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Is foreign marriage recognised in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Is foreign marriage recognised in Switzerland?
If you wed abroad, you must make it official in Switzerland. Photo: Pixabay

Perhaps you and your spouse are foreign nationals who got married abroad. Or maybe you are Swiss but decided to wed in Las Vegas with an Elvis Presley impersonator. Will your marriage be valid in Switzerland?


Saying ‘I do’ implies not only a lifetime of happiness (if you are lucky), but also a number of administrative tasks, such as reporting the change of status, your new surname, and address (if applicable) to the municipal administration, cantonal tax authorities, your employer, your bank, the post office, and insurance companies.

If you changed your last name upon marriage, you should also request a new passport, ID card, and driver’s license.

All this is required of people domiciled  in Switzerland who got married here — regardless of their nationality.

However, the administrative burden is even heavier if you wed abroad.

To answer the initial question — yes, marriage contracted abroad is recognised in Switzerland, as long as it complies with Swiss law. This also concerns same-sex couples

This is the case even if the requirements in the foreign nation differ from Swiss procedures. But the union should comply with a civil (rather than merely religious) law in that country.

However, for the marriage to be considered legal in Switzerland, it must first be authenticated by Swiss authorities abroad.

How do you go about this process?

First, you must contact the Swiss embassy or consulate in the country in which the marriage took place and request that the union be recognised. 

You will have to provide all documents, such as your marriage license and anything else that is needed for the process to be completed.

The diplomatic mission will check the accuracy of the documents, notorise them, and translate them into one of Switzerland’s official languages (unless they are already in German, French, or Italian).

The documents will then be sent to the supervisory bureau of your canton of origin or canton of residence if both parties are of foreign nationality.

If all the conditions are met, it orders the transcription to be made in the Infostar database, the central electronic register for all civil status events, such as births, death, divorces, and, yes, marriages.


What’s next?
Other than living happily ever after, there are some other tasks you should complete if one of you is a foreign national coming to Switzerland for the first time.

Once your marriage is officially recognised and you are in Switzerland legally, you should inform your canton of your arrival.

The 'address registration' rules may come as somewhat of a shock to people from some other places, like the United States, where you can move from one location to another and stay pretty much under the radar.

Not so in Switzerland. Swiss authorities want to know who is living in their country and where — especially if you are foreigner.

When you settle in a new home, you have 14 days to announce your arrival in your commune of residence, though in some places the deadline may be longer.

In some cantons, you can do this procedure online, while in others you must come to your local residents' registration office (Einwohnerkontrolle / Contrôle des habitants/ Controllo abitanti) in person.


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