I know several Saudi women married to foreign (non-Saudi) men. Now, they have children and live happily together here in Saudi Arabia. Such marriages are not commonplace, but they do happen.
Also, I know that many Saudi girls want to have non-Saudi husbands, but after some time marry Saudi males (preferably relatives) due to pressure from their parents, the family, and society.
So, I interviewed a few non-Saudi Muslim men and women already married to Saudi nationals about how they experienced the process of getting married.
The following is what I learned.
So, How Does A Non-Saudi Man Marry A Saudi Woman?
The Six Steps
First, you get to know a Saudi girl. Next, you must take permission from her guardian to marry. Then, submit a marriage application and documents to the Imarah Office of the Saudi Ministry of the Interior. After, wait for some time to obtain ministry permission. Later, both parties sign the actual marriage contract at the local Family Court. Finally, have a wedding reception to complete the process.
Although marrying a Saudi girl may look easy, it is not. The steps and marriage procedures take time and require a lot of patience. Also, you should satisfy certain conditions and will have a few interesting cultural obstacles to overcome. All these, I will discuss later in this article.
To get the required information, I asked my wife to speak to foreign Arab women she knew. These women had married their Saudi husbands in their homelands. Today, they reside with their spouses and children in Saudi Arabia.
The men I interviewed are British and American Muslim nationals. Each married a Saudi lady in Saudi Arabia and today are now raising their families inside the kingdom.
The following article outlines the steps in detail and includes a discussion of some important considerations.
1. Ways Of Getting To Know A Saudi Girl For Marriage
Meeting Saudi Women-Restricted Social Mixing In The Kingdom
For religious and cultural reasons, a non-Saudi man cannot even see most Saudi women, let alone talk, socialize, or even get to know them for marriage in Saudi Arabia.
At home, in school, at college, and at work, they do not normally socialize with male non-family members.
In public, she will dress in a black Abaya, cover her hair, face, and eyes, and speak to non-related men only when it is necessary.
However, attitudes are slowly changing. More and more Saudi women are joining the national workforce, becoming business owners, traveling, and gaining more social prominence.
In these contexts, Saudi men and women are mixing more. Each day the separation of the sexes is becoming less and less apparent.
Today, there are increasingly more opportunities to get to know a Saudi woman at work and perhaps in a social situation more than ever existed before.
If you get to know a Saudi female at work or socially, you may wish to marry her. However, you will still need to approach her father (guardian) to get permission to do so.
Networking -Asking Saudi Male Friends To Recommend A Saudi Bride
A non-Saudi can ask Saudi male friends to recommend a Saudi lady for marriage. This approach will only work if these men are open to the possibility of their female relatives marrying a foreign national and including that they trust you and hold in high regard.
If your Saudi friend already knows of a female in the family who had successfully married a non-Saudi national, he may easily offer a recommendation.
These men are usually more open and willing to help you find a bride.
Also, over the years and without requesting it, several Saudi men have offered me the possibility of marrying a Saudi lady, usually a sister or a female relative.
My response is to thank them and to add that I am already married and that one wife is quite enough for me.
However, the truth is that most Saudi men are tribal and traditional. They want their sisters and female relatives to marry Saudis only and to marry men of the same race and ideally with the same family name.
Race And Tribal Obstacles
Over the years, I have recommended some European and American Muslim women as brides to young single Saudi men who are friends or have been my students at the university.
These young men happily considered my recommendation. However, I learned later that their family members (usually the mothers and sisters) had rejected the idea.
The reason is that in traditional Saudi families, it is the mother who searches for and chooses the bride for her son. She might be a niece, a closely related female family member, or a well-known family friend.
Social Media-Meeting A Saudi Woman On An Internet Marriage Site
Increasingly, Saudi women advertise on international marriage sites and make themselves available for marriage to non-Saudi men at home or abroad.
Getting to know her in this way is a question of successfully matching your marriage requirements with hers and later developing good online rapport.
The obstacles here are the physical distance and the unconventional approach to meeting the girl.
