Foreigner marrying a local Bruneian. A step by step guide.
Time to put this blog to good use again. Seeing that there's hardly any resources online for what one should do when they have decided to marry a local Bruneian, here's what I can tell you in a quick summary.
Especially when dealing with the immigration department officials and the paperwork requirement. Despite being married for two years now, whenever I have to make a trip to the immigration to renew Calla's visa, my mood instantly turns sour and I just rage mentally. The repetitive paperwork submissions and the waiting time is absolutely ridiculous and if you're unlucky, you'll be greeted with a "Nombor sudah habis" (Out of queuing numbers) just as you arrive at the immigration which pretty much means, screw you - try your luck again tomorrow! And I shit you not, in order to secure a queue number in the morning, one have to start queuing in line by 6 am at the very least while those working at the immigration department is probably still sound asleep at home before their shift starts at 7.30 am.
For mine and Calla's case, before our official wedding in Michigan, we decided on doing a registry of civil marriages (aka court signing) earlier just to ensure a smoother process when applying for her permanent residency here. In order for her to be eligible to apply for permanent residency (Red I/C as commonly known here), we will need to be married for at least two years before we can apply for that. But before we get into the court signing part, first requirement by authorities in Brunei is to 'seek their permission'. Yes, for some reason you will need to have a letter from the Immigration Department saying something along the lines of 'We have no issue to let this foreigner marry this Bruneian.' And to get that crucial letter, it requires a one month waiting period after you have submitted the required documentations. So...I would highly recommend you to plan way ahead of time. We started our process as early as June when we decided on doing the court signing for December. But it ended up being in January to do non-availability of dates.
Anyway, here's a practical guide for all you foreigners out there who wants to know what are the main paperwork requirements should you decide to marry a local Bruneian.
|Checklist of documentations required by the Immigration Department.
For those unfamiliar with Malay, here's a simplified English checklist of documents required for a local Brunei citizen & permanent resident that wish to marry a foreigner.
A. For Wife To Be
- A letter of application from wife to be - 2 copies (sample provided below)
- An authorisation letter to marry (from parents or guardian of wife to be) - 2 copies. *note - it does not matter if your spouse to be is 20 years old or 40 years old, as per their required documentations, you will still need a letter by someone from her side of the family to say 'Yes, I allow this person to be married'. Major wtf, i know!
- Identification card and/or passport - 2 copies
- Passport sized photo - 2 copies
- A letter from your village head to confirm your spouse is single (another wtf) or a statutory of declaration by court - 2 copies.
B. For Husband To Be.
- Same as the above.
Note: If both the applicants have already been legally married (elsewhere or previously); you will also need to provide the following
- Marriage certificate - 2 copies
- Divorce certificate - 2 copies
- Death certificate (assuming if your previous spouse died) - 2 copies
- Death certificates of parents - 2 copies
- Authorisation of letter from wife & identification card - 2 copies (this I assume for Muslims since they're allowed to marry up to three wives)
- Conversion of faith letter (for those who embraced Islam) - 2 copies.
Disclaimer: The process of this application will take a month or more. You are reminded NOT to set any wedding dates prior to receiving any official notification from the Immigration Department. This is to avoid any inconveniences.
|Sample letter provided by the Immigration on how to write your letter of application to marry the person. I just copy word for word and changed the names and country respectively.
Now, for locals and permanent residents, the wtf part of the above mandatory requirement is a letter from your 'ketua kampong' i.e village head. This part I have no idea why it's required but fortunately for my case, my mom knew where our village head lived and the process to get it is pretty simple. Just give him a copy of your I/C and he'll issue you a letter like this.
|Still no idea why there's a need for a random village head to verify that I'm single. I mean really, that's all the letter says. He can vouch that I'm single. I don't even know that guy!
Once you have submitted all of those, you will be given a date to come in for an interview with an immigration official. If I'm not mistaken, you are also required to bring one witness which for my case I brought my mom along as a 'guarantor'. The interview is really just for the officer to formally go through all the documentations in front of you and to explain on certain immigration rules of the country. Technically, it's also for them to verify and judge if your relationship is legit or not. Once the officer is satisfied, you are instructed to come back in about a month time to collect your letter that states the Brunei Immigration have no issues with you marrying your spouse. My advise is - mark down the date of your interview somewhere and set a reminder to when you need to go collect your letter. Do not rely on them calling you to collect cause that will not happen. For my case, they messed up our letter with typo on my name but thankfully I did not have to wait another month for them to re-do. And it is while waiting for them to re-issue the letter, I saw why it takes a month. The person handling these letters can't type to save their life. From what I could see, everything is already laid out in a template but I guess the struggle is real for the officers to type up different names.
Once you have receive an official letter of authorisation to marry your spouse from the Immigration Department, laminate that shit immediately. The last thing you want to happen is to have it smeared and/or torn only to have to go through the ENTIRE process again. And trust me, you will need to provide endless copy of this letter for any other immigration related applications in the future. But congratulations on reaching this far! We have only just begun. For the next step, court signing! Here's the checklist from their brochure which you can retrieve from the Registry of Civil Marriages section at the AGC Building.
Dealing with the court is much less complicated since most of them can speak English and the checklist & instructions are pretty straight forward. The only hiccup I had was with providing an official Certified of No Impediment to Marry issued by the Marriage Registry of the applicant's Country of Origin or an Affidavit or Statutory Declaration sworn by the applicant's parents. I initially thought it would make sense to have Calla provide an 'Affidavit of Statutory Declaration' herself done at the U.S Embassy but apparently the court does not recognises that. So we had to get her mom to do it officially in Michigan and Fedex the affidavit back here urgently to secure the date we wanted to do our Registration of Marriage. Once you have provided all of these to the court, then you can officially choose a date to legally be husband and wife in Brunei!
|Us after exchanging our 'legal' vows in 2014.
Hope the above information is of great use to any of you out there. The next step after this is applying for your spouse to legally stay here which is another shitty lengthy process but I shall not go there because that requires a lot of mental strength and patience. Just thinking about doing a post on that entire process is making me annoyed. My suggestion if you prefer to skip the entire above process? Don't marry a Bruneian. If you really have to, then don't get married in Brunei. It's only necessary if you are planning on settling in Brunei for a bit or permanently. If both you and your spouse have no plans, then do it at whichever country you're living (if it's any easier than the Bruneian process). I wish you the very best of luck and may the odds be ever in your favour.