What are the Legal Requirements for Eloping to Tonga?
An idyllic island paradise away from the crowds, Tonga is a popular destination for honeymoons and romantic getaways. For weddings, well, it’s not so popular due to the arduous Marriage Certificate process that eloping couples have to go through. The marriage requirements for Tonga include:
- To be in Tonga for at least one month
- To get permission to marry from Tonga’s Immigration Division
- A Marriage Licence.
We go through how to obtain these, along with the documents needed and other things to consider in this complete guide to the Tonga marriage requirements for foreign couples.
For more wedding talk, check out Everything You Need to Know About Getting Married in Tonga.
Conditions for Getting Married in Tonga
Overseas residents wishing to get married in Tonga need to meet the following conditions:
- Be over 18 years of age or have the consent of your parents to marry
- If on a Visitor’s Visa, you must apply for a permit from Tonga’s Immigration Authority before obtaining a marriage licence from the Supreme Court Registry
- If you’re on a Visitor’s Visa, you must reside in Tonga for at least one month before the intended wedding date
Note that if you are on a student, employment or residency visa you do not need to apply to Tonga’s Immigration Authority for a permit.
Another important thing to mention is that you need to get the appropriate vise to allow yourself enough time to sort out the logisitics of your wedding. Find out more about extending your visa in How Long Can You Stay in Tonga on a Visitor Visa?
Applying for an Immigration Authority Permit
Couples from overseas need to obtain permission from the Immigration Authority in order to apply for a Marriage Licence. But that’s not the only interaction you’ll have with Immigration, as you will also need to have an extended Visitor’s Visa in order to stay in the country for long enough to get married.
The Extended Visitor’s Visa in Tonga
The first thing to note about Immigration is that couples wishing to elope to Tonga must reside in the country for at least one month before getting a Marriage Certificate. As the standard Visitor’s Visa is only valid for one month, you will need to get an extended Visitor’s Visa in order to give yourselves enough time to work out the logistics. Extended Visitor’s Visas can be arranged with a consulate overseas, as well as in Tonga at the Immigration offices in Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. Find out more in How Long Can You Stay in Tonga on a Visitor Visa?
The Immigration Authority Permit for Marriage in Tonga
Once you know you can legally stay in the country for long enough to get married, you need to apply for an Immigration Authority Permit which allows you to apply for a Marriage Licence. For this, you need to provide the following documents:
- One passport photo of each party
- A photocopy of each party’s passport
- Certified copies of birth certificates for both parties
- If necessary, death certificate of spouse
- If divorced, a copy of the Decree Absolute
- An affidavit of no impediment to get married
- An affidavit stating parties have no criminal record
- Application fee (around TOP$345)
Note that affidavits can be done by a lawyer or by the Supreme Court. The process with the Immigration Division takes two to three days. For information can be provided by the Immigration Division at the following address:
Immigration Division (under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Phone: (+676) 26969
Applying for a Special Marriage Licence
Once the couple have been in the country for at least one month and have received their Immigration Authority Permit (see above), they will need to apply for a “Special” Marriage Licence from the Supreme Court Registry. While a normal Marriage Licence allows a couple to marry if they have resided in Tonga for at least six months, the Special Marriage Licence allows the involved parties to get married in Tonga after residing for at least one month. For the Special Marriage Licence, you will need the following documentation:
- Joint application letter by bride and groom-to-be
- Affidavit of joint applicants stating their plans for marriage and their substantial link with Tonga
- Original Birth Certificate for each party
- Passport for each party
- Letter from Immigration where appropriate (the Immigration Authority Permit)
- Divorce decree where appropriate
- Letter from the church Minister (Minister’s Form)
- Application fee (around TOP$32 for foreign passport holders).
Where to Register for a Special Marriage Licence
Marriage licences must be obtained from the Chief Registrar or Registrar at the Supreme Court Registry office, which is a part of the Ministry of Justice. You cannot make an appointment to obtain a Marriage Licence, you just need to show up and wait for a Chief Registrar or Registrar to be available.
The Supreme Court Registry office is located at the following address:
Supreme Court Registry office (Ministry of Justice)
Corner of Lavinia and Kausela Road
Opening hours: 8.30am-4.30pm, Monday to Friday
Processing for the Marriage Licence takes up to one day, so you may need to return later to pick up the Marriage Licence.
Returning Your Marriage Certificate
Once you have the Special Marriage Licence, you have 18 days in which to have the licence solemnised by a Minister and returned to the Supreme Court Registry, along with a Marriage Certificate. The marriage will then be registered.
Late Marriage Registrations
Those returning their Marriage Certificate beyond 18 days will have to do an Application for a Late Registration of Marriage. This requires the following documents:
- A joint letter of Application from both parties
- Affidavit of both the bride and groom
- Affidavit of one of the witnesses (if no witness is available in Tonga then an affidavit from a person who attended the wedding)
- A letter from the Church Minister explaining why the marriage was not registered in time and the whereabouts of the licence
- A letter of support from a reliable source
- An application fee (around TOP$16).
The Apostille Seal
Some foreign nationalities need an Apostille stamp/seal on their Marriage Certificate to make the marriage legal in their home country. This especially applies to European Union citizens, but citizens of Asia and South and Central America should check with their Civil Registrar whether the Apostille is required.
Citizens from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US do not require an Apostille.
Apostille seals can be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tonga.
For more advice on weddings in Tonga, see How to Organise Your Wedding in Tonga.