Marriage under the UAE's law
Under the UAE's law, marriage is the only legal bond for a man and a woman to establish a relationship and form a family. The law identifies marriage as a legal contract between a man and a woman, aimed at protecting the rights of the couple and their children. Live-in relationships are prohibited for all citizens and residents regardless of their nationality or religion.
Pre-marital general requirements
The following are the general requirements for a marriage to take place:
- Approval of the bride
- In Dubai, at least one party to the marriage contract (husband, wife or wife’s guardian) should have a residence visa in the UAE. In other emirates, both bride and groom must be UAE residents.
- A positive pre-marital screening certificate for the couple issued from the concerned public healthcare facilities in the UAE.
Encouraging Emiratis to marry Emiratis
The UAE Government aims to build and maintain a stable and consolidated Emirati family and to fortify the Emirati social and demographic structure, by encouraging Emirati men to marry Emirati women.
In this regard, the UAE established Marriage Fund under Federal Law No. 47 of 1992, complementing and integrating with the social policy set up by late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding President of the UAE.
Role of Marriage Fund
Marriage Fund has humane objectives towards strengthening the pillars of social structure and cementing its texture, as well as developing and activating it on all aspects. It offers marriage grants to deserving Emiratis. Since its inception, 61,844 recipients have received grants amounting to AED 4.3 billion as of 2014.
Marriage Fund also organises mass weddings and offers marriage counselling to to-be-wed couples.
Provisions for obtaining a marriage grant
Marriage grant is governed by the Cabinet Resolution No. 5 of 2017 regarding terms, legalisation and procedures for the settlement of marriage funds (The resolution is available only in Arabic). According to the resolution, an Emirati couple who meets certain criteria are eligible to receive AED 70,000 from the government, paid in one instalment. Marriage grant applies to lower-income Emiratis and those on social welfare.
For the applicant to be eligible for the fund, there are certain requirements, which include:
- The groom and bride must be UAE nationals
- Age of the groom must not be less than 21 and that of the bride must not be less than 18
- This should be the groom’s first wedding (an exception can be made if he is remarrying because of the death of his wife from his first marriage)
- The net monthly income of the groom should not exceed AED 25,000 after deducting pension and housing allowances, if any.
Where to apply for a marriage grant?
Emiratis may apply for marriage grant through the website of the Ministry of Community Development.
Besides the Marriage Fund, there are entities in each emirate that provide services such as:
- Finding a match
- Providing community centres and majlis venues for wedding ceremonies
- Providing counselling before and after the marriage
Read more about marriage and family-related services on the websites of:
Islamic marriage (Sharia marriage)
All nationals and expatriate residents can conclude their marriages in the UAE. In the UAE, Islamic marriages are conducted according to the Sharia provisions, which apply in the following cases, regardless of nationality:
- where both the groom and the bride are Muslims
- where the groom is Muslim and the bride is from 'Ahl Al-Kitaab'; such as Christian.
While the law permits a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, it does not allow a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man without proof of his conversion to Islam.
Polygamy is allowed as per the UAE's law. A Muslim male may have four wives, provided he offers equal sustenance and equal treatment to all.
Key legal requirements for Muslim marriages
Here are the key legal requirements for Muslim marriages:
- Marriage contract needs to be registered in a Sharia court in the UAE.
- Legal age for marriage is 18 Hijri years; otherwise, the judge's approval is required.
- A spouse's age should not be twice the other; otherwise, the judge's approval is sought.
- A premarital screening certificate is needed.
- Attendance of the couple is required.
- Attendance of the bride's father or his proxy and two male Muslim witnesses are required.
- For a woman to get married, she needs the consent of her guardian.
- In case of father's death, the presence of the next closest male guardian i.e. closest kin such as elder brother is required.
- Divorced and widowed women must produce a proof of the status.
- If the bride is Muslim and her father is not, she needs a 'No Objection' letter from her embassy or consulate.
Marital screening test must be done through one of the medical centres of the:
Denial of marriage
Based on the medical screening certificate, application for marriage may be denied if one of the parties suffers from a:
- genetically inherited blood disease
- transferable disease.
Entities responsible for concluding Islamic marriages
Islamic marriages are conducted by UAE Judicial departments and Sharia courts or through the services of authorised marriage officers (Mazoons) in each emirate.
Ministry of Justice has launched eMarriage service that lets couples wishing to get married to book an appointment with a marriage officer through an online updated database linked to the ID card system.
Both, the Judicial Department in Abu Dhabi and Dubai Courts facilitate online marriage applications and the services of marriage officers.
Special cases and provisions
For all UAE nationals
- AED 50, 000 is the maximum dowry limit for UAE nationals. AED 20,000 is paid in advance.
- National males who are members of Armed Forces or employees of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Police and wish to marry expatriates should first obtain a special permission from their employers.
- Ajman nationals must obtain the approval of the Sharia Court of Ajman, if marrying a woman other than from GCC countries.
For Emirati women marrying expatriate men
When an Emirati woman wishes to marry an expatriate man, she should obtain:
- consent from her parents/guardian
- permit from her employer if she is working in the Armed Forces.
Note that the nationality of the Emirati woman should not have been obtained by dependency.
In addition, the prospective groom
- must not be stateless
- must be a legitimate resident of the UAE
- must obtain a certificate of good conduct issued from the UAE.
For GCC nationals and citizens of other Islamic countries
- Citizens of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain wishing to marry a person of nationality other than theirs must obtain the approval of their respective countries.
- A Yemeni woman wishing to marry a man of different nationality must obtain consent from her country.
Marriage of non-Muslims in the UAE
Non-Muslims can conclude marriage formalities at:
- the embassy or consulate of their country in the UAE
- or at a temple or a church as per their religion.
Some countries require their citizens to file an application of intention to marry at their embassy or consulate in the UAE. You are advised to check with your embassy and proceed accordingly. The marriage must also be registered in the embassies of both partners in the UAE.
Updated on 19 Sep 2018