A brief description of the legal hell you throw yourself into the moment you and your loved one decide to have an international marriage.

My older and more experienced co-workers tell me marriage is already one giant headache as it is, and while I can’t vouch for that one just yet, I definitely can share with you just how confusing and time-consuming it is to obtain all the legal documents a Czech person needs to obtain if he wishes to marry a citizen of Japan, in Japan.

The first obstacle you’ll likely face is the utter lack of official government information on this topic. While I understand this is something that’s likely relevant to only quite a small percentage of Czech citizens, I would have still expected a better availability of information. Or, any information at all, for that matter.

After consulting multiple sources including the Czech embassy in Japan and multiple registry offices, I’m fairly confident I have the most definitive list of documents required for the rest of this process to go smoothly, and by sharing it I’m hoping to help anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation. The process and required documents should be fairly similar for many different country combinations, it’s not strictly specific to just Czech-Japan.

The required documents

As for me, a person coming to the foreign country and asking it to allow me to marry one of the country’s citizens, most of the bureaucratic burden lies on my shoulders; on the other hand, my significant other will just simply have to present the same documents she would have to present if she were to marry a local guy.

There’s three parts of the Triforce that I will need to bring with me:

  • a valid passport;
  • a copy of birth certificate;
  • a certificate of legal eligibility for marriage (sometimes also called certificate of no impediment to marriage).

The first one, passport, is the most obvious and easy one, as you really should have one if you… you know, actually want to go to a foreign country. Just make sure it’s valid today and will stay valid for at least a few months more, ideally have it valid for at least a year more by the time you decide to get married. As for the other two documents… are you ready to visit a lot of different government offices? You better be.

Copy of birth certificate

Contrary to the simple name of the paper, just making a photocopy of your birth certificate is obviously not enough; surprisingly, even going to CzechPoint or a notary office to get a verified copy is also not good enough.

What you actually need to do is this: first go to the registry office of the town you were born in (it can’t be a registry office of any other city) and ask for a duplicate of birth certificate. You’ll need your ID and it’ll set you back 100 Kč (≈ $3.8); if you can’t personally go to the office yourself, your closest family members (i.e. your parents, kids, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings) are also eligible to request this document on your behalf, as well as anyone with valid Power of Attorney signed by you.

But wait, there’s more.

This birth certificate duplicate needs to be verified twice: the first verification must be performed by a registry office belonging to a county town of the town of your permanent residence while the second verification (also called apostille) must be done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague.

The first verification is free while having the apostille issued will cost you 100 Kč (≈ $3.8) paid in duty stamps that must be purchased beforehand. You can get these at any post office. Both verification can be performed by anyone, there’s no need for Power of Attorney or for you personally visiting the offices.

Finally, while I was able to obtain all of these documents instantly but for each of these three steps, there’s a theoretical 30-day time-frame each office may use if they are swamped with other requests or otherwise busy.

Certificate of legal eligibility for marriage

To obtain this certificate, you have to visit the registry office in the town of your permanent residence. Bring the original birth certificate, government ID and 500 Kč (≈ $24.2) with you; if your government ID doesn’t contain your family status or the address of your permanent residence, you need to bring confirmations of both information first, and I’m quite frankly not sure where to get these two confirmations as I didn’t need to obtain these two.

You don’t have to do this personally but having someone else request the certificate is a royal pain in the arse. You’ll not only have to grant this person a really specific Power of Attorney that the registry office will keep (seriously, it can’t be broad or generic Power of Attorney, it has to specifically mention that its sole purpose is requesting and accepting certificate of legal eligibility for marriage) and a copy of your government ID but you’ll also have to download a form for requesting the certificate, pre-fill it by hand, sign it and ship it to the person that will be requesting the certificate for you.

After you obtain the certificate, you can proceed with verifying the certificate the same way as you verified the copy of birth certificate. The smarter of us may correctly guess that verifying both the birth certificate and certificate of eligibility at the same time might be a reasonably smart idea unless wasting your time some more is your fetish.

Congratulations, you have successfully completed the Triforce of Bureaucratic Nonsense! It’s slightly less powerful than Legend of Zelda’s Triforce, but certainly way more tedious to obtain.

Czech your language!

At this moment, I’m not one hundred percent sure. We have information from Japanese city hall that they’ll be fine with the roughly million-times verified documents written in Czech and literally any sort of translation to Japanese; in fact, they suggested that my fiancée can translate the documents from Czech to Japanese and they’ll just blindly trust it. That fact alone somewhat undermines all the troubles with verification I had to undergo, but at this point, I’m certainly not going to complain. If this information proves to be incorrect in the future, I’ll make sure to update the article accordingly.

Oh, and if you thought this process alone was migraine-inducing, just wait until I get the opportunity to describe how to have your Japanese marriage recognized back in your home country. But that’s a topic for another article.

Update

After coming to Japan and getting married on May 1, 2018, I can hereby certify that I “only” required the documents mentioned in this article and didn’t encounter any new problems. In other words, all information presented in this article held true, at least for my case.