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Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Procedures, processes, JFRV, potential documentation difficulties, whether to get married in Taiwan or overseas, as well as legal basis for divorce in Taiwan, including all related problems and pitfalls, child custody, alimony payments, abandonment, extra-marital affairs, and other complications...
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Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby mephistoned » 09 Aug 2013, 17:08

I am a UK citizen and I have just successfully gotten married without having to fly to HK (which was the official British Embassy advice) and without having to go to England for a month to get a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (which the Taiwanese government claims you must have). Both of these options were too expensive and disruptive to work for me, since I am already planning to take a month of to have a church wedding in England and go on honeymoon. A five day stretch in HK, or an extra month in England before coming back to Taiwan and then going to England again, was a step too far for me. It really is a totally unreasonable and unnecessary requirement from the Taiwan Government, since the English government wouldn't have a clue if I had married abroad unless I registered it with them, so their stated aim to protect Taiwan citizens is totally moot. It does make it very expensive and difficult to marry in Taiwan. Forcing foreigners to fly either to HK or back to their home country for a month is not right at all. I also believe that if you had no resident address in the UK (eg. a parent's house) you might not even be able to apply for the Certificate of No Impediment.

There was some good advice in another Forumosa thread about how to get married without going to HK or England for a Certificate of No Impediment (it requires you are there at the start of the process and at the end one month later). However, that advice is a bit old now, some things have changed, and I have to admit it was a serious battle with the Taiwanese government to make this work. Note that you will get NO official advice or help with this process - the British Embassy flat said this wouldn't work, and calling the Taipei Government also received a negative response. This is not comforting, but I trusted in the experience of others and it does work in the end.

So here are the stages if you want to go this rather nerve-wracking route (NB don't start this process too early as the Letter of No Trace may only be valid for three months or so).

1. Apply to the General Registry Office in London for a Letter of No Trace. This letter will state clearly that the check can only run up to about 2-3 years before the time of application (mine was up to 2010, applying now in 2013). This will cause problems later. However, you don't need to be there to apply for this, and my father was able to handle it for me.

2. When this document arrives (2 weeks later I think it was) it needs to be sent to a public notary to be notarized and stamped (I think this cost about 60 quid).

3. They should then be able to send it on for you to the TRO (Taipei Representative Office) in London. There it will receive another stamp and be sent back to you a week or so later. In total this letter hit a hundred pounds or so.

4. Have it sent to you in Taiwan, You do NOT need to get this notarised again in Taipei by MOFA (I did and they simply gave me the same stamp as the TRO!!). 400 dollars and several trips wasted. Doh!

5. Choose a new cool Chinese name - you'll need it! I decided to take my wife's surname in Chinese since I don't really have one, but that's not necessary!

6. Have the Letter of No Trace carefully and exactly translated. In the end, mine was never checked by anyone with a great level of English, but they made sure the paragraphs, dates and sentences matched up! So don't take a risk on being tricky with the translation! The part that will cause the problem is the date on it, that they can only check up to a few years before. More on that later!

7. Download/ fill in the marriage paperwork - your Taiwanese spouse can help with this. You'll need the signatures of two witnesses but they don't need to go with you to the court.

8. Now you need to go to the local court, with your passport and ARC in hand. You don't usually need to book an appointment. There is more paperwork to do in Chinese and they will check your Letter of No Trace. The lady there did ask about the date, but we simply said that I had been in Taiwan for 5 years so the English government couldn't check that time (which is pretty true and logical, but not the real reason which is that the GRO can only trace up to 2 years odd before). She was ok with this, but this was not the final hurdle! Read on!

9. We now took all the paperwork to the Local Government (your spouse will find out where) for registration. I believe this is a recent requirement. Now the trouble started. We may have shot ourselves in the foot as my gf called a few weeks earlier to double check that the Letter of No Trace would work or not. Before the gov had said ok, but when she very specifically highlighted the 2 year gap in the check, they said no it wouldn't work (tell someone there is a problem, they will think there is a problem!). The office lady at the government remembered our call when we met them, so they were somewhat forewarned. Perhaps a mistake, but then maybe they would have been alarmed anyway. So we were now told that we couldn't get married because of the two year gap. We argued hard that I had been living in Taiwan for 5 years so the English government couldn't check that time, but it didn't wash. They said they needed to protect Taiwan citizens and they couldn't know if I had gotten married or not. They checked my passport and saw I had left the country several times on holiday! Haha! So I could have gotten married then! I argued that you can't get married in England within a month (true) but they weren't interested in checking any other country's laws. So perhaps if you had not left the country for two years, this argument would be easier... Anyway, we nearly gave up. I played my stroppy foreigner card and my girlfriend did her wonderfully cute girly thing. I could tell they were starting to feel sorry for us. But they weren't budging.

