If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, once you have married your Algerian fiance or you have lived together for one year as common-law partners, you can sponsor him or her for permanent residence in Canada.
Requirements To Get Married in Algeria
Required Documents for Marriage for an Algerian Citizen / Resident
- A number 12 birth certificate issued less than 3 months ago,
- Certified copy of the national identity card,
- Certificate of Algerian residence,
- Health certificate for both spouses, issues less than 3 months ago,
- Employment certificate or certified declaration in the case of unemployment,
- Certificate of non-impediment to marriage (such as low age, certain types of
- relatives, divorce decree, etc.),
- Three passport photos,
- Form provided by the local authorities.
Required Documents for a Foreign National to Get Married in Algeria
- Letter of request,
- Birth certificate issued in the last three months, with a certified Arabic translation,
- Certified copy of passport with visa page,
- Three passport photos,
- Certificate of non-impediment to marriage (such as low age, certain types of
- relatives, divorce decree, etc.),
- Accommodation certificate (prepared in Algeria by your future spouse),
- For male Canadian citizens, confirmation of conversion to Islam (female Canadian citizens do not need to convert in order to marry a Muslim man),
- Form provided by the local authorities.
The marriage certificate (acte de mariage) is the legal proof of the validity of a marriage. The marriage certificate is signed. According to article 22 of the Algerian family code, the legality of a marriage can be verified by the issuance of an extract of the marriage record from the registry office. Hence, not the marriage certificate but an extract of the marriage registration record in the marriage registry.
Every newlywed couple is issued a Family Book (livret de famille). It is a paper booklet which shows the connections between the family members and contains information on last name, first name, date and place of birth, and address of the husband, wife and children. The family book also contains information on the date and place of the marriage, divorces, if any, the number of the national ID card as well as the name of the office and officer who issued the book.
How To Get Married in Algeria
Marriage and divorce are regulated by the Algerian family code from 1984 (Code de la famille algérien) amended in 2005.
In an Algerian context, marriage is a process consisting of several stages: engagement; civil marriage registration and issuance of related documents; religious wedding ceremony; and wedding party.
Steps to get married
Following the change of laws in 2005, marriage must be entered into before the civic authorities (in the town hall or at the notary) to be valid by law, with the exception of traditional marriages. It is very widespread, but not mandatory, to have a religious marking of the marriage after the civil marriage.
Civil marriages (mandatory)
Civil marriages can be concluded in two ways. The spouses can either conclude a marriage at the town hall (daira), or they can get married before a notary, who then has a three-day deadline for registering the marriage in the population registry. The following terms must be met:
- The spouses’ marital status does not preclude the marriage.
- There are no legal barriers to the marriage (for example, certain types of family relationship between spouses).
- The marriage is voluntary.
- The bride price has been determined.
- The bride is represented by a guardian.
- Two Muslim witnesses are present.
To get married and obtain a marriage certificate, the following documentation must be submitted (Ministère de l’Intérieur, de Collectivités Locales, et de l’Aménagement du territoire 2016):
- Print-out from the birth register for both spouses, not older than three months.
- Residence certificate for one of the spouses.
- Health certificate for both spouses, not older than three months.
- ID documents for both witnesses.
- Dispensation for the age requirement from a judge, in the case of a minor.
The legal documentation that the marriage is validly concluded is the marriage certificate (acte de mariage). Most people will also apply for a family book. An Algerian marriage consists of several stages, but it is the date of entering into civil marriage which is the official date of the marriage.
Persons serving in the army or security forces must have pre-authorisation from the military authorities to get married.
The spouses draw up a marriage contract in which they can determine various factors, for example, that the woman is entitled to take work outside the home or that the man cannot conclude a polygamous marriage. Separation of property is the ordinary property regime in Algeria, but the spouses can agree jointly on separation of property in the marital contract.
The marriage certificate can be issued in any municipality or province, independently from where the marriage is registered. The document is issued immediately upon registration and is valid for one year. The marriage certificate, according to article 73 of the civil registry code, shall explicitly mention that the marriage took place according to the conditions established by law.
In addition, it shall contain names, surnames, dates and places of birth of the spouses; names and surnames of the parents of the spouses; names, surnames and age of the two witnesses; the authorisation to marry provided by law, if needed; and the dispensation from the age requirement issued by the competent authority, if needed. According to the law, witnesses must be at least 21 years old.
A civil marriage must be conducted before any religious marking of the marriage can take place. However, it is possible to conclude a valid marriage without a prior civil marriage, under certain circumstances and subject to certain conditions.
A marriage concluded by a religious ceremony may be given legal validity and be registered in the population registry after it has been concluded. A marriage of this kind is referred to as a traditional marriage (mariage coutumier) in Article 6 of the law, and is valid if the following conditions are met:
- There is no impediment to the marriage (such as low age, certain types of relatives, etc.).
