Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Marriage Permission Process: "Is either of you a non-Saudi?"

By Chiara

A reader, with excellent advice about the marriage permission process, has kindly agreed to share his story and hard-earned wisdom with us. As he is currently still in media res, he would prefer to remain anonymous for the time being. Here then, is Anonymous’ story and advice in his own words.

I was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia within the walls of Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's largest company, as my father is an employee there. He's a graduate from King Fahd University Of petroleum and Minerals, in Dhahran, a Somali-Saudi migrant from Riyadh. He came here to study and never left. He had known my mother's Somali family, who had lived here in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia for 2 generations, as you would expect all people of the same ethnic background to be familiar with each other, in order to keep their culture and traditions alive.

My father’s story is different in that he was an orphan raised by his elder brother, and was born with Saudi citizenship as his father, my paternal grandfather, was born with it. My mother wasn't born with Saudi citizenship, as my maternal grandfather was born in British-controlled Aden, and was a citizen of the British Empire, which stood him in good stead when he was employed by Aramco (as it was then known). This both facilitated him getting a job and for it to be lucrative relative to other employees at the time. My mother tells me stories about them being the only family in their entire neighborhood affluent enough to own property and travel for leisurely purposes.

My maternal grandfather got Saudi citizenship easily, as back in those days --as my beloved grandmother told me--they used to knock on doors giving away citizenship. He took it, bestowing it upon my uncles. My mother and aunt were exempted, and were told they would get theirs if they married Saudi men. My mother (the pioneering and strong-willed woman that she is) had other things in mind. She had gone to University in Riyadh, had come to know some women in the Royal family, and had become good friends with them. In that way, she got enough clout to speak directly with the Minister of the Interior, and convince him of her and my aunts' case. They were granted citizenship a week later. She and my father got married, and I was born, the first of 5 sons, all with Saudi citizenship of course.

I've always had a privileged and happy life, and owe it all to Allah's blessing of having a loving family and good health, as nothing else matters. I graduated from KFUPM as my father had, several years ago. I have been working ever since, and was enjoying life as a single man, but was always being prodded with the question "When are you going to get married?” Mind you, this question almost exclusively came from my grandmother; my mother never asked, as she knew that only I could make such a crucial decision. Were it up to my grandmother, I would've gotten married right out of high school, back in 1999!

It was only in October 2007, on Eid Al-Fitr of all days, that I was once again cornered by my grandmother, Aunt AND Elder cousin about meeting a potential wife. I had shot the idea down, but they kept pushing; and, my dear mother, probably wanting her eldest son to get married in the hope that I might sire some grandkids for her, finally started asking me to consider a potential meeting with the family. Again, I brushed this off.

Come April 2008, I was hijacked into it. We would be going that weekend to the home of the people we would meet, and I was not given an option to bow out. May 1st, we arrived there, meeting and greeting, the men on one side, the women on the other. Then came the crucial moment; the man who would be my future father-in-law asked me to walk back to the other side of the hall with him. We got there, and there she was--the most radiant young woman I'd ever laid eyes upon. No superlatives would do her justice. Suffice it to say, I had that slack-jawed, gawker look to me. And, flanking her on both sides, were my grandmother and her mother. I was too intimidated; I'd never ever been put in such a position before. I said hello, or at least I thought I did; but apparently not, as my grandmother bashed me as we drove home for not saying it.

As far as presenting myself, it was a DISASTROUS first meeting. Fortunately, I had a chance to make amends 10 days later, when my mother and I visited with the family. It went better. And then there was nothing for a long period of time. I still wasn't on board with the whole marriage idea, and she wasn't either, as she wanted to continue her studies and was close to getting her Bachelors degree. So in August she left for Dubai. When she returned in October 2008, her mother called my mother and said that they were now willing, and wanted to know if we were. We were. We got engaged (milqa) on the 20th of November, 2008. And we've been talking and visiting (at her house of course) ever since.

I started the actual permission to marry a non-Saudi process purely out of happenstance. We went to the Government Run Medical Center to get tested for the now required medical marriage viability (to prevent genetic inbreeding, and transmission of HIV). As we went in to do it, we were hit by the question that always seems to lead to a rather unsavory "journey"--"Is either of you a Non-Saudi?”

My beloved fiancée is a non-Saudi with a mixed heritage--a Somali father and a non-Saudi Arab mother, and with citizenship from a third non-Saudi Arab country. This is also advantageous as citizens of her country are easily naturalized once marrying a Saudi citizen.

Thus, as my fiancée is a non-Saudi, I had to go through the Emara (Provincial Government), and petition them to marry her. I wanted to handle it all myself, but my mother insisted on a Moageb (a man who deals with Government Agencies for a fee). This man obviously wasn’t willing to do the work. I kept hounding him, but he refused to return calls, or to inform me of the status of the request. Only a few weeks ago, I learned he had done NOTHING. Taking the matter into my own hands, I've covered 75% of the process on my own in less than 2 weeks. Now I'm only waiting for Ramadhan to end so that I may complete the remaining 25% and be on my way.