It is likely that you live outside of Saudi Arabia and that her family in the kingdom is not yet aware that a new, romantic relationship has started to blossom between you both.
However, you cannot marry her unless you are living in Saudi Arabia. So one day, you will need to travel to Saudi Arabia, get a job, and approach them to ask her father for her hand in marriage.
My Sad Marriage Story
Nearly twenty years ago, I got to know a lovely Saudi girl called Sarah from Riyadh. We met on an international marriage site, matched well, and developed a respectful online relationship via email.
We liked each other very much, were both sincere and felt excited by the possibility of getting married.
After a few months, I traveled to Riyadh and met her brother Salem at the airport. He took me to my hotel and arranged to meet his father at the family home the next day.
Sadly, Salem called me the following day to give me the bad news. His father refused to meet me.
The reason was that I was a foreigner. He wanted his daughter to marry someone of the same Arab race and the same tribe.
The father was also fearful that he would not get to see his grandchildren if they lived abroad in the future. He wanted to be in close daily contact with them.
Later, Sarah told me that she would respect his wishes, and our plans to marry ended.
I was sad but accepted the situation.
Race and family issues are the usual and the most difficult objections to overcome. I cannot speak for Sarah, but fortunately, my heart had not broken.
After all, I had never met Sarah face to face, and we had not developed a significant love relationship together.
2. Getting Permission To Marry A Saudi Girl- Approaching The Guardian
In Saudi Arabia, a girl can express her marriage preferences but can only marry a man if her parents agree. At home, her legal guardian is her father.
The Ministry of Interior needs his written permission before they are willing to allow you to marry a Saudi girl.
If the parents are very traditional and conservative, they will not accept that you have started to get to know their daughter without their knowledge. They will view it as deceitful and dishonorable. They would likely reject you just because you approached a relationship with her in this way.
The Best Way To Get Permission To Marry
In Saudi Arabia, as in any Arab country, a better approach for a non-Saudi would be to speak to the father directly and express an intention to marry his daughter without having developed any meaningful relations with her.
Approaching the father in this way shows that you like and respect him. It also communicates your sincerity, your acceptance of Saudi tradition, and your desire to be a part of his wider family in the future.
You should also consider getting an introduction to her father from her brother or a trusted male family friend.
I used this approach to marry my wife.
First, a trusted family friend recommended me to her father. Later, I met him and asked for his permission to marry.
Through the recommendation of the trusted family friend, I had established credibility and opened the door to the possibility of marriage to his daughter.
It might also be prudent not to mention that you have had very much prior communication with his daughter.
Failing To See The Saudi Bride Before Marriage- A Cause For Discord And Divorce
This situation, I believe, is the principal cause of marital discord in the kingdom. In some cases, a Saudi man only gets to see and know his wife after they have signed the marriage contract.
However, this may be too late. The husband may find something objectionable about his wife in her looks and personality and vice versa.
It often leads to conflict, unhappiness, and divorce.
It would be better to settle matters of compatibility beforehand. Parents should allow the prospective bride and groom some personal time to get to know each other and let them judge their suitability together.
I believe that this approach would help reduce the high rates of divorce in the kingdom.
Read my true story about a Kuwait national who divorced his wife after seeing the beautiful woman his mother had previously rejected for him
3. Submitting Your Marriage Application And Documents To the Amarah Office At The Saudi Ministry Of The Interior
The potential Saudi spouse and her family make the marriage application at the regional Amarah Office of the Interior Ministry office.
However, both the bride and groom should be present later at the Family Court for the hearing and to sign the documents.
Application For Permission To Marry A Saudi Woman-Non-Saudi Resident in KSA
Remember, the Saudi fiancé and her family make the marriage application to the Ministry of the Interior.