- The two spouses have consented to the marriage.
- Two witnesses and the woman’s guardian were present during the marriage.
- The bride price was agreed before the marriage.
- There is a marriage pact.
If these conditions are met, the marriage is deemed valid if subsequently registered in the population registry. The spouses have five days to have the marriage publicly recognised in the population registry after the marriage has taken place. After five days, the marriage must be confirmed by a court ruling. Then the marriage can be registered in the population registry in the usual way and is legally valid.
The process of giving the traditional marriage legal validity, according to Association algérienne de planification familiale (meeting in Algiers, November 2017), is lengthy and cumbersome.
Such traditional marriages, which involve a religious ceremony without a prior civil wedding ceremony, are particularly common in the outlying areas where traditional culture is strong. In these areas, the population has historically had little contact with the authorities, and it is often both inconvenient and expensive to go to the nearest city to settle the legal and administrative aspects of marriage. Marriage is celebrated according to tradition and is legitimate and real, from both a religious and a social perspective. The registration of the marriage often occurs when the couple has children.
Marriages by proxy
With the amendment of the family law in 2005, the possibility of getting married by proxy was removed.
However, in practice, this only applies to men’s right to marry by proxy. Women can give prior consent to marriage, and let a guardian conclude the marriage on her behalf afterwards. In such cases, the woman is not personally present during the actual marriage in Algeria, but is represented by her guardian, who gives a statement of consent on her behalf. In order to obtain such a declaration of consent, the woman and her guardian must meet personally at the embassy and submit the following documentation:
- The guardian’s ID documents (ID card, passport)
- The woman’s ID documents (ID card, passport)
- The woman’s birth certificate
- The family book
NOTE: A marriage conducted by proxy is not legal for immigration to Canada with very few exceptions.
Persons serving in the army or security forces must have pre-authorisation from the military authorities to get married (Ministère de l’Intérieur, de Collectivités Locales, et de l’Aménagement du territoire 2016).
Marriages with foreigners in Algeria
Marriage between an Algerian citizen and a foreigner in Algeria is governed by a circular notice on the entry and stay of foreigners in Algeria.
If one of the parties is not an Algerian citizen, the couple must obtain permission to get married from the wali (prefect) in the district where the marriage is to be concluded. The prefect issues a permit based on investigations and, if relevant, interviews with the security forces. Without the permission of the prefect, the marriage cannot be entered in the population registry. The Algerian party submits a birth certificate, civil status certificate, residence certificate and copy of the ID document. The foreigner submits a civil status certificate, birth certificate, copy of passport or residence permit, possible confirmation of conversion and potential permit to get married for citizens of countries that require it.
Bride price (mahr)
The bride price (sadaq) involves a transfer of assets from the husband (or his family) to the woman upon entering marriage. The duty to provide the bride price, mahr, is supplemented by the absolute and unilateral requirement in the Qur’an for the husband to provide for the wife during the marriage, nafaqa.
The bride price is one of the conditions for getting married and is thus a mandatory element of an Algerian marriage. Without the bride price being agreed, the marriage will not be legally concluded under the applicable law (Code de la famille 1984, Art. 9b). If the parties do not agree on a bride price, a minimum bride price (sadaq al-mithl) is applied (Article 15).
The bride price is the woman’s own property, and she can spend her assets at her own discretion. The bride price serves as an insurance for the woman in the event of divorce or if the husband dies.
The amount of the bride price varies greatly, between both ethnic groups (Arabs and Berbers), geographical areas and social groups. In an Algerian context, however, the spouses’ ethnic and/or geographical origin appears to be the most important single factor that determines the amount of the bride price. In central parts of Algeria, the bride price is 200,000-300 000 dinars, as well as gold jewellery. In the Oran area in the west of the country it is higher, and the highest bride price is found in the southern provinces.
Algerian Wedding Traditions
Like in all Arab and Muslim countries, marriage in Algeria is seen above all as a religious event in Algeria. The Qur’an states that marriage should be based on love and mercy. Muslims speak of marriage as “half the religion”, that is, one’s religion is complete once he or she gets married.
The first step of marriage in Algeria is the engagement. Getting engaged in Algeria, like in other parts of North Africa and Muslim countries, goes beyond an agreement between the couple. It is above all a matter of family and religion. Traditionally, a man can go to see the parents of the woman he would like to marry without ever talking to the latter. Despite changing times where more couples get to know each other before they get engaged, the rituals of this first step stay irreversible. Before the couple can make their engagement public, the groom has to go with his family to ask the hand of the bride. Women cannot be forced to marry anyone without their consent. However, the parents’ opinion stays very important and has its influence.