As my fiancée is "foreign", yet born in Saudi Arabia AND has lived here her entire life, the process will be easier because this shows serious intent on both her and her families' parts of residing and making a life in Saudi Arabia. If the man is foreign (that is, without Saudi citizenship), there isn't much of a hassle, as the MOI are willing to speed the process up in order to facilitate the marriage of Saudi women. However, it'll go a lot more smoothly if the woman is 25 years of age or older. In their minds, "If she’s reached that age and isn’t married, surely no Saudi man will want her". For the record, I am 28 and my fiancée is 26, currently.

Payment of anything to anyone is to be a last resort, because one can handle a lot of the things on their own. For those who marry outside of Saudi Arabia, it's best to marry in the country of the non-Saudi spouse and follow up with the Saudi Cultural Mission and Embassies there, so that they might pass information back to the MOI. This will facilitate a better response.

At the present time, we are waiting for the medical permission to proceed. In mid-October I will receive the results of our lab tests concerning marital viability. As I've come by way of the Provincial Government, I don't get the results personally. They are sent in a sealed envelope to the Provincial Government, reviewed, and then relayed to me, explaining whether I can or can not get married because of (in-) compatibility. It can happen, as it has happened to several men I know, but I never was a defeatist and will see this through Inshallah.

At that time, in mid-October, assuming our marriage is medically approved, I, as the Saudi in the relationship, will be asked for further documents, to continue the approval process. Where the Saudi woman is marrying a non-Saudi man, the process would be similar, and it would be her role to deal with the Saudi government. I would be happy to share the list of documents that are required of me when I have them.

I would like to add that in my experience, there seems to be a general misconception about a Saudi woman attempting to marry a foreign man being harder. Perhaps from back when double standards used to apply, this rung true, however these days it is the easier of the two. The main reason for this is to solve the problem of a huge number of young women of marriageable age, and to avoid spinsterhood (defined here as age 25 and over).

I need only note our neighbours as an example. Their eldest son used to study in Canada on a scholarship provided by a well known company here; he met a Canadian woman of Egyptian ancestry. They didn’t apply for the marriage permission as he (naively) thought that it wouldn’t be a problem. They wed in Egypt and went back to completing their studies. Lo and behold, as he wished to enter through Bahrain, he was told his wife was not welcome. He’s been living in Bahrain and each day driving 240km return, to go to work and get home. It’s been 4 years since he applied for permission to have his marriage recognized.

Meanwhile, his sister was approached by an Egyptian man, and they began the process through the normal channels. 3 months later, she was married and had her marriage recognized by the Ministry of Interior. Some say it’s all dependent on luck, but that is only in one or two isolated incidences.

The major differences between the two cases are:

1. First and foremost, the Saudi man did not apply for permission prior to marriage.
2. His wife had NEVER been a resident, nor was born in Saudi Arabia, both of which play a huge role in the granting of permission. If she was only born in Saudi and resided here infrequently, they would’ve hassled them but eventually assisted. If she had resided here but was not born here, and no record of her existed in the archives, they would’ve hassled them but eventually assisted. If she is both born here and resided here for her entire life, it’s very straight forward, as they see this as a sign of serious intent on settling down in the country.
3. He didn’t hold the marriage ceremony (as much as it was an Islamic, though unofficial, non-civil marriage ceremony) in Saudi Arabia, or even Canada (where both resided and one was a citizen). Instead they chose a third country, Egypt. This I’ve learned to be a problem as well. Had they been married in Canada, they would’ve at least had the benefit of being informed. As he was a student, if he were to consult the Saudi Cultural Mission he would have received information, and would have had his Islamic marriage registered with the Ministry of the Interior. If necessary to protect his scholarship, he could have married in Canada at a non-Saudi mosque and registered his marriage at the Saudi Cultural Mission in Canada after his scholarship expired.

In summary, I would suggest: get the permission through your own efforts; follow the legal process; if marrying Islamically only, do it in the country of residence and of citizenship of the non-Saudi partner, not a third country, and register the marriage in that country as soon as the situation permits; have a lot of patience, a sense of humour, and most importantly a great deal of persistence.

I hope this has helped shed some light on the process and the do’s and don’ts of it.

I would like to thank Anonymous for agreeing to share his story and wisdom with us; and to wish him and his fiancée a speedy permission finalization, a beautiful wedding, and long, happy, and fruitful marriage.

I look forward to others sharing their wisdom, experience, thoughts, and comments on the marriage permission process for the Saudi and the non-Saudi; and on who is a Saudi or non-Saudi. (More about that latter topic in an upcoming post!)

Oh, and the caption of the stunning final photo should read: Photo by Susie of Arabia, author of the blog Susie’s Big Adventure, at her Jeddah Daily Photo Journal blog.

And now, on to your comments!

**Read the update of Anonymous' story here


Puça said...

Puça said...
Seems a laborious proceeding, but not difficult.

I guess because both live in KSA and her not being national but resident, and doing things as law requires, first getting permits, after the wedding. Guess because both had the right information.

