Getting married to a Thai national (or any foreign national, for that matter) in Belgium isn’t a straight-forward process. Official sources contradict each other in tiny (but crucial) details, different cities (or even contacts) interpret requirements differently and some government officials can’t be bothered to assist properly. My goal is to write our experiences down, to help others maneuver these murky waters. Part 1 will teach you how to successfully jump the first hurdle: the wedding registration at City Hall in Belgium.
My original intention was to write one all-encompassing guide, but this turned out not to be realistic. There are so many challenges and nuances that I was bound to forget details by the time we had completed the process. That’s why I’ve decided on writing several parts, documenting the important milestones while we go along.
A crucial ingredient to success is your overall attitude. One needs to accept that things will go wrong, certain applications will need a second try and government officials’ objective is not to help you out. Once this has been accepted, you will move along much swifter.
Our story started right after Khwantippa and myself decided to get married in Belgium. Living in Thailand at the time, I immediately did some research about the documents that would be required and called Belgian institutions for confirmation. The spokesperson at my local City Hall refused to help over the phone or by email and stated that all online resources (even official ones) would be incorrect. The Department of Foreign Affairs didn’t understand my question due to a language barrier with the non-native Dutch speaking helpdesk contact and redirected me to the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok, who in turn advised to call City Hall. I decided than and there that I would tackle everything myself.
Reading through many forums and other online resources, I compiled a list of all documents that we might need (which would be confirmed as complete and accurate in a physical meeting at City Hall in my Belgian hometown, weeks later). In the initial telephone conversation we were warned by the spokesperson not to have any document translated in Thailand, as they would not be accepted in Belgium. This is simply inaccurate. As long as you select a certified translator and have the translation legalized by the Belgian Embassy in Bangkok, they can be accepted by your local Belgian City Hall. A swift and convenient translation office is Express Translation Service & Travel Co Ltd in Bangkok. They are located close to Ploenchit Skytrain station and also take care of the legalization at the Belgian Embassy, if you like. If you want to keep the budget under control, you can easily have the legalization done yourself. The Belgian Embassy is at Chong Nonsi station, just a few minutes away from Ploenchit, by Skytrain.
These are the documents that are needed to register the wedding in Belgium:
1. Power of Attorney
As the Thai partner probably does not have a Schengen visa, the Belgian partner will have to apply for the wedding by himself/herself. To make this possible, the Belgian partner needs the Thai partner’s Power of Attorney. Different Belgian Cities use different layouts, so just to be sure I have compiled a layout that includes all possible information. It is available for download, here. Just to be sure, paste a scan of the Thai partner’s citizen card in the blank space at the bottom. Do keep in mind that this also needs to be legalized at the embassy, despite it being in Dutch.
2. Birth certificate
The Thai partner needs to get a copy of his/her birth certificate at her local Thai City Hall. This needs to be the full version that includes descendance (it needs to include names and details about the parents). Yes, this needs to be translated and legalized.
3. Proof of identity
This is a translated and legalized copy of the passport of the Thai partner.
4. Proof of residence
The Thai partner needs proof of registration at her place of residence, prior to the wedding. Every household has such a document, called Tabien Baan (dark-blue-colored book). Once again: translated and legalized.
5. Certificate of Nationality
Even though refering to the nationality of the Thai partner, this document can best be obtained by the Belgian partner at the Thai Embassy in Brussels. There are a few challenges with this one, though. Please read the instructions properly, if you want to avoid more than one trip.
- Check the opening hours well in advance. The website is down from time to time. The address is Waterloosesteenweg 876, 1000 Brussel and the telephone number is +32 (0) 640 68 10.
- Go well in advance, just to be sure. However, it is very likely that the office for Civil Matters will open in the last 15 minutes before closing time. For this reason, it is crucial that you have your your full collection of documents (as listed in this article) with you, with two recto-verso copies. This might seem like overkill, but the Embassy does not take photocopies. Better safe than sorry.
- To get the Proof of Nationality, you need to present the Power of Attorney, mentioned earlier. Do not (I repeat DO NOT) leave the original at the embassy. If you do not ask to have it back, it will be filed … and you can no longer apply for the wedding registration at City Hall. Also hand over copies of the Thai partner’s Citizen Card and Passport, but make sure that you take the original legalized copy of the passport home.
- As the Certificate of Nationality can be sent over by mail, bring along and envelope addressed to yourself (and a blank spare one, just in case) and an ample amount of postage stamps.
- Bring along plenty of money and change, there is an administrative charge
- Whatever happens, be extremely polite and thank the government official.
- After you receive the Proof of Nationality, make and appointment and have the document legalized by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
6. Proof of Single Status
The Thai partner needs to get Proof of Single status from his/her Thai City Hall. (S)He needs to take two witnesses along who will need to make a testimony that the Thai partner is single, in addition to the verification from the records. I strongly recommend that one of these witnesses has a close family relation to the Thai partner. If the Thai partner was married before, a document stating the marital status needs to be obtained, along with either proof that the husband has passed away, or proof of divorce. Do I need to mention that these documents need to be translated and legalized?
This collection of documents needs to be submitted to the Belgian City were the couple plans to get married, which is our current status and will be done tomorrow. If successful, City Hall will issue a Proof of the Wedding Registration in 2 to 3 days. This needs to be sent over to the Thai partner, along with another compilation of documents about the Belgian partner, to be included with the Application for the Wedding Visa. This is the topic of the upcoming part 2.