10.We then suggested swearing an affidavit with the court notary (as suggested by other forum threads on Forumosa). This would mean going back to the court building elsewhere in the city. The government lady said she would accept that. However, a phone call to the court revealed that they didn't offer this service to foreigners!! So then we started looking for a public notary who could help notarize a sworn statement by me to the effect that I had not gotten married. We called around and found some, but before we did this we went back to the government lady and checked they would accept this. She argued some more that it had to be a court notary (which was impossible for me as a foreigner) and then finally went and talked to a higher superior.

11. When she came back, we had a solution! In the end, all she asked us to do was write out a statement in Chinese that I am not married and if I am lying and am married then my Taiwan marriage would be void. Now all was well and we finished the paperwork getting our certificates. Note that an ARC can be changed to a marriage visa later - but that's a different process which can be done in your own time and requires a police check from your home country.

Conclusion

Other foreign nationals on Forumosa have gone through this process without a hitch, but we definitely felt the hitch (we got married in Kaosiung btw). It was a long and rather stressful day. In the end, after all the arguing, a signed statement solved everything. Logically, the Letter of No Trace was not even needed. However, I think it was necessary since had we simply rocked up with no document at all, I doubt we would even have gotten past the court. Having the document made things look more official and showed our serious intent. We still feel it was worth it because we avoided what would have been very expensive trips to the UK or HK and did what we bloody well ought to be able to do - got married in Taiwan! We may have been unlucky with the office ladies being particularly vigilant (or foolishly forewarned by us) - on a different day this might be more easily solved. They obviously had no experience with how to get round this problem. My gf thinks we were lucky however in that they did finally come up with a solution. We very nearly gave up, threw in the towel, and went to HK.

Indeed, if you want a stress-free experience, HK might well be the better option (some great threads on forumosa about that). We had to get married before going to England, as the Church requires it to do the service (and that was another whole nightmare getting them to agree to convalidate the wedding...). Getting married legally in England I believe, from memory, requires two months of residency, which simply wasn't possible for me or her with work, looking after sick relatives etc. So this way was by far the cheapest, and I can feel better about the money we will spend going to England for the Church wedding and honeymoon afterwards.

Overall:
- if you have lived in Taiwan for 3 years or more, your argument about not being married will be more convincing
- if you have not left the country to go abroad for those 3 years, your argument will be very convincing
- if you have not lived in Taiwan for 3 years, you might well find this very difficult, but logically the same problem can be solved with a sworn statement, so it might be worth trying
- if the office ladies give you grief, try to suggest the sworn statement as early as possible
- be prepared for a battle. Right is on your side, this situation is silly, and I'm going to write to the government to complain. We should be able to get married in Taiwan without expensive trips abroad. It's a human right for the Taiwan citizens, let alone foreigners! They should be able to get married to who they choose in their own country. My gf begged them not to force us to go to HK, which was going to be the only other way. Saying that the English government could not check the register for those years because I was living in Taiwan seemed a pretty damn logical and persuasive argument to me - it may or may not have cut some ice, I'm not sure.
- it was worth it in the end!
- I'm going to complain, maybe they will sort this out soon. I think it's a disgrace that the British Embassy is formally advising British citizens to go and get married in HK. How desperate is that! International marriages are expensive enough without this trouble and it's great for HK (ie. bad for Taiwan) that foreigners are being sent there on marriage vacations!
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Tr

Postby hsinhai78 » 09 Aug 2013, 18:29

mephistoned wrote:
8. Now you need to go to the local court, with your passport and ARC in hand. [...] We now took all the paperwork to the Local Government (your spouse will find out where) for registration.