Wish Anonymous and his fiancee a wonderful wedding and a nice life toegether.

I like his testimony, frank, clear and wise. Thanks for sharing Anonymous.

Seems to me this Moageb was really smart, sure he said while resting, was a long, hard, painful and expensive proceeding...luckily he decided to do it himself.

Would that proceeding be that easier and fast if he had meet her while on a trip to an western country and she lives out of KSA in a Christian country? Or the speed depends on each case, mood of the goverment's employee?

For me is still difficult to think about marrying that fast without previosuly dating and getting to know the real side of a partner, at least being so young... but I guess is just a cultural thing... in my mother's time was the same, now is not any more...all the opposite...
September 7, 2009 11:42 PM

Chiara said...

Puça--thank you for your thoughtful and sensitive comment.

This process reminds me somewhat of my own, which was not Saudi and therefore not as rigid perhaps, but really a question of boring paper chasing, sitting in offices, and going step by step through the legalities, even after set backs. The setbacks are usually minor compared to the goal, and encourage patience, humour, and persistence as Anonymous said. In fact one might say that of all bureaucratic adventures everywhere.

Yes this Moageb knew how to earn money for himself at least!

As you highlighted, and Anonymous addressed, the process is easier and faster for the Saudi born and raised but without citizenship, than it would be for a non-Saudi with no lived experience in the Kingdom. There is an upcoming post related to this, and perhaps others will comment now about their own out of KSA experiences.

Anonymous suggests that going through the Saudi Embassy in the home country of the non-Saudi is better than not. In my experience generally countries like nice neat linear legal actions on the part of the married or marrying couple, or else they stall the process. Canada seems to have a 4 month "cooling off period" when a Canadian sponsors a foreign spouse for immigration--even for US spouses of Canadians.

As far as I understand, once the milqa is completed, that is, a formal engagement with the future marriage contract drafted, the couple are free to get to know each other while chaperoned, during family get togethers, social events (like weddings etc), and with a mahrem present, and by phone, internet, Skype, etc. So they are not necessarily emotional and intellectual strangers when they marry. Perhaps someone else could further elaborate on this.

Thanks again for your comment which raised a number of questions for further discussion. I look forward to the comments they will bring.
September 8, 2009 2:50 AM

Anonymous said...

Mashallah, I really liked how smooth you narrated your story.

I agree with you on your suggestion about taking persons own effort to get the permission, however we can't deny how easy and fast it can be if you get a wasta or moageb.

I have heard real stories, of people I know with different situations. All worked their best on providing the required documents and WASTA. Luckly, it worked for them...and they got the permission. One of them a Saudi guy, it took him a year (wasta+money) to get the permission to marry his Lebanies wife. His wife is muslim, but not living in Saudi when he applied. This was around 6 years ago, so maybe things has changed. The other story is recent, a Saudi girl who married an American (who converted). Her case took 4 months (with STRONG WASTA), but the girl is over 25 years old and a Physician.

I wish you all the best inshallah. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us.


I do have some questions though, how do a Saudi girl get her husband to be to Saudi? I am not sure about this Visa? if he is a Fiance' can he come as a relative? the irony here, he has to be present during the permission application, and at the same time he has to be a relative to get him a relative visa?? confusing!!
I know that there are different types of Visa to come to Saudi, but do you guys have any idea which one is proper?

again, thanks anonymous and good luck.
September 8, 2009 3:37 AM

Anonymous said...

It must be said that Milkah means different stages in many Arab ( even GCC ) countries.

Here in Saudi Arabia, engagement is Khutuba. Here, depending on the religious outlook of both families, the engaged couple can visit with each other ( at the bride-to-be' home ofcourse ).
Milkah is actually drafting the marriage contract in the presence of a Government sanctioned cleric. It is after this that both are viewed officially as a married couple. They can go out together unchaperoned. The wedding festivities are only to alert the rest of their respective social groups that they are married.

Also, more one thing to note. It is imperative
that the prospective couple have the document detailing that both are medically fit to marry and give it to the cleric once ready for the Milkah, as he is Government sanctioned and is required to ask for it, and can refuse if it is not produced.
September 8, 2009 7:25 AM

Add said...

Thanks for sharing your story Anon :)

Just to give you heads up on what paperwork you would expect to be required by the officials after your medical goes through;

You're looking at things such as documents from the office of civil affairs and salary certificate from your employer (or establishment if you own one). The non-saudi partner will required to have copies of her iqama, passport (translated into arabic if in a different langauge), letters from the district officials (umdah), certified copy of the birth certificate, medical reports and reports if either partner is a divorcee/widow(er).
September 8, 2009 3:14 PM

Anonymous said...


I'm well aware of these documents and have them

all ready, with the exception of the birth

certificate, as her original one is lost and they

said they would NOT entertain moving the process

forward even with a Ministry of Health copy.

