Marrying a foreign woman

I am working with a non-governmental organisation in the Lake Zone. There is one beautiful expatriate lady who has fallen deeply in love with me. The lady is my officemate and her tenure in Tanzania will expire mid this year. She loves Tanzania very much and has proposed to marry me but one of her friends has informed her that a condition to get married to a Tanzanian is to denounce her foreign citizenship. Why is the law so irrational?
AR, Mwanza

There is no such law and you can get married to your officemate without her having to renounce her citizenship. If such a law existed, many Tanzanian men would have been in trouble! Steps you need to undertake to get married are below.

The first step, prior to getting married in Tanzania, is for your fiancée to get a Certificate of No Impediment from her home country. This is a legal document, which needs to be translated into English or Swahili (in case her country is not an English or Swahili speaking country) and it must state that there is no impediment to her marriage because either she has never been married or she is divorced or is widowed. In the case that she is a divorcee or a widow, she will be required to attach relevant documents to substantiate the assertions. In essence, a certificate of no impediment is an affidavit notarised by a notary public. For countries with embassies in Tanzania, the Consular Section at the Embassy can serve as the notary. The lady should also have her birth certificate.

After obtaining a certificate of no impediment, you will be required to contact the office of the District Commissioner (or Registrar of Marriages) nearest to your wedding location to notify the government of your intention to get married. At the Registrar of Marriages you must complete the necessary forms, pay a small fee and submit the following documents: notarised copy of passports, the certificate of no Impediment, and two passport photos each. You may be asked for more documents at the discretion of the Registrar.

Once you have notified the Registrar, you must wait for 21 days so that persons with adverse information may register their complaints. We know that this is an old tradition that has pretty much been phased out in most Western countries but it is still part of Tanzanian law. However, to avoid the 21 day waiting period, you may get a waiver by applying for a ‘special marriage license’ from the Registrar. After completing the application form for a special marriage license and paying the fee, the Registrar can issue the license and you can be married at any point.

The third step is getting married! After the lapse of 21 days or the granting of the special marriage license, you need to schedule a time for your wedding with the Registrar. The civil ceremony can be done at the Registrar’s office during working hours or you can arrange a time for the Registrar to come to your location; but the latter option will require an extra fee and transportation costs for the government officials. At the actual ceremony, the couple must have two witnesses of their choice, one for each, who can be residents or non-residents. A Tanzanian marriage certificate (in duplicate) will be issued upon completion of the ceremony. Your lawyer or wedding organisers can guide you further. We wish you all the best.