American Citizen Services
Marriage in Japan
If you wish to marry in Japan, you will do so according to Japanese law. Marriage in Japan consists of a civil marriage registration by the couple at a Japanese municipal government office.
Only this civil registration constitutes a legal marriage in Japan. Ceremonies performed by religious or fraternal bodies in Japan, while perhaps more meaningful for you, are not legal marriages.Consular officers unfortunately cannot perform marriages.
There are just a few things you'll need to do to get married. Let's get started!
Who Can Get Married in Japan?
Article 731 to 737 of the Japanese Civil Code stipulates the following requirements:
- The male partner must be 18 years ofage or older and the female partner must be 16 years of age or older.
- In addition, for Americans, you must be able to legally marry in your home state; if the legal age of marriage at home is 18, you cannot marry earlier than that in Japan.
- A woman cannot get married within six months of the dissolution of her previous marriage. According to Japanese law, this is to avoid confusion as to the identification of a child's father if a birth occurs close in time to the end of the marriage.
- Most people related by blood, by adoption or through other marriages cannot get married in Japan.
- A person who is under 20 years of age cannot get married in Japan without a parent's approval.
For the American Partner ...
Japanese law requires all foreigners who marry in Japan to first prepare a sworn Affidavit of Competency to Marry, affirming they are legally free to marry, from their own country's embassy or consulate in Japan.
- This is a notary service. You will need to make an appointment.
- You can download a blank affidavit form (PDF 159kb).This form is for use with one American partner and one non-American, such as when an American man marries a Japanese woman. The form has two parts, one to be completed in English and the other to be completed in Japanese.
- If your partner is also an American s/he must also complete a sworn Affidavit of Competency to Marry at the Embassy. Use this form in cases of two American people (PDF 78 kb) marrying one another. The form has two parts, one to be completed in English and the other to be completed in Japanese.
These forms are required by Japanese law, and are not a requirement of the U.S. Government. No registration of your legal marriage abroad is required by the U.S. Government, and your Japanese partner need not come to our offices.
PDF reader software such as Acrobat Reader is required to view these forms and their instructions on your computer. The latest Acrobat software is available for a free download. The form is also available at our offices at no charge.
After completing the affidavit form, please visit our offices to have the document notarized. You will need to bring your valid U.S. passport and the $50 notarial fee (we accept cash, US$ or Japanese Yen). Sorry, but we cannot accept checks at any of our offices in Japan.
At the Embassy in Tokyo and our Consulates in Fukuoka, Naha, Osaka and Sapporo you may also pay using your VISA, Mastercard, Discover, Diners Club or American Express card. Please also be prepared to pay with cash if the credit card verification system is temporarily unavailable. Credit card payments are billed in U.S. dollars.
Once signed and sealed at the Embassy or one of our Consulates, this affidavit is valid for three months.
Other Things to Note
Members of the Armed Forces must obtain an Affidavit of Competency to Marry from U.S. Forces Japan channels. U.S. citizen minors (please check marriage laws of your U.S. state of domicile for relevant age) require a notarized letter of consent from their parents or legal guardian. Under some circumstances Japanese authorities may require women who wish to marry in Japan to wait six months after the termination of any prior marriage.
For the Japanese Partner ...
The Affidavit of Competency to Marry you completed needs to be translated into Japanese (notarization not required), along with your parents' consent, if you are underage. Your Japanese partner must also complete a Japanese municipal government form called the Kon-in Todoke needed to register a marriage.
Two witnesses of any nationality over 20 years old must sign the Kon-in Todoke. Our staff cannot translate or prepare these documents.
Generally non-Japanese witnesses will sign in longhand, while Japanese, Korean and Chinese national witnesses may be asked for their seal (Inkan 印鑑)
The Japanese Government and/or the local municipal office may also have other requirements for your partner; please check with the appropriate municipal office. Typically, Japanese citizens will require a certified copy of their family register (Koseki Tohon 戸籍謄本) or its extract (Koseki Shohon 戸籍抄本) issued within a month of the marriage.