Lucky for me I know someone in AL-A7wal and he

will get it through. All the documents are

sitting on my desk at home, awaiting the results

of the medical exam to surface before I take

the documents over. As for the Umdah, I haven't

heard of it being a necessity, then again, it

differs from region to region, as they're only

given any authority if the Provincial Governer

is inclined, and our Governer only lends them

ceremonial power, which is just as good, as ALL

are simply men who are too religious, yet not

enough to be within the higher echelons of the

Hay'aa heirarchy.

Good thing for me things run smoother in the

Eastern province alhamdulillah.

Wishing everyone luck in their endeavors.
September 8, 2009 5:35 PM

Chiara said...

Anonymous WASTA and Women--thank you for your comments, stories, and questions. I have a post coming up in a day or 2 that will deal more with the Saudi woman who wants to marry a non-Saudi. As you know, the man must be a Muslim or any marriage (eg. Islamic outside the Kingdom) is considered null and any children of the couple are considered as illegitimate. Similarly civil marriages are not considered valid. The family would not be allowed to travel together to Saudi. The permission process is, as Anonymous Poster pointed out, an easier one for Saudi women than in the past, particularly if aged 25 or over, and particularly as you pointed out, if they are an MD. A work visa, a business visa, and an umrah visa (limited geographically) would all be types of visas to enable the couple to meet in Saudi, with a mahrem present, prior to marriage. My guess is that the paperwork can be done long distance with notorazied signatures and through the Saudi consulate or embassy abroad. Perhaps someone else with add to or correct this information.

Anonymous Milkah and Medical--Thank you for your clarifications. My understanding is that prior to the niqah (the formal marriage act), and often the walima (the public celebration), the couple are not allowed to be together unchaperoned, and the marriage often isn't consummated until after the walima. Perhaps you, and others could give us a glossary of the Saudi versions of khutuba, milkah, niqah, and walima.
Perhaps Anonymous Poster will share with us, or with me, and I'll pass it on, where he is in his marriage process.
Thank you for emphasizing the medical permissibility which Saudi takes very seriously in order to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and to prevent genetic illnesses from inbreeding.

Add--nice to see you here! Thank you for the list of documents. Would this summary be correct:
from the Male Saudi parter:
1) Office of Civil Affairs document (stating single status?)
2) Salary certificate from employer, or financial statement from self-owned business
3) copy of Certificate of divorce if applicable, or proof of widowhood if applicable
4) letter from the district officials (umdah)
5) copy of the birth certificate
6) copy of the medical certificate

from the Female Non-Saudi Partner:
1)copy of Iqama
2)copy of passport translated into Arabic if not in Arabic
3)copy of Certificate of divorce if applicable, or proof of widowhood if applicable
4)letter from the district officials (umdah) if is or has lived in Saudi
5)copy of the birth certificate
6)copy of the medical certificate

All copies would likely need to be certified/notorized and all non-Arabic documents translated by a recognized translator (list usually available at the consulate/embassy).

Please correct any of this and I can add it to the post to help lessen the mystery for everyone.

Thanks again to all of you for commenting, and I'm sure you will enjoy reading (and commenting! LOL :) ) on the upcoming post on a non-Saudi man marrying a Saudi woman.

Please note the wonderful commenting option in the list that drops down from "Comment as". The Name/URL option is in fact "name only", as the URL part is optional. If you make up whatever name you like (certainly better that the one's I make up for Anonymous commentators LOL :) ) it guards your anonymity while allowing us to follow your interesting comments more easily. No email is required either.

I'm looking forward to more discussion whether anonymous or nicknamed! :)
September 8, 2009 5:45 PM

Maria said...

I just want to make a small comment about his neighbor that got married in Egypt. the law in Egypt for foreignners to get married is that both parties have to have certified agreement papers from their consulates that they accept the marriage process and that means a (mowafqa) from the saudi government which means that he was not married legally in Egypt.
as i am a British married to a Saudi in Egypt and we had to wait for the papers to finalise our marriage.
September 8, 2009 8:08 PM

Chiara said...

Anonymous Poster--(the computer decided to put you comment right after Add's--rather good thinking really)thanks for updating us, and good to know you have your documents in order for the next step. I take then that the above lists are accurate, except for the regional flexibility around umdah.

Maria--thank you for your comment and sharing your information. This, the necessity of consular permission, was a topic of some debate on the post by Alyamar about her situation, and search for a place to marry without the Saudi government's approval which would have been withheld because her father refused his permission. Please feel free to comment and correct us there:

It is possible that an Islamic marriage only was performed in Egypt, rather than carrying civil weight. Or would that be a wrong assumption? It seems Muslim countries are generally most concerned with the Islamic marriage.
September 9, 2009 12:34 AM

Anonymous said...


As I have previously said, Milkah means different things in different regions. In Saudi Arabia, Khutuba is the engagement, its where the couple to be married are brought together, to talk and see if they're interested in each other enough to warrant an engagement that will need further time for them to get to know each other more. After sufficient time there, they are wed officially, in Saudi Arabia, this is called " Milkah " in other places it would be called Nikah. Here, the Mazoun ( Government Sanctioned Cleric ) would sit down with the couple, both their families and ask for the medical exam results, have the Aqd ( Official Contract ), read a little from the Qu'ran, have them sign it and then and its done.