The Non-Saudi Groom
The Conditions For The Non-Saudi Groom MUST
- Be Muslim
- Be single
- Be 25 years or above
- Have 15 years or less age difference with the prospective bride
- Be employed In the Saudi Kingdom
- Not Be Ex Military In Home Country
- Not Be On The Banned From Entering KSA List
- Be earning more than SAR 5,000 per month
- Have Appropriate Residence
- Have a nationality (Not stateless)
- Clear Security checks
- Be in Good Health
- Attend the Family Court in person
Documents And Evidences Required-The Non-Saudi Groom
- Proof of Employment- (Work Letter Attested by the Chamber of Commerce)
- 2 Copies of Home Passport
- 2 Copies of Iqama
- A Copy of a Divorce Certificate (If Applicable)
- A Copy of a Death Certificate of the former wife (if Applicable)
- Home Embassy Certificate/Letter of No Objection
- Home Country DBS or ACRO Police Report (Criminal Background Check)
- Recent Medical Report
- Personal passport-sized photos
- A file to hold the documents
The Saudi Bride
The Conditions For The Saudi Bride MUST
- Be Muslim
- Be single
- Be 25 years of age (Hijri date) or older and not more than 50
- Have 15 years or less age difference with the prospective groom
- Be resident in the region/governorate where the application takes place
- Be in good health
- Have permission to marry from her legal guardian
- Have legal guardian attend court proceedings to give consent
- Attend The Family Court In Person
- Sign An Agreement That Her Children Cannot Have Saudi Citizenship
Documents And Evidences Required-The Saudi Bride
- Proof of Employment- Work Letter attested by the Chamber of Commerce
- Mayor’s Office Certificate & Police Certificate if not legally employed
- A copy of Saudi National ID-The Bride & Guardian (Father)
- A copy of the Family Card ID
- Letter Explaining Reasons For Marrying a Non-Saudi
- A copy of the Divorce Certificate (if applicable)
- A copy of the Death Certificate of the former husband (if applicable)
- Guardian Consent Certificate with full name, dates, and fingerprints
Where To Lodge The Marriage Application
You can lodge your marriage application at the regional Amarah office of the Ministry of the Interior. It is the region in which the bride and her family reside.
For example, a Saudi woman living with her family in Riyadh would lodge the marriage application at the Riyadh Amarah of office.
Conversely, a Saudi woman living with her family in Makkah would submit her papers to the Amarah office of the Interior Ministry in that city.
Application Submission Times
Sunday to Thursday-8:30 am – 11.30 am
There is no marriage application fee or legal expenses to pay.
What Is The Waiting Time?
Waiting times for acceptance of the marriage application vary from region to region. For example, in Riyadh, permission for a non-Saudi to marry a Saudi woman takes 1-2 months. In the Eastern province, it can take between 1.5 to 2 years.
The groom and the bride must submit the results of their hospital blood tests as part of the marriage application. The tests will show if either of the applicants has any hereditary infectious disease such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
They also test for a range of sexually transmitted diseases that includes HIV (AIDS), hepatitis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
For example, although there are no laws that ban marriage, if the non-Saudi male applicant has sickle cell disease anemia, it is unlikely that you would get permission to marry a Saudi girl.
The reason is that children can inherit sickle cell disease from their fathers only and not the mothers.
For Security Reasons, Saudis Employed in The Following Categories Cannot Marry Non-Saudi Nationals
- Government Ministers
- Senior Government Staff
- The Judiciary
- Public Notaries
- Royal Court Staff
- Shoura Council Members
- Employees at The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Diplomatic & Administrative)
- Saudi Nationals employed abroad
- Saudi Students studying abroad
- Armed Forces Personnel
- National Guard Personnel
- Internal Security Staff
- General Intelligence Staff (Civilian and Military)
- Ministry of Defense And Aviation Personnel
- Investigation and Public Prosecution Authority Staff
- Directors of Joint Stock Companies
Application For Permission To Marry A Saudi Woman-Non-Saudi Man Who Is Not Resident In KSA
The Saudi government does allow Non-Saudi men/women living abroad to visit Saudi Arabia for marriage to a Saudi national.
Likewise, the ministry does not allow polygamy for non-Saudi residents. A non-Saudi man cannot marry a Saudi woman if he already has a first wife.