As far as I know, you only need to visit the household registration office and submit the marriage contract (should list wife and groom , witnesses, ID numbers and the respective article of the Civil Code) as well as your single certificate or whatever you have in lieu of that. Why were you required to go to court? Is that a new procedure?


mephistoned wrote: Before the gov had said ok, but when she very specifically highlighted the 2 year gap in the check, they said no it wouldn't work (tell someone there is a problem, they will think there is a problem!).


So true. Don't ever do that in Taiwan. As long as a document comes with 5000 stamps the government will accept it - even if it is a sales contract for the Eiffel Tower. As soon as you leave the golden path of SOP and raise suspicion by asking questions, you will face millennia of bureaucratic experience in making your life feel like hell. Never forget that the Chinese had multiple dynasties to bring their administrative purgatory to absolute perfection.
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby Mugatu » 21 Aug 2013, 10:54

First, thanks for posting all of this info. I was planning on going to Hong Kong, but this is a much better option.

mephistoned wrote:1. Apply to the General Registry Office in London for a Letter of No Trace. This letter will state clearly that the check can only run up to about 2-3 years before the time of application (mine was up to 2010, applying now in 2013). This will cause problems later. However, you don't need to be there to apply for this, and my father was able to handle it for me.


I called the GRO last night, and they were pretty helpful. However they told that it would be no problem to check all the way back until I was 16, but because their records are not up-to-date, it would only prove that as of 18 months ago I hadn't got married. This seems the opposite of what I have read here and elsewhere.
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby spaint » 22 Aug 2013, 14:12

hsinhai78 wrote:
mephistoned wrote:
8. Now you need to go to the local court, with your passport and ARC in hand. [...] We now took all the paperwork to the Local Government (your spouse will find out where) for registration.


As far as I know, you only need to visit the household registration office and submit the marriage contract (should list wife and groom , witnesses, ID numbers and the respective article of the Civil Code) as well as your single certificate or whatever you have in lieu of that. Why were you required to go to court? Is that a new procedure?


I think the marriage contract needs to be ratified in court in a witnessing ceremony (公證). I know that's how I did it first time I got married in 2002.

Of course, in 2002 I was able to obtain a certificate of no impediment without going back to the UK (not sure how I did that).

Mugatu wrote:
mephistoned wrote:1. Apply to the General Registry Office in London for a Letter of No Trace. This letter will state clearly that the check can only run up to about 2-3 years before the time of application (mine was up to 2010, applying now in 2013). This will cause problems later. However, you don't need to be there to apply for this, and my father was able to handle it for me.


I called the GRO last night, and they were pretty helpful. However they told that it would be no problem to check all the way back until I was 16, but because their records are not up-to-date, it would only prove that as of 18 months ago I hadn't got married. This seems the opposite of what I have read here and elsewhere.


I think you've misunderstood the OP. He's saying the same as you, only his record is 2-3 years out of date, while your information says only 18 months.
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby shangbangan » 25 Aug 2013, 15:11

Did the Uk recognise the Taiwanese wedding as i heard alot of people have had problems?
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby spaint » 26 Aug 2013, 10:41

shangbangan wrote:Did the Uk recognise the Taiwanese wedding as i heard alot of people have had problems?


Problems doing what?

It seems to me that the UK doesn't allow you to register a Taiwanese marriage with the General Registrar's Office - a non-mandatory process that is of dubious merit in the first place. The UK certainly recognizes it as a legal marriage for immigration purposes, or for the purposes of determining whether or not you're married in the first place.

EDIT: When I was married the first time, I ran into a stumbling block with getting my JFRV because the immigration authorities wanted proof that I'd registered my marriage in the UK (I had been married in Taiwan). I remember escalating to someone a bit higher up in the office to tell them that a) I'd gotten married in Taiwan - what was wrong with the certificate and b) the UK doesn't have an analog to Taiwan's Household Registration system (in which system you MUST now register a marriage within a month for it to be legally recognized). I'm sorry I can't remember more details about the resolution of my situation, but it was indeed resolved quickly and in my favor.
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby mephistoned » 30 Aug 2013, 03:30

yes I see little need to register in the UK as I don't plan to live there for the time being. It should be ok for immigration - if there is any other purpose I don't know it.

Registering in the court is new.

Witnesses were not required to be present - just a signature.
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby youqian » 02 Jan 2014, 22:24

As a Brit who just married a Taiwanese in Taiwan, I can confirm that the information from the original poster is correct although with some minor corrections.