Some families actually expand this and invite
some friends and arrange an evening of dining and celebrationand consider this the wedding party to cut down on expenses, whilst the men hold a dinner to celebrate. Then, after the honeymoon, the husbands mother would holds an " Istiqbal " a reception where she invites her friends and family members who couldn't make it to the milkah and meet the bride to meet her then and there.

I'm currently trying to negotiate this with my
fiancee as it makes alot more sense and certainly beats the lavish porportions of some weddings.

No sense in starting a married life broke.
September 9, 2009 9:33 AM

Chiara said...

Anonymous Milkah--thank you for being so patient and precise. I'm sure your comment clarifies much for those not based in Saudi. I am still waiting for my walima! LOL :) I "waived it" as we were needing the money to start life as a student with student loans and a new immigrant who had given up a good job for the vagaries of finding a comparable one in new country. Or should I say postponed? I'm still expecting a walima style anniversary party some day ;) LOL :)

I hope you and your fiancee have smooth road to marriage, and a long and happy life with or without a huge celebration. Thanks again
September 9, 2009 1:53 PM

Add said...

Anon poster:

I suppose you're right, the Umdah can be waived. In my fiancee's case, her being a student at the local uni, she was able to get a print out of her student status in lieu of what the Umdah would dish out. Thankfully ofcourse; since I learned that the Umdah procedure is very painful too.

Chiara, thanks for the welcome :) I've been an avid reader of Tara's blog since my permission procedure started. Now I want to contribute where I can.

As far as the documents required in the case where it's a Saudi groom and foregin bride, I wont be able to comment accurately, as my recollection of the list is based on what I read whilst I awaited at the lounge of the marriage office of the MOInterior in KSA.

I do however have the offical list of documents required if it's a foreign lad marrying a saudi woman (as in my case). Would you like me to post it here or wait till you release your next post on the same subject?
September 9, 2009 6:06 PM

Chiara said...

Add-Thanks for the update on the Umdah requirement--it sounds annoying and to be (legally) circumvented.

I'm glad you are following here as part of your own marriage permission odyssey, as that's what Tara created her blog for: information and SUPPORT for fellow travellers (and those who remember all too well our own paperwork, sitting in Ministry offices in other countries all too well LOL :) ).

The other post "A la recherche d'une Iquama/In Search of an Iqama" is now up, and tells the story of a non-Saudi man's permission journey to marry a Saudi. He managed to achieve that, and is no looking for advice and help on obtaining the iqama, including in the form of a sample letter or standard expressions in a kitab to Prince Naib Ahmed. If you wouldn't mind double posting your official list here and there (most recent post), that would be great.

And do shoot me an email at chiaraazlinquestion AT or Tara at taraummomar AT
if you would like to help further by sharing your story as a post here. Even if it is still in progress, I'm sure your experiences to date would be valuable. Both Tara and I guarantee anonymity and you would have final approval of the post and pictures (if any) before publication. Or you could name your firstborn "Chiara Tara" but that could be very awkward, especially for a boy! LOL :)
September 9, 2009 8:03 PM

Chiara said...

PS Add--seriously, no pressure, and feel free to comment as much as you like without being "harassed"! LOL :)
September 10, 2009 5:58 PM

Add said...

Lol @ Chiara.

Sorry I took so long to reply.. you know, Ramadhan can be quite busy in KSA ;)

Anyways, here is the list of documents that will be required by a Non-Saudi Male & Saudi Female:

Non-Saudi Male:
- Employment letter stating your current salary, attested by the Chamber of Commerce
- Copy of your Iqama and original
- Copy of your Passport (translated into Arabic by authorized notraries if not in Arabic) and original.
- Recently attested copy of your birth certificate.
- Your colour photographs (6x4 size)
- Copy of Divorce or Widow certificate if applicable.
- Copy and original of the pre-martial medical tests from an authorized medical facility
- Green folder

Saudi woman:
- Employment letter with current salary from employer or a certified letter from the Umdah (district official) and the local Police stating that the applicant is not self-employed nor by the government and is rather a house-lady (as in basically unemployed).
- Record print out from Civil Affairs office.
- Copy of the national ID card and original.
- Divorce or widower certificate if applicable.
- Attending a mini-interview at the women's section of the marriage office.

This is a translation of the official list of items required by the folks in the case its a foregin man and saudi woman. Additional note on the first requirement for the Saudi female; I am told that if the lady is a student, a print out of her uni registration record will suffice.

Hope this helps, and I will be back for further discussions on this if needed :)
September 11, 2009 6:10 AM

Chiara said...

Add--LOL :) Thank you very much for responding as soon as you were able. Yes indeed, there was a deafening silence yesterday from all my Saudi brethren in all forms of communication, which had me feeling very sniffy and neglected :( , until I realized it was a special day within Ramadan, and had it confirmed by a Gulf-based friend. I must say others, like yourself, have become communicado again and now I am all :) .

I shall put together the combined lists and post them where interested readers can find them easily.

