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.
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.
- 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!