Penalties For Violation Of Marriage Rules To Saudi Nationals
Violations of the marriage laws attract penalties of up to SAR 100,000 ($26,500). The court will send the funds to the Ministry of Social Affairs to help Saudi men seeking marriage.
4. The Long Wait To Obtain Marriage Permission
The waiting time to get permission to marry is long and varies from region to region. In Riyadh, it is relatively quick- 1 to 2 months. In other provinces, the process may take two years or more.
By contrast, Saudi men wishing to marry a non-Saudi female must wait around seven years before the government permits them to marry.
By then, many will no longer continue with the application procedure. Instead, these men will choose to marry a Saudi lady.
I believe that the long waiting time is deliberate so as to deter Saudi men from marrying foreign women.
Who Decides And Gives Permission To Marry?
In the meantime, the Interior Ministry assigns a team or committee to consider the applications.
They are high-profile individuals employed in the various internal agencies that include interior, justice, and social affairs.
The law governing marriage is Islamic Sharia and the officials judge your application according to that law.
Once the ministry committee decides on the application, the local prince has the final say. He approves the marriage application or otherwise with a signature and a seal.
5. Signing The Actual Marriage Contract At The Local Family Court
After the Ministry of the Interior gives its permission, the clerk sends the application documents to the regional Saudi Family Court.
The first step involves setting a court date to meet with the judge for a hearing. The bride, groom, and two witnesses will also be present to sign the marriage contract. The father must attend to ensure proper consent for his daughter to marry.
6. The Wedding Reception-Time To Celebrate
Having attended the local Saudi Family court hearing, the bride and groom are finally married. The wedding celebration will be as you want it to be.
Traditionally, there are two wedding receptions- one for the men and one for the women. Saudis like to hire expensive wedding halls or hotels. Usually, both receptions take place at the same time.
The women celebrate by singing, dancing, beating drums, and tambourines. They also dress in their finest clothes. The celebrations begin with a meal of cooked rice and chicken.
The men’s reception is soberer. Each dress in traditional gowns, congratulate each other, drink coffee, and chat together. The reception also ends with a nice meal.
What Is The Legal Status Of A Non-Saudi Man Married To A Saudi Woman? The Saudi wife can sponsor her non-Saudi husband for the duration of his stay in the kingdom. He should enjoy the same rights as any Saudi. However, the truth is that he does not have the same rights in education, work, and dealing with government agencies. Also, he cannot get Saudi citizenship in the future.
What Is The Legal Status Of Kids Born Of Saudi Mothers And Non-Saudi Fathers? These children take the nationality of their fathers. They have no rights to Saudi nationality. Also, they cannot work in the military or security-sensitive fields. However, they can get free education, medicine, can work, and have the same rights as any other Saudi. The Saudi Labor Ministry also regards them as eligible for Saudization and the Nitiqaat programs.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Non-Saudi Man Marrying A Saudi Woman? Her married life may not be as stable as if she had married a Saudi husband. Also, her children enjoy far fewer rights. They are the responsibility of the non-Saudi father and are sponsored by him. Also, she may lose her children after divorce. If deported, the children follow the father to his home country, and she could lose them, too.
References and Recommended Links
- Foreigners Married 13,000 Saudi Women Last Year-Arab News
- Procedure-Saudi Women Marriage To Non-Saudi Men moi.gov.sa
- Saudi Marriage To A Non-Saudi Resident moi.gov.sa
- Saudi Marriage to A Resident Born In Saudi Arabia moi.gov.sa
- Getting Married in Saudi Arabia– Expat.com
- Request A Basic DBS Check-gov.uk
- Guide To Saudization and The Nitiqaat Program-insidesaudi.com
- What Happens If A Saudi Wants To Marry A Foreigner -Arab News
- Premarital Screening-Saudi Gazette
- Saudi Women Marry A Non-Saudi Man-Double Standards-Al Riyadh
- Saudi Arabia-New Conditions For Saudi Marriages With Foreigners, 2018-YouTube