Shokran Abu Chiara, oops, I mean thanks again Add. I look forward to further comments here and on other posts old and new. Have a blessed last 10 days of Ramadan.
September 11, 2009 5:01 PM

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Add is on top of this, but its best to

mention that the record print out from the

Civil Affairs office must be requested from

a government agency of any kind, otherwise they

would refuse to hand one a print out, this is

what I learned was in one of the envelope

handed to me by the Emara that was addressed

to the Manager of the Civil Affairs.
September 12, 2009 7:45 AM

Chiara said...

Anonymous Poster--thank you again for giving further precisions about paperwork. It benefits all to find it stated here, and hopefully Add is on top of this aspect as well.
September 12, 2009 4:46 PM

Add said...


Thank you for clarification. I wasn't aware of that. Most of the running around had been handled by my to-be-father in law. He has the print out, so I assume he went through the procedure as described :)
September 13, 2009 12:06 AM

Emma said...

how long will takes to get the permission, one month?
September 28, 2009 5:32 PM

Chiara said...

Hi Emma--welcome. It seems that although the permission should take little time, it often takes much longer.

Are you in a Sino-Saudi relationship? If so I would be happy to have you share your story. I have had the good fortune to visit your country 2X, once the mainland long ago as student, and more recently Hong Kong for an expat stint.

If you would be interested in telling your story here on the blog in order to share, have questions answered or get some support, even anonymously, I would be happy to help you with it. I guarantee confidentiality.

You can reach me at chiaraazlinquestion AT
Nice blog you have, and thank you for commenting.
September 28, 2009 6:39 PM

Emma said...

Dear Chiara,
May I have ur e-mail address?.And yes, I 've involve in such relationships and I 've suffering a lot.I would like to share my story with u while it haven't gotten the result.Anyway, nice to know u guys. And it's quite surprise to know that u've gone to my country.Hopefully, I can e-mail u soon.
September 29, 2009 5:52 PM

Chiara said...

Emma--Thanks for your lovely words. My email is as above just use the @ sign instead of AT and put it all together. I would enjoy helping you with your story. Here is the email again:

chiaraazlinquestion AT

I am looking forward to receiving your email, and I know Tara will be pleased too.

All the best


Anonymous said...

Salaam alaikoum wa rahmatullah! Thank you for your post!

I am an American Muslim convert who married a Saudi citizen while he was in the US under a Saudi scholarship. We married without getting the permission first. We are married both islamically and through the American court system.

We were told that marrying through the court (especially because we didnt get permission first!) was a huge mistake and that it'll hugely and immensely decrease our chances of getting the permission in the future. My husband is not 30 yet and I'm over 25 years old. We were told he has to wait to reach the minimum requirement age of 35 (this is a brand new law from less than a year ago). So, we're looking into many, many years of waiting to even apply for this permission, subhanaAllah. To make matters worse, there's more requirements besides the age minimum. We were also told these requirements have to be met in order for them to even look into our case! :(

My husband and I are now apart. He's gone back home (he's finished school and graduated) and the distance is killing us. With all these obstacles, a perfectly good marriage(mashAllah!)risks paying the ultimate price of divorce, audhu billahi!

PLEASEEE if someone has information regarding a case like ours, we'd really appreciate it your 2 cents and information!! We'd like to know what the best thing to do is under our circumstances, inshAllah!!

May Allah help us all in our hardship and reward us for our patience! Ameen.
September 30, 2009 9:27 PM

Chiara said...

Anonymous Apart--thank you for your comment, and I hope many others respond. My understanding is that this is a long, patience and marriage testing process, and it is best to go through all the proper procedures AND use whatever wasta and reshwa you have, as a supplement. Having his family onside would be an immense bonus.

Indeed, it seems that going through the court system in another country without the marriage permission is the biggest problem, and in fact it is better to marry Islamically, rely on common-law status in the foreign country, and then after the scholarship is completed apply for the permission to marry legally.

In the meantime, working on the strategies that keep a long distance relationship going are important, including ones you probably already do like skype, email, chat, phone, holiday visits outside Saudi, and even moving to a country closer to Saudi if possible to make visits easier. Living in Bahrain together, and working in the Eastern Province has been an option for some.

If you would like to share your story as a post in order to get more advice from diverse readers, I would be happy to help you with it. You can remain anonymous, and confidentiality is guaranteed. My email is:
chiaraazlinquestion AT

Thank you again for your comment, and I hope you will consider a post as a way to get more responses, while hoping others comment here too. All the best
September 30, 2009 10:09 PM

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for both your responses!!

I have written a reply but it appears to be larger than I'm allowed to post here. I've tried e-mailing you my post but I think I got it wrong or something.

Thanks in advance, inshaAllah.

Update: It appears the e-mail has gone through! InshaAllah, let me know if you got it.
October 1, 2009 6:33 AM

Anonymous said...

