News & Insights


Marriage: Legal Procedure in the UAE

March 17, 2020 / Author: Irfan Ali Thanvi


Marriage is the cornerstone of every society. It is the legal contract through which the couple’s bind together to develop into a family. The UAE law describes essential features of marriage for all genders, irrespective of race, colour, creed or religion. Nonetheless, there is a distinct legal procedure adopted by the contracting parties, as mentioned in Article 18 of Law no. (28) of 2005 on Personal Status regime of the UAE, which stipulates:

Marriage is a contract that legitimates enjoyment between spouses; its aim is protection and forming a steady family under the husband’s care on basis ensuring to the spouses the assumption of its charges with affection and compassion.



The relevant laws associated with family matters in the UAE are as follows:

  • Federal Law No. 28 of 2005 (Personal Status Law).
  • Federal Law No. 11 of 1992 (Civil Procedure Code).
  • Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 (Civil Transactions Code).


The contracting parties have to register their consent at their respective embassies. For some countries the legal prerequisite is to acquire an affidavit issued through the offices of their embassy, containing information such as verifications of age, gender and current marital status. It is imperative to note that both man and woman must be at least 18 years of age at the time of signing the marriage contract. Furthermore, blood tests of both individuals will be conducted through the auspices of the Ministry of Health as a precautionary measure to test infectious diseases (if any) thus enabling issuance of a wedding approval for both individuals. Article 27 (2) of the stipulated law states:

Marriage is conditioned upon the submission of a medical report from a competent medical Committee formed by the Minister of Health, certifying that the spouses are free of any disease that the law considers a ground for separation.

According to the UAE law, a marriage can only commence between a fully able-bodied, matured, physically and medically fit man and a woman, as Article 21 states:

  1.   As a condition for the binding effect of a marriage, the man must be suitably qualified to deserve the woman, but only at the formation of the contract. The woman and her tutor are entitled to ask for the rescission of the contract on grounds of lack of such qualification. The contract shall not be affected by the disappearance of such qualification thereafter.
  2.   If the engaged persons are of inadequate age, i.e. the man’s age is double the age of the woman, or more than that, the marriage shall take place only with the consent and knowledge of the parties thereto after securing the authorization of the judge who will withhold it unless there is an interest in such marriage.

Hence, there is no room for same-gender marriages in the UAE, as per the Personal Status Law. Thus, if both individuals happened to be Non-Muslims, then the ceremony will be conducted at a church or a temple or even at a court of law, depending on the religious affiliations of the individuals. In case the bridegroom is a Muslim and the bride from among the Ahlul Kitaab (People of the Book: the Jews and the Christians), the marriage has to proceed in an Islamic fashion. As opposed to the Common Law precincts, the validity of engagement has no legal credence in the UAE. Article 17 of the Federal Law no. 28 of 2005 states:

  1.   Engagement is a request and a pledge for marriage but is not considered marriage.
  2.   Engagement of an impeached woman, even if impeachment is provisional, is prohibited and the engagement of a widow during the period of widowhood may be attacked.



Federal law number 28 of 2005 clearly explains the methods involved in a marriage. Primarily, the Judge will enact as the master of the ceremony. Islamic marriages require two witnesses at least to be present from the bride’s side, while two from the bridegroom’s end. For a Muslim lady, she needs to have a guardian to allow her to marry. If her father is available, then it will be him, provided if he is matured and sane enough to take charge of this responsibility, if not then her son, or brother or an uncle. Article 32, stipulates:

“The tutor, in marriage, is the father then the agnates by themselves according to the succession order: son, then brother, then uncle. Should two tutors be equal in degree of kinship, the marriage that was concluded according to the conditions set forth by any of them shall be valid. The one authorized by the engaged female shall be appointed.”

If a male family member equates in relationship with the female, then the one authorized by the female will have precedence to take over the task of a guardian. If a family member is unavailable to deliver the consent, then it will be the Qadhi (the judge) himself who will take over as the tutor (guardian). For civil marriages, two witnesses are required from either side. Another prerequisite for a Muslim woman is to acquire a certificate from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs about her previous marital status. If she was single, then further verification needs to be conducted. According to Article 1.2 of the above law, Non-Muslim interests are being guarded as well:

“The provisions of this law shall apply to citizens of the United Arab Emirates State unless non-Muslims among them have special provisions applicable to their community or confession. They shall equally apply to non-citizens unless one of them asks for the application of his law.”

Furthermore, there is a list of permanent prohibitions, explaining the categories, who are barred from marriage and who cannot commence this affair in the UAE. Article 42 enlists these categories:

1) his ascendant to the highest degree;

2) his descendant to the remotest degree;

3) descendants of the two parents or one of them, to the remotest degree;

4) the first category of the descendants of one of the grandparents. 



The post-marriage procedures also include attestations through various portals including but not limited to attestation of all documents from the courts, followed by embassies and then the UAE Foreign Affairs. In case if the marriage took place abroad and the marriage contract was signed from in another language, an adequate legal translation into Arabic will be required. The documentation for the sponsorship of the spouse includes a wide range of documents, including but not limited to the rental contract, Ejari, verifications of district cooling and electricity bills or both for submission of a spousal visa application at the immigration. Employees who are working for an LLC company will go through the standard Dubai Immigration Department headquartered at Jaffiliya in Zabeel. Those who are employed by free zones will have to submit their applications at the immigration offices of their respective free zones. Post marriage, a wife or even a husband may sponsor each other, respectively for residency purposes. Finally, we would like to conclude by stating that marriage is the way forward to get settled. In order to make your way through to this process, please seek legal guidance and know the law prior to the commencement of the action. In this regard, at the BBA, we always advise our clients for the most appropriate legal practices in the UAE.



This article, and any other BBA’s publication, is for general information only and in no case can be considered as legal advice on any specific situation, fact or dispute. This article may not be quoted or mentioned in any other document without BBA’s previous written consent. The mailing and receiving of this article are for informational purposes only and do not create an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. The content reflects the personal view of the authors and does not reflect necessarily those of BBA.