Korean, Chinese or other nationals who are long-term permanent residents in Japan, or those who lack diplomatic or consular representation here, may be able to marry after obtaining a registration document (Gaijin Toroku Zumi Shomeisho 外国人登録済証明書) from a ward or city office. Contact the appropriate Japanese authorities for details.
If your partner is neither Japanese nor American, s/he should also contact his/her Embassy for the marriage procedures needed in their own country. Some countries require back-home records checks and waiting periods; call in advance of your planned wedding day.
This is the part of this whole procedure that actually makes you and your partner "married."
Once all the paperwork above is completed, proceed to the appropriate Japanese municipal government office. To avoid any disappointment, be sure to confirm local marriage procedures and rules directly with municipal government officials. (For example, depending on the jurisdiction, you may be required to submit a certified copy of your birth certificate and its Japanese translation.)
Once the marriage procedures are completed, the municipal government office issues a Japanese language "Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage" (Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho) for 350 yen each.
The Japanese language "Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage" (Kon-in Todoke Juri Shomeisho 婚姻届受理証明書) is your only proof of marriage. We maintain no record of marriages in Japan and, under Japanese law, cannot later retrieve marriage records from a municipal government office.
Write down the name and address of the municipal government office that registered your marriage, as you'll need to contact them directly in the future to obtain proof of your marriage.
You will be given a choice of two versions of the "Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage".Both versions are legal proof of your marriage. The large version, which many people find more attractive, should cost about Y1500. The smaller version, about A4 size, should cost about Y350.
Translating Your Proof of Marriage
While proof of your marriage in Japan is shown by the Japanese-language marriage document you get at the ward or city office, many times (such as when applying for an immigrant visa, or a social security card for your spouse in his/her married name) an English language document is handy.
What most couples choose to do is to translate their Japanese-language marriage document using our fill-in-the-blanks forms. You or your spouse may do the translation; there is no need to hire a professional.
- If you chose the large marriage document, use this form (PDF 13KB) to translate it.
- If you chose the smaller-sized marriage document, use this form (PDF 16 kb) to translate it.
Once translated, if necessary, the translator can sign one of the two sworn statements (large document (PDF 13KB) or small document (PDF 16kb) that certifies that the translation is an accurate translation of the original by following these steps:
- Make an appointment for notary services by clicking here.
- Bring the translation, the original document, the translator's valid passport and the correct fee to your appointment. (For information about fees, click here)
- Sign the notarized statement in front of the Consular Officer.
Validity of Marriages Abroad
In general, marriages which are legally performed and valid abroad are also legally valid in the United States. Inquiries regarding the validity of a marriage abroad should be directed to the attorney general of the state in the United States where the parties to the marriage live.
Going to the U.S?
Visiting the U.S.
If you and your Japanese spouse wish to simply visit the U.S. for no more than 90 days, generally no visa is required. You can learn more here about the visa waiver program.
Visitor visas may be required by non-Japanese spouses; we have more information about visas.
Living in the U.S.
To live in the U.S., your non-American Citizen spouse needs an immigrant visa (also known as a "green card" [the old ID cards used to be printed on green paper], or "legal permanent residence" [LPR]). The visa is sometimes known by its number designators, IR-1 or CR-1. IR-1 is for couples who have been married more than two years, while CR-1 is for couples married less than two years on the day the visa is issued.
The requirement that your spouse have an immigrant visa to live in the U.S. applies to all non-American Citizens, including Japanese. A foreign spouse has no automatic right to a U.S. visa, entry or residence.Though we'll talk only about spouses here, the same procedures and rules also apply to the parents and children (under 21) of American Citizens.
An immigrant visa allows your spouse to live, work or study in the U.S. indefinitely. Entering the U.S. with an immigrant visa and establishing a residence there is the first step toward naturalization (when your spouse can become an American citizen).
Obtaining this visa involves a series of steps, culminating in an interview at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Because the immigrant visa process can take as long as four to six months from start to finish, it is important to begin early and to not make firm travel plans until your spouse's visa is actually in hand. Processing will likely take longer if your spouse is not Japanese but is applying for a visa in Japan. Follow this link to learn more about the immigrant visa process.
That's it - Congratulations!