It seems that I cant continue to go by and
deliver advice as if I were completely anonymous.
But its the way I started the interview and
continuous interactions with people on this
particular subject. Anyways, I wanted to tell the
nice lady who is at this moment apart from her husband that the requirement stated for the man to be 35 years old is not true. My permission to get married is ready, all thats needed is for my fiancee's father to procure a new Original Birth cirtificate so they can verify it with the existing copy and we're done. It also must be noted I'm 28 years old. However, the one deterrent for this woman and her husband would be that she is not a Resident " Moqeema ". I too would recommend Bahrain for living, Eastern Province for work. This has aided plenty of my friends and it has worked out smoothly for them, ofcourse, this is provided he's a native Eastern Province resident, otherwise if his family are elsewhere in the kingdom it would prove detrimental to keep family ties stronger all around.

I pray that their situation gets resolved quickly and that they just be patient about it.
October 1, 2009 8:54 AM

Chiara said...

Anonymous Apart--I too have run into the maximum allowable word/stroke count (yes, all, I realize this is shocking news LOL :) :P ). The solution is to revise, or else post in 2 parts.

I just received your email. Thank you for agreeing to share your story as a post, and I will be happy to work together with you on it. For now, I will copy into a separate comment here the replies and further questions that you had.

Anonymous Poster--thanks for replying with your excellent advice to Anonymous Apart. You may identify yourself whenever you are ready, or when we do a followup post after you are all sign sealed and delivered. The more important aspect is to share your advice as you so generously have done. Thanks!
October 1, 2009 4:16 PM

Chiara said...

From Anonymous Apart/Imani:

First and foremost, thank you for your detailed answers and good wishes! May Allah reward you for them. Ameen!
I'd love nothing more than to live with my husband in his country, inshaAllah.

I've been married to my husband over 3 years now. As of yet we have no children from our marriage; nor do either of us have any from any previous marriages. From what you guys mentioned, this is something in our favor, alhamdulillah. We have not started any process for our permission yet because my husband is not even 30 years old yet. Recently, we were told that the age of permission was raised to 35.

You ask who told us about the new age requirement. Simply, my husband's family went to inquire about the requirements in the Ministry of Interior with the intentions of applying for us. They told his family that King Abdullah recently mandated the age to be 35 (instead of 30), making this a royal decree. Furthermore, they went on to say that the only possibilities to make matters "easier" for us would be if he were "mentally retarded/insane and/or if he were currently married to a Saudi woman that cannot bear children." Thankfully, neither one of these two really sad conditions apply to us, alhamdulillah.

It didn't end there. The family member went on to further inquire and asked: "What if a Saudi man married an American without getting the permission first?". The man immediately responded: "Wallah, don't even waste your time applying!" Meaning, we have literally zero chances of getting accepted. :(

You advise to get a hold of a wasta but we kept getting the same response by a couple of people that are well connected. Since this new law is a royal decree, no one dares stick their hands in the fire for anybody. Therefore, this makes our situation even harder.

Given the explained circumstances, we have not started any procedures yet. We are basing almost the entire weight of our situation on what the family was told on their trip to the Ministry of Interior.

It occurs to me now, that the person that said these things to my husband's family could've had a grudge against someone marrying a non-Saudi, and therefore discouraged it with his words. The rest lies on the fact that we've been told that in the case of a royal decree it's much harder to get a good connection or wasta.

I'd like to know if all these new laws are in fact true. Anyone that has recently (less than 6 months) started their process of permission would be most welcome! If anyone were told the same thing about the new age requirement, then at least we’d confirm our fears. Hopefully, inshaAllah this will not be the case! However, we’ve been told numerous times that there are literally thousands of families apart like we are due to these laws. What a sad fact, subhanaAllah.

Another important thing, does my husband really need to wait for the age of 30-35 to even apply? Are there any other requirements I didn’t mention that I should be aware of?
Please, anyone who can shed some light into our case, may Allah (swt) reward you with the highest of Jannah for your words of advice. Ameen!

Jazakumullah khairan wa salaam alaikoum.
October 1, 2009 4:24 PM

Chiara said...

Imani--I would agree that there is a possibility that the particular person wanted to discourage marriage to a non-Saudi, and that someone else might have been more helpful. This was certainly my own experience in Morocco, where despite a royal decree to facilitate marriages to foreigners some officials were extremely unhelpful, whether through newness, fear of a boss, or personal ideology. We married in a different city than my husbands home.

You are also perhaps right that when one starts the permission process may affect what rules one comes under.

I do hope others will come forward with more replies, infomation, and experience.
October 1, 2009 4:29 PM

Anonymous said...

My husband (Saudi) and I (American) went through all of this two years ago, so I hope I can provide some guidance. Al hamdou lillah, we are now residing happily in Jeddah.

First, do not attempt to get the approval until you're husband is done with studying abroad and has a job back in Saudi (if that is where you plan to relocate). Without a job, the application will be denied. Also, don't get married (legally) before Saudi approves it and don't mention the Islamic marriage, because they will deny your approval and risks jail time for your husband.

