Sharia law or through an embassy.

A foreigner married to a Saudi citizen may need special clearance from authorities before initiating the divorce proceedings, and legal representation is recommended to navigate through this complex process efficiently.

If a custody battle ensues following divorce, it's crucial to understand that Saudi courts heavily favor granting custody to Saudi nationals over foreign parents. This can pose challenges for expats seeking custody rights; hence, thorough understanding of local laws and proper legal counsel are essential.

Child custody laws in Saudi Arabia

Child custody laws in Saudi Arabia prioritize the best interests of the child, with Sharia law typically applied. In case of divorce, mothers usually retain custody of young children, while older sons may be granted to their fathers at a certain age.

However, expats should note that these arrangements can vary based on individual circumstances and court decisions. It's essential for foreign couples to familiarize themselves with these laws if they plan to marry and raise a family in Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic legal system heavily influences child custody rights in Saudi Arabia. While there are general principles governing this aspect, the specific application depends on various factors including marital status, nationality, religion, and even the judge presiding over the case.

Advantages and Challenges of Expat Marriage in Saudi Arabia

Expat marriage in Saudi Arabia brings cultural enrichment but may involve adjustment challenges. Explore more about the intricacies of expat marriage in this unique context.

Benefits of expat marriage in Saudi Arabia

Expat marriage in Saudi Arabia offers opportunities for cultural exchange and enriching experiences within a diverse community. The country's emphasis on family values creates a supportive environment for married expats, with access to various social events and networking opportunities.

Moreover, being part of an expat couple allows for shared understanding and support as both partners navigate the challenges and rewards of living abroad.

The vibrant expat community in Saudi Arabia provides spouses with ample resources for integration, such as language classes, support groups, and cultural celebrations. Additionally, experiencing the local customs and traditions while creating lasting connections can enhance the overall quality of life for expat couples residing in Saudi Arabia.

Potential difficulties faced by expat couples in Saudi Arabia

Adjusting to the conservative cultural norms in Saudi Arabia can be challenging for expat couples, especially regarding public displays of affection and gender-segregated social activities.

Navigating through the strict guardianship laws, where women often require a male guardian for various legal decisions, may pose significant challenges for expat couples. Moreover, understanding and respecting Islamic customs such as dress code and dietary restrictions might be difficult for some expats.

Cultural differences between Western countries and Saudi Arabia could lead to communication issues within expat couples. Adapting to the lifestyle, traditions, and religious practices in Saudi Arabia might create tension in relationships.


Marriage and family hold high importance in Saudi Arabia. Getting married as an expat involves specific guidelines, procedures, and legalities. The country values marriage and offers services for expatriates to marry Saudi citizens.

However, there are challenges such as navigating cultural differences and complying with strict marriage regulations.