Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Canadian Wedding in Scotland

Be careful what you joke about. I joked about moving to Australia, and ended up living there for 15 months, and then I joked about how we could elope to Gretna Green and ended up planning a Scottish wedding.

Now, having done Australian Partnership Visa paperwork and having a bureaucratic day job, I felt very well equipped to answer all the ridiculous questions that were required to actually get married in a foreign country, but for those of you out there who might be contemplating something similar, here is the 2016 breakdown of what you are signing yourself up for.

Gretna Green will totally set-up your event. This is the easy part. Gretnagreen.com  has all the venue and food and info you need and the staff is excellent and happy to discuss options, lay out the price for you and notify the registrar of your date and time. There is some minimal info for overseas couples, but because the UK laws got messier last year, they mostly just send you to the government websites. You will then need to do the following things:

Fill out the M-10s for each of you, which is the Marriage Notices for the Scottish Registrars. These need (now stay with me, this is about to get nested and messy) to be sent in NO MORE than 3 months before your wedding day and NO LESS than 29 days before the wedding and require the following:

  • Notarized Birth certificates
  • Certificate of no impediment to marriage
    • This doesn't exist in Canada, so you are instead going to have to go and get A Statement in lieu of a Certificate for no impediment to marriage. This is going to involve a request for authentication EXT 2165 Form which will ALSO need notarized birth certificates. This request will take 25 BUSINESS DAYS to process, even if you are in Ottawa and can show up at the office and wave paperwork at them.
  • Declaration of Immigration Status: yes, even Canadians, who are used to waltzing through the London immigration turnstills by flashing our Commonwealth passports need to declare that we have a fiance visa. Which means that prior to this, you need to go and get...
    • a UK Marriage Visitor Visa This can also only be applied for 3 months prior to the wedding or less, so you are basically submitting it while also on the clock for submitting your Registrar stuff. FUN! This is the big one, with the ridiculous questions, although the online system is genuinely functional (HUZZAH! FIST PUMP!) and lets you do it on the internet. You will need:
      • 200 US dollars (or equivalent. *weeps about exchange rate.*)
      • A UK passport size photo
      • Tons of answers about how much the wedding is costing, who is paying for it, who is paying for the trip, do you make money, are you in a real relationship, blah blah blah blah blah BLAH blah. If you haven't done immigration paperwork before and don't have three years of forms to cannibalize for information and documents you want to leave some time for locating details.
      • A biometrics (fingerprints) meeting which can only be done in certain Canadian cities so CHECK AVAILABILITY and which you need to book as soon as you submit your forms so I recommend submitting your stuff shortly before the three months and then picking a date that is available right at the beginning of that countdown. You can also 100% (I had to do this) accidentally go a week before the 3 month countdown because you freaked out and thought that maybe they meant no MORE than 3 months and then modify the date on your form because the visa is good for six months and they aren't too fussed about it starting exactly on the day of your flight to the UK.
      • Supporting documents, like tax slips, payslips, itinerary, wedding venue bookings, bank account statements, the paperwork I had showing that "Booya, I already passed Australian immigration I am in such a real relationship shuttup", and also a list of every country you've visited in the past 10 years, although they only really want like 10 items before they tell you thanks that's enough. Also make sure you check which countries are Commonwealth and which aren't because there are some surprises on that list. 
      • Then be prepared for them to take your passport and mail it to New York where they process the visa. But mine was fast and lovely and took like a week, so really I stressed out more than necessary. They want to take your money and have you get married, but they will make you jump through a lot of hoops to prove you aren't committing fraud. 
    • Another UK size photo, thank goodness they come in sets of two from when you needed one for the visa.
  • The registrar fee, and I have NO IDEA yet how to send pounds to a registrar from my Canadian bank, I will let you know when I figure it out. 
And then repeat for the second person! Which luckily my fiance actually has a UK citizenship in his back pocket, so he just needs the simple M10 form. HIGH FIVES ALL AROUND. 

So yeah, doable and from all reports I don't need to do much extra paperwork when I get back to Canada for them to recognize the marriage but sweet googly be prepared for the form tornado (Formnado). The Gretna Green website makes it look MUCH easier than it is.

That said, the registrar office is LOVELY. Go to their website and you can see the ceremony breakdown and if you need to call them they will be incredibly helpful and tell you that yes, you do need to show them your ORIGINAL passport and birth certificates, but that you can send your fiance on the day of the wedding to their office to do that. Verdict: Forms are evil, people are rad. 

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