Getting Married on a Tourist Visa in Canada

Canada has some of the most emancipated laws when it comes to marriage and divorce. It was the first country in North America and the fourth in the world to legalize same sex marriages across the nation. Apart from this, Canada offers a high quality of life which attracts many foreign partners in marital relationships with Canadian citizens. So if you and your sweetheart are planning to getting married in Canada on a tourist visa, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Who can get married in Canada?

Getting married in Canada is an option available to any Canadian citizen or permanent resident who wants to marry a foreign partner. You can get married in Canada if you or your partner is from another country. The person – you or your partner – coming from abroad can arrive in Canada on a temporary visa like a visitor visa and then you can get married in the country. In fact, neither of you need to be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to get married in Canada and you both can arrive here on visitor visas to get married. This is something that many same-sex couples do since Canada is one of the few countries of the world where same-sex marriages are legally performed. Single-entry visitor visas are normally valid for three months, and multiple-entry visas may be valid for longer periods but ultimately their validity will be determined by the validity of passports of the would-be visitors. However whoever is coming to Canada – you, your partner or both - will need to satisfy all of the immigration rules and only then the person(s) will  qualify for a tourist visa without which one cannot enter the country.

Marriage License

Even though you can get married on a tourist visa in Canada, you still need to be go through the paperwork associated with getting the marriage license and certificate. The first step towards this would be applying for a marriage license in the area where you intend to marry in Canada. You can apply at any Registry Services office or in some cities like Toronto it can be done online. A Canadian marriage license is valid for 90 days from the date of issue. In order to sign the application to marry, you and your partner will have to go together the Registry office along with required documents which if in order your marriage license will be issued that very day.

Among the documentation required for marriage license is one valid piece of ID to prove the person’s identity which may be a Canadian passport, a foreign passport, birth certificate , valid driver’s license or a citizenship card from any country. The ID must be an original copy. You and your partner will also have to supply the full names of your parents including the mothers’ maiden names and all parents place of birth.

An important part of getting the documentation right is to see whether you and your partner are eligible to marry under Canadian law. For this you and your partner need to be single and free to marry as well as above eighteen years of age. If either of you have been widowed you must provide the death certificate of the former spouse and the marriage certificate, both of which need to be written in English or French or translated and signed by a professional translator who must also swear an affidavit to confirm the authenticity. Things become slightly more complicated in case either of you are divorced. If your or your partner’s divorce  took place in Canada, the original copy of your Divorce Decree or a court-certified copy from the court where the divorce was granted must be supplied. If you or your partner were divorced outside Canada, you would need to get an endorsement from the Minister of Government Services before the Registrar will issue the marriage license.

The marriage certificate

Once you get the marriage license, you can get on with arranging your wedding ceremony, which can be religious or civil. If you decide on a religious ceremony you may have to allow for banns to be published. Wherever you marry you will need two witnesses aged 18 or over. At your marriage ceremony, the minister or marriage commissioner presiding over the wedding will fill out the marriage registration forms, which are then recorded at the Division of Vital Statistics. You may be given a Statement of Marriage after the ceremony which will function as a temporary document to prove you are married.  To get your marriage certificate, you will have to apply to the Division of Vital Statistics.

Staying on

While it is possible to get married on a visitor visa in Canada, in order to stay on, the alien vistor(s) will have to submit an application for legal immigration. If you are the overseas partner and you are getting married to a Canadian citizen or resident, then you can apply for spousal visa while your Canadian partner will also have to apply for spousal sponsorship. You can do all this after getting married in Canada on a visitor visa. However if you apply from within Canada, you may not appeal any negative decisions made on your case by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Their decision would be final and you would have to leave Canada as soon as your visitor visa expires.

Another option is to come back to your home country after getting married in Canada and then apply for permanent residence in Canada. This in turn will require its own set of documents, forms and attestations all of which you can download from the Canadian government immigration site1 or have your Canadian partner send them over to you. Apart from application for permanent residence, you will also need to fill out the forms specific to your region. After you have filled out all the sponsorship, immigration and region specific forms, you need to send them to you Canadian partner with the supporting documents to be processed at CIC.

Thus while it is legally possible to get married on a tourist visa in Canada, staying on is an entirely different matter. Canada has some of the toughest immigration laws and if you don’t fulfill all the requirements in the category you are applying – like spousal visa or professional merit – you may find yourself unable to live legally in the country.


  1. Citizenship and Immigration Canada - Application to Sponsor a Member of the Family Class