Contract and wedding arrangements
During this first step of marriage, the two families agree on the date of marriage and the other details of the wedding. Two main ceremonies are usually organized after the engagement. The bride’s family organizes the first – the signing of the contract of marriage. On the other hand, the groom’s family organizes the wedding after which the couple leaves for their own home. During the engagement, the main themes of discussions are the dowry, the costs of the two events, the guests and so on and so forth.
Religious marriage ceremony
Despite the important private law aspect of marriage, with the signature of a marriage contract as the most important element, the vast majority of Algerians wish to confirm their marriage with a religious ceremony. The ceremony is, as mentioned earlier, not mandatory, and has no legal effect, as civic marriage has. Nevertheless, most Algerians consider the religious ceremony as the real marriage, and marriage cannot be consummated by the spouses initiating cohabitation before the marriage is marked with a religious ceremony and made known to the outside world through the wedding party.
The religious ceremony usually takes place by an imam or other religious authority coming to the bride’s home. He assures himself that the marriage is entered into voluntarily, gives a speech about love and marriage and reads out the al-fatiha, the opening prayer of the Qur’an. It is also not uncommon for the occasion to be celebrated with food, drinks and gifts.
Algerian Wedding celebration
The wedding celebration – and especially the wedding party – are very important in an Algerian context. Although the spouses, in the sense of the law, are married when they conclude a civil marriage and are considered married from a religious point of view after they have completed the religious ceremony, the wedding party signifies the social dimension of the marriage. Only when the marriage has been publicly announced through the wedding party is it valid in the social sense, and the spouses can begin their marital partnership.
Form and content of the wedding party vary according to local traditions and social stratum. Nevertheless, some elements appear across local and socio-economic differences, not only in the Algerian marriage tradition, but in North Africa as a whole.
In the past, the wedding party could last for a week or more, but today it is usual for the party to be celebrated over the course of three days, usually Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Pre-wedding celebration activities
The wedding celebration begins with the bride’s female relatives taking the bride to a hammam, a public bath. The bath is booked for the occasion, and, before the bride arrives, it is common for her relatives to prepare the room for the celebration with candlelight and incense to drive out evil spirits. Through various treatments of the skin and hair with clay and traditional soap, the bride makes herself beautiful for the wedding party. The hammam visit also has an important ritual cleansing function before the celebration. The evening often ends with a party for the bride’s female family and friends.
The next stage in the celebration is the henna party. This part of the celebration also takes place with female relatives and friends, often at the bride’s home or at the home of some of her closest relatives The bride has her hands and feet decorated with henna by a specialist called a naqqasha. There is song and dance, and tea and cakes are served. Older married women give the bride advice on marriage and cohabitation. The women prepare a trousseau chest, consisting of various exclusive fabrics, perfumes, nightwear and similar. The henna party is believed to confer happiness and fertility in marriage.
Men often have their own party while the women celebrate the hammam and henna party.
The last and most important stage of the wedding celebration is the wedding party. The party is a big event and it is expected that it will be lavish.
There are usually many guests in an Algerian wedding – both extended family, friends, neighbours and other networks are invited. The party takes place at the home of the bridegroom’s parents, in a reception room or outdoors, as summer is the wedding season in Algeria. It is important to appear as a generous host, and party food such as grilled lamb, couscous, fruit and cakes is served.
The man fetches the woman from her family home and brings her to the party. The spouses arrive at the party in a procession of cars and are welcomed with joy, music and applause.
The bride, who often changes outfits several times during the party, and the groom, either dressed in a suit or in a traditional outfit, sit on bridal chairs, where they are admired by the guests.
Dance and music, either with a DJ or with traditional musicians, and often both, are key elements of the celebration. Genders may be separated at the party, but do not have to be. Often women and men attend the same party, but stay in different parts of the room. Children often attend the party and dance with the adults.
Towards the end of the party, the woman goes to the man’s home to spend the night there. The mother in law offers the bride milk, dates and gifts when she arrives. The wedding ceremony often ends with a dinner for the bride’s parents.
Algerian wedding parties are meant to be heard and seen. Greetings, applause and tooting with car horns make the party heard throughout the neighbourhood. Fireworks, firecrackers and Bengal lights make the party visible to the surroundings. It is important that the party is seen and heard as it acts as a public announcement of the spouses’ change of marital status.
Sponsoring your Spouse from Algeria to Canada
Possible Challenges for Sponsorship from Algeria
There are certain situations which the visa officer will look out for and therefore must be addressed in the applications for spousal sponsorships from Algeria. These include proxy marriages where women are not present and have appointed a guardian (wali), child marriages, traditional marriages not recorded on the public registry, mut’a and misyar (or travel marriages). All of these do not have any legal standing till such time that it has not been recorded as a civil marriage, which is the only legally recognized method of marriage.
Sponsorship Interviews in Algeria
Frequently Asked Questions:
- How did you first meet your sponsor? Explain the setting.