Forget the trouble of going back to the UK or even taking a trip to HK and get married hassle-free in Taiwan instead.

Here is the process I went through step-by-step:

NOTES:
- I'm from Scotland so for some steps below you need to contact the offices in your country
- My mum who lives in Glasgow was a big help with getting documents ready but I could have done it all from Taiwan
- My wife's Household registration office is in Taoyuan. Please check with your partner's office for specific requirements

1. I emailed the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) and asked them for a "Letter of Single Status." The fee for the letter is GBP5 for every 5 years or part of 5 years searched from age 16. I'm now 31 so this letter cost GBP20. To pay, I called them and provided my debit card details.

The letter arrived within a couple of days at my Mum's house in Glasgow. The letter is stamped by an official from the GRO so you DO NOT need to get this letter notarized.

2. The letter now goes to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK to be legalised. You need to pay GBP30 online first of all. Then download, fill in and post the application form. For free postage, my mum also sent a stamped self-addressed envelope.

Again, the letter arrived within a few days.

3. The letter, complete with Apostille on the back now goes to the Taipei Representative Office (TRO) in the U.K. to be authenticated for use in Taiwan. Anyone from the Isle of Man, the North of England (Durham and Cumbria and above), and Scotland should be send to the Edinburgh office for authentication.

What to send: Letter of Single Status and photocopy of both front and back, application form, copy of passport, stamped self-addressed envelope, and GBP10. (5 pages altogether plus payment and SAE). You DO NOT need to send translated documents.

4. The letter now has 3 stamps and looks mighty impressive. My wife translated the document by herself, making sure to type the correct dates and keep the same layout including header and footer. No need to translate stamps or Apostille.

She took the original and translated documents (paper and digital versions (for possible revisions)) to be notarized by a public notary nearby for NTD750. Just Google public notaries near your house.

5. The final thing I had to prepare was a document to declare I will adopt a Chinese name. You can find examples online and they even have one at the Household registration office if you don't prepare one beforehand.

6. On my wife's side, she prepared her ID card, ID-sized photo, stamp, household registration book.

7. The last document is the marriage application form. You can find plenty of examples online. You, your partner, and two witnesses need to complete and stamp this form but the witnesses don't need to go with you to the Household registration office.

8. Up to now, this took about a month and wasn't hard. Just time-consuming. On 31/12/2013, we took all the documents to the Taoyuan Household Registration Office and took a number. There were no issues at the desk except that the clerk had trouble connecting my "General Register Office for Scotland" letter with my UK passport. After a quick geography lesson, he was happy to just write 英國. We asked for 2 Chinese and 2 English Marriage Certificates for a total cost of NTD450 and our marriage was official.

There you have it. No need to use a notary in the UK, no need to go to MOFA, no need to go to court. Total cost GBP60 + NTD1200 (plus a day trip to Taoyuan). Of course, it would take a bit longer and cost a little more if I did it all from Taiwan myself so it's good if you have someone in the UK to help.
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby tommy525 » 03 Jan 2014, 03:14

Gosh, not too much trouble really compared to what I had to go through to marry my indonesian fiancee.

i-129F fiance visa ap = usd350 to USCIS for the trouble.

8 months of waiting before anyone even looked at the application. Which they then said they intended to deny based on info that was not correct. Had to send a letter refuting their wrong info. Wait another month , then got acceptance of the application.

Wait another two months before US embassy interview in Jakarta, which costs about 250 for the interview and another 100 for doc visit.

Waited another several months before visa issued.

Plane ticket to SFO = usd1300

Getting married at local courthouse (super easy) = about 130 or so IIRC.

Green card ap for her to REMAIN in the USA = about 1200 USD or so, forgot the exact, including payment for visit to Govt office where they fingerprint and photograph her.

Took over a year to get her over here to marry.

So , in view of above, you guys don't have it all too bad lah :)
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Re: Getting Married In Taiwan (not HK) WITHOUT leaving the country (Letter of No Trace)

Postby poetpainter » 31 Mar 2014, 10:53

Thanks guys for all the information above. I'll be launching into taking those steps soon. However, it looks like my fiancé and I will be having a baby before we get married. Just wondering if there are any official things that need to get sorted for that situation....(?)
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