Second, if the non-Saudi spouse was born outside of Saudi Arabia, then the Saudi spouse must be aged 35 (if she was born in Saudi Arabia, he must be 25). To get around this law (which we did--we were 26), you must apply for an exception from the Interior Minister himself. This requires a trip to Riyadh to sit in a majlis with Prince Nayef. My husband went to Riyadh several times before finally getting the Prince's people to take our paperwork (he finally got in thanks to wasta--so ask anyone and everyone who may have connections in the Interior Ministry). In addition to the Interior Ministry's required papers, think of any other papers that have anything to do with who you are and bring those in case--like college transcripts, notorized letter from your father giving permission, etc. Also the photocopy of the passport must be in color (we didn't know this and my husband had to make an extra trip to Riyadh just to turn the colored photocopy in--they wanted everything to be handed in in person and at the end of the process he must go to Riyadh to sign several papers in person). So he should plan on lots of trips to Riyadh.

Third, if they reject the approval, which they did for us at first (because of the age requirements)--keep trying... be persistent. Keep on them, keep calling them and visiting them. Don't let them just toss your file aside. Keep reminding them that you are waiting.

Once the approval goes through, your husband and you must officially get married in your country (you cannot enter Saudi Arabia without first being married). If your husband can't get back into your country (which was our case..,he was turned down for a US visit visa after his studies were finished) try contacting the Saudi embassy in Abu Dhabi which helped us get married there... but that took a week of going between Saudi Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati court, and Emirati Foreign Ministry.

In the end, my husband returned to Saudi Arabia in August 2007 after finishing his studies and started the approval process right away after he started his job. I stayed in the US. All the approval finally came through by May 2008 and by July 2008 I arrived in Saudi Arabia to live.

The whole process was a long, emotional roller-coaster, but al hamdou lillah, its over now and worth every tear and moment apart. May Allah make it easy for you and grant you strength!
October 1, 2009 11:23 PM

Chiara said...

Anonymous--thank you for posting your comment. Your advice is excellent and clears up a number of contradictions (eg marriage age restrictions).

If you would like to share your story as a post in order to best help others and share your experience, I would be happy to help you with it. You could remain anonymous and I guarantee confidentiality.

My email is chiaraazlinquestion AT
October 2, 2009 3:20 AM

Chiara said...

Anonymous Poster suggested that I include his age and that of his fiancée in the post,as it was left out by accident, so I have added them.

He is 28,and his fiancée is 26, and as you remember is born in Saudi where she has lived all her life, though is not a Saudi citizen.

I hope that helps clarify some of the age restriction issues.
October 4, 2009 11:05 PM

Imani said...

Thank you, all for all your help and comments! May your efforts and help be rewarded! Ameen!
I have read many different responses, alhamdulillah, mashaAllah! SubhanaAllah, some say that the age requirement of 35 is not true, while others say it is depending on the situation.
To the anonymous poster that wrote that she went through the same process 2 years ago and now resides in Jeddah, alhamdulillah: You seem to be the most similar case to mine so far, subhanaAllah. You say not to get married legally (through the court) before getting the permission! I am married through the court already. What do we do in this case?! Should we get divorced from the court?? You say that my husband risks time in jail??? We were told this was the "BIGGEST" and "WORST" mistake we made. Do you know what to do in a case like this? Kindly, any little bit of light you can shed on us would be greatly appreciated!
Also, I hear everyone speak of a wasta. How do we get a hold of one? Every person that my husband has spoken to that's well connected says that they "can't put their hands in the fire for us." Is there somewhere in particular we can find a wasta?!
HELP!! :(
Thank you again to all! May Allah reward you for your help and sharing your experiences with me! Ameen ya rabb!
October 5, 2009 8:12 AM

Chiara said...

Imani--The problem with having married legally is that there is a legal record to trace, so best not to lie about it, but as Tara recommended to approach the most open and compassionate. I wouldn't advertise it though, just don't advertise it right off the bat.

I hope others will also contribute their advice.

Anonymous "Happy in Jeddah"-I hope you will continue to comment here and on other posts whether you wish to share your own story as a post or not.

You may also with to use the Name/URL optional option, and just type in the name of your choice "Happy in Jeddah" or whatever you want, and then comment. In that way we can follow along easily with your comments here and on other posts.

I'm looking forward to your reply to Imani, and to those of others.
October 5, 2009 4:33 PM

April said...


im 30 years and i being aving abeautiful relation with a saudi man he iss tuding but get graduated from his subspecility May 2010, we planing get married, he is dovorced from a saudi and he already have all the divorce papaers done, do this make easier get the permit?
thanks for ur help
December 8, 2009 8:04 PM

Chiara said...

April--my apologies, I do hope you find this comment. You pose an interesting question. I wouldn't say that your Saudi's divorced situation makes it easier to get the permission, but without doubt he must provide those papers in the permission dossier. Please see the new post on the Marriage Permission and what is new in 2010:

Anonymous said...


I am a non saudi looking to marry a saudi. My saudi has just been refused permission to marry abroad. They told him his income is not enough although he is a teacher and earns ok. What can we do?. I live in the uk and we are both 35 and wish to get married . They have refused more than once now


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