This week Dear Gringo tackles the slippery slope of marriage, bureaucracy and of course pre-nuptial agreements. This is a real issue faced by all people who wish to marry someone from another country. The good news is that Dr G has ‘been there, done that’ and can provide you with some good tips to overcoming this potential minefield…

Dear Gringo, I am a Canadian Citizen who has been living in Brazil since 2003 with my girlfriend (Brazilian). In the next year or so, we are planning on getting married, but we are unsure of whether it will be in Brazil or in Canada. It doesn’t really matter to us, as we will have celebrations in both, but we are wondering what country would be better for the official certificate, etc. If we got married in one country, would the marriage certificate be recognized in the other country? How would we be affected by citizenship, etc? If you could lead us in the proper direction, that would be great. Thanks WB

Dear WB If we had room on this website, WB, I could sit here all night answering your question. I came to Brazil last year from Canada and married a Brazilian, so I have some experience in this matter. We did the deed here because it figured to be easier for me to find work in Brazil than for her to get up and running in Canada. Unless one of you has a skill in demand in the other’s country, work permits are a major consideration. I have Canadian friends back home whose foreign spouses always ended up working illegally or sitting home watching soap operas for months while paperwork was processed. It’s a good way to stress-test a marriage, but that would appear to be the only attraction. As far as I can tell, the hoops you have to jump through will be the same in both countries. Whichever way you do it you’ll get a healthy dose of bureaucracy.

My recommendation, without knowing the particulars of your work status in the two countries, is to get married here since this is where you are. After the dust settles, register with your local authorities in Canada. Citizenship applications are a separate matter, but are facilitated by being married to someone in the new country.

Getting married in Brazil will entail you getting your Canadian papers (birth certificate and one or two other documents) authenticated by the Brazilian consulate in Canada (cannot be done in Brazil), then translated by an official translator (only in Brazil), and finally registered at your local cartório. My favourite document was the statement in-lieu of certificate of non-impediment to marriage” that the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs provides free of charge. It’s a very short letter that says Canada doesn’t have anything like the declaraão de estado civil Brazil requires. The cartório in Santo Amaro didn’t accept this letter so my mother-in-law and another witness had to swear that they knew I was single (I haven’t told anyone about my other wives yet). Since the statement is free and some cartórios might want it, you should probably get it.

If you don’t speak fluent Portuguese, you will need an official translator to say “I do” and to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for. Also of note, pre-nuptial agreements are mandatory in Brazil. You get three choices:

  • All assets and liabilities are the responsibility of the individual. (If your beloved is a little shady, you might want to opt for this.)
  • All assets and liabilities prior to the marriage remain the responsibility of the individual, and all assets and liabilities after the marriage are shared. This is the standard one and doesn’t require any paperwork or legal agreements. (If either of you has any large outstanding debts, do it this way and put all future assets in the debt-free spouse’s name.)
  • All assets and liabilities, past and future, are shared. (The happily-ever-after option.)So, WB, get married here with all the paperwork and official translations of your English-language documents, enjoy your honeymoon, then register in Canada with all the paperwork and official translations of your Portuguese-language documents. It’s a bit of a hassle, but she’s worth it, isn’t she?

    Dr G

    To read previous letters to Dear Gringo click below: No Falo Portuguese Paulista Princess Amazon Woman Pining in Pinheiros

    If you have any unanswered questions that would benefit from the wisdom of Dear Gringo please forward them to with ‘Dear Gringo’ in the subject line.

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