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What is a Certificate of No Impediment and How Can You Obtain One?

Simon Colwill - April 26, 2024 - 0 comments

Navigating the legal requirements surrounding marriage, particularly on an international scale, should be done carefully to avoid any hiccups on your big day. One crucial document often demanded when getting married or entering into a civil partnership abroad is the Certificate of No Impediment (CNI). This official declaration, recognised in numerous countries including the UK, attests that an individual is free to marry and that there are no legal obstacles hindering their union. 

In this guide, MSC Notaries highlight the significance of a Certificate of No Impediment, the process of obtaining one, and its importance in ensuring a smooth and legally recognised marriage both domestically and abroad. Offering leading notary and apostille services in the UK, we have assisted countless individuals in legalising CNIs, a crucial document for a legal marriage abroad.

What is a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI)?

A Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) is a legal document that certifies two individuals’ eligibility to get married. It’s issued by the local council or General Registrar Office to British citizens that are legally able to marry. Otherwise known as a clearance certificate, the UK document is needed to be able to legally marry or enter into a civil partnership abroad.

What information is contained in a Certificate of No Impediment?

Various essential information is included in the document, such as:

  • Full names
  • Dates and places of birth (ages)
  • Marital statuses, such as single, or previously married
  • Occupations
  • Places of residence and district of residence
  • Length of residence at the address
  • Location where the marriage will take place
  • Confirmation that there are no legal issues to why the two people can get married
  • Nationalities

When is a CNI Required?

If you’re a UK citizen planning to get married abroad or enter into a civil partnership, a Certificate of No Impediment is required by the authorities overseas for the ceremony to go ahead. The document is also required for some other religious ceremonies, or registering your marital status abroad.

Examples of scenarios that may require a CNI:

  • Getting married abroad
  • Civil partnerships abroad
  • Religious ceremonies abroad
  • Registering your marital status or proof of celibacy abroad

It’s important to note that CNIs are not valid or accepted for overseas marriages in Commonwealth countries

How to Obtain a Certificate of No Impediment

It is relatively straightforward to obtain a Certificate of No Impediment, particularly if you are residing in the UK. The main priority is to make sure you do this in advance of your planned marriage or civil partnership to make sure you have the document ready.

Book an appointment at your local register office

Certificates of No Impediments are issued by your local register (registry) office. To get started, find your local register office in the UK and get in touch to arrange a notice of marriage appointment and request your certificate. 

You will need to complete an application form and provide various documentation to prove your identity, nationality, address, and current marital status. It’s advisable to check with your register office about the exact documents that are required to submit. 

Some supporting documents that you will likely need to prepare include:

  • Proof of identity — your passports or UK birth certificates
  • Proof of residence/address — utility bills or bank statements
  • Proof of marital status/declaration — that confirms neither individual is currently married and there are no legal objections as to why you can’t be married, such as divorce certificates for those with dissolved marriages or death certificates for those widowed
  • For LGBTQ+ couples — you will also need to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate prior to the application for your CNI. This legally recognises your affirmed gender in the UK, to get married or form a civil partnership in your affirmed gender
  • Payment of the fee for processing and issuing the document
  • Completed application form

Once you have completed your application and provided all the required supporting documents and these have been checked and approved, the registrar will display a note for up to 28 days before your document is issued. Once issued, the document then serves to confirm that there are no objections to the marriage taking place. 

Contact your British embassy in the country you are based in

If you are from the UK but currently living overseas, you will need to contact the closest British embassy in the country you’re in to request the Certificate of No Impediment. 

The embassy will usually be able to carry out the process for you and issue you the document. However, if this isn’t possible, you can contact the local authorities in the country you plan to get married in to see if another document can be used as an alternative. 

Alternative documents to the Certificate of No Impediment

If you can’t obtain this document for any reason, there can be alternative documents that can be accepted to allow you to marry abroad. Before you obtain an alternative document, it’s best to contact the local authorities in the country you plan to wed to check what will be accepted for your marriage to go ahead. 

Examples of alternative documents include:

  • Statutory Declaration that you are both free to marry, put together, signed and legalised in front of a solicitor or notary public.
  • Letter of No Trace if you are not a UK citizen or have lived abroad for a period of time.    

How long does it take to get a Certificate of No Impediment?

When you apply for a CNI, your register office will put up a notice of your marriage. After 28 days, if there are no legal objections to your marriage, your certificate will be issued. 

How much does it cost to get a Certificate of No Impediment?

The cost of a CNI will depend on your local council’s fees, however, the fees usually range from £30 to £40.

Notarisation and Apostilles for CNIs

To get married in a wide range of countries, your Certificate of No Impediment will also need to be apostilled and possibly legalised for use. It’s important to check with the local authorities in the country you plan to get married to identify if your CNI needs notarisation and an apostille in advance to ensure your wedding runs smoothly. 

You should give yourself time to have your CNI legalised before your wedding, however, avoid having your document legalised more than three months before as some countries may require the apostille to be recently issued.

Legalise your Certificate of No Impediment with MSC Notaries

MSC Notaries offer document translation, notary services, and apostille services for a range of countries to assist you in getting married in another country. We can help you gather the documents required, translate these if necessary, and ensure they’re properly certified and legalised for your chosen country.

Countries differ in the level of legalisation required for documents for your documents to be accepted, so while some scenarios may only need documents to be notarised, others may need an apostille stamp from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). An apostille stamp certifies the public officer (e.g. notary’s or registrar’s signature) and is followed by consular legalisation that certifies the apostille stamp. 

MSC Notaries have been helping couples for decades to ensure the process is carried out seamlessly and accurately, and can take the process of legalising your documents off your hands. Speak to the team for more information or to enquire about legalising a Certificate of No Impediment or any other document associated with getting married overseas.


Why is a CNI required for marriage?

A CNI is often required by foreign countries or local authorities to ensure that individuals looking to marry outside the UK are legally eligible to do so. It helps prevent bigamy or other legal complications in a marriage.

Who issues CNIs in the UK?

In the UK, CNIs are typically issued by register offices across the country. To obtain one, you will need to make an appointment with your local office, take the required documents and then wait a period of 28 days for your certificate to be issued. 

How long is a CNI valid for?

The validity period of a CNI can vary across countries, however in the UK, CNIs are usually valid for a specific period of around 3 months to a year. It’s therefore important to make sure that you don’t obtain your document too far in advance of your planned marriage date.

What documents do I need to provide to obtain a CNI?

The required documents can vary depending on individual circumstances and the issuing authority. Typically, you’ll need to provide proof of identity, proof of address, and details of any previous marriages or civil partnerships.

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