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15 March 2008

How to report your marriage in Poland

How to get a "Odpis skrócony aktu małżenstwa" - Polish marriage certificate

Given that the theme of my blog is foreigners (well OK Brits) in Poland, then my razor sharp logic suggests to me that if you are reading this blog then it's quite likely that you or your spouse (if you have one) aren't Polish. Therefore there's a fair chance that you didn't get married in Poland. This means you may well have another piece of Polish bureacracy to take care of - reporting your foreign marriage!


If you are lucky you might not need to bother. If you don't need to then I suggest you save yourself the money and the hassle and don't. So by now you are surely thinking - so when would I need to? I can think of the following cases:
  • Your Polish wife wants to change her surname to yours.
  • You want to register a newly born child in Poland as a married couple.
  • You are applying for a residence card (karta pobytu) and need to demonstrate that you have a Polish spouse.
  • You or your spouse want to avoid problems with the ruthless Urząd Skarbowy (treasury office) and want to report your marriage to them for financial/tax reasons.

First of all you will need a Polish translation of your marriage certificate from a sworn translator. 1 page shouldn't cost you more than around 44 złoty. Translators for languages such as English and German can be found in every town. I know a couple who got married in Egypt. I can't imagine that there are many Arabic translators in the phone book so my practical tip for today is to avoid getting married in odd places, or to odd people, or preferably both.

Next you need to go to the Urząd Stanu Cywilnego (office of civil affairs) in the town where your spouse is permanently melded with your translation and original. My wife did this part so I can't remember what she paid for the priviledge or how long it took, but I can tell you that THEY WILL KEEP YOUR ORIGINAL so make sure you have photocopies for your own records!

Why they keep your original I don't understand. What happens if you need your original for any reason back home I don't know. I am sure there is Polish logic in there somewhere. Come to think of it, like most Polish bureacracy there probably isn't...

So now you are the proud owner of a yellow piece of A5 paper that has the summary of your wedding details on it. Unfortunately you are likely to face the following potential problems with it:
  1. Polish wedding certificates have the places and dates of birth of the bride and groom on them. Your certificate probably doesn't (e.g. UK wedding certificates). Therefore your details will just be blanked out. This will cause you no end of problems when you try and use this document in other Polish offices. When I tried to register the birth of our daughter the woman insisted that our document must have been translated wrong and wouldn't accept it. It was only after a long phone call with the director of that office that they relented.
  2. Some offices won't accept this certificate once it's older than 3 months old. They expect you to go and get another one. An example is when applying for a karta pobytu. This means going back to the office holding your original wedding certificate, regardless of whether you now live on the other side of Poland because you reported your wedding X years ago and have since moved... This alone is a good argument for not bothering to report your wedding until you find you need to.
I wrote this article based on my experience (a Brit) who married a Pole in the UK. Let me know about your experiences!

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