- Did you and your sponsor know each other, or was the first meeting arranged by family?
- Was there a middle man/person involved, and was he/she related or known to both families?
- Did you talk with each other privately before agreeing to the marriage?
- Who was present at the first meeting? What was decided at the meeting?
- Was there an engagement ceremony? Where was this held, who was present?
- Who was involved in arranging the marriage?
- Were you married earlier? If yes, did you seek a divorce decree? When did you get divorced?
- How many people attended your marriage? (use photographs as evidence)
- When did your sponsor immigrate to Canada?
- What does your sponsor do for a living?
- What is your sponsor’s phone number?
- Do you have any relation with your sponsor other than marriage? (visa officer is attempting to ascertain whether there was a relationship and therefore a motive to sponsor the applicant other than a genuine marital relationship)
- Who accompanied your sponsor when he/she came to Algeria to get married?
- Who proposed? When was the proposal made? When did you get married?
- When did you and your sponsor live together?
- Did you and the sponsor attend any weddings or functions together?
- What is the name of your spouse’s company?
- What kind of work does the sponsor aspire to do in the future? Any career plans?
- What was his/her previous job before present employment? Why did the sponsor change jobs? How long at current employment?
- What does the sponsor like about the job? What is his/her boss/supervisor’s name? What are the names of the people he/she works with? What is the nature of the job? How much does he/she make?
Cultural practices in Algeria which may be challenging in sponsorship applications/interviews
- Ability to provide evidence of marriage in cases of underage, traditional or unofficial weddings. Algeria does not legally recognize any marriage except for civil marriages.
- Marriage by proxy conducted where the girl was forced to marry, and the guardian may have signed on the contract on her behalf, without her explicit approval.
- In the case of a foreign male marrying an Algerian muslim woman, the male must have converted to Islam, and a certificate must be issued by the religious authority to confirm. This certificate must be available to perform a civil marriage.
- Mut’a and misyar marriages are considered illegal, and are more of a marriage of convenience, which does not have any legal document to validate the marriage.
- Polygamy is legal under Article 8 of the family code, although since the 2005 amendments, it is now subject to several conditions: the court must certify that there is justified motivation behind the decision to take more than one wife, that the man is able to take care of an additional spouse, and that all of the spouses involved consent to the marriage. However, polygamous marriages are NOT recognized in Canada.
- Marriages are frequently arranged by families as well as love marriages being allowed
Additional documents or evidence frequently requested for sponsorship applications from Algeria
- Photographs of wedding and marriage events, along with participants at the events
- Photographs of places or events visited as a couple before and after marriage
- Emails or conversations of interaction between the spouses
- Travel itinerary for places visited together, including bus, train or airline tickets, along with entry and exit stamps and visa stamps in the passport
- Hotel receipts for places visited as a couple
- Proof of remittances as support / maintenance amounts sent to the spouse in Algeria
Spousal Sponsorship Application from Algeria
Country Specific Documents Required for Algeria:
Supplementary Information – Your travels [IMM 5562] (PDF, 1.76 MB)
The principal applicant and all family members included in the application who are 18 years of age or older must complete this form.
Are documents issued in Algeria issued in any language other than English or French? If so, what language(s)?
The official language for business and documentation in Algeria is Arabic. However, French is also commonly spoken in Algeria and some documents may reflect this. Any document not issued in French or English must have a translation which meets IRCC requirements.
Is a visa required for a person from Algeria to enter Canada if they wanted to do In-Canada sponsorship?
A person from Algeria who wishes to enter Canada in order to visit a fiance or spouse while applying for a spousal sponsorship must obtain a Temporary Resident Visa before being allowed into Canada.
Possible Problems for Sponsorship from Algeria
Religious marriage before civil marriage
Some people choose to conclude various types of religious marriage without a prior civil marriage. Such marriages are not valid in the sense of the law and will not have any legal effect, in the form of remuneration for divorce, inheritance for children, or similar. However, since the terms of marriages in classical Sharia law (consent of both spouses, a guardian for the woman, bride price and public announcement) are met, the marriage is considered valid from a religious point of view.
BALSAM, the national network of call centres for victims of violence against women in Algeria, states that since the network was implemented, of the 828 women who have contacted the call centres, 12 were victims of forced marriage and 18 were victims of attempted forced marriage (BALSAM May 2012, 4, 7, 27). Réflexion, a daily newspaper, states that in the rural regions it is common for young girls to be married without their knowledge and against their will (3 Sept. 2012).
In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, an associate professor at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, who specializes in issues relating to the situation of women in North Africa, stated that it is “difficult” to distinguish between forced and arranged marriages because “some women simply accept it as their fate to do as they are told” (15 Nov. 2013).
Similarly, the Tharwa Fatma N’Soumer representative stated that women do not dare to oppose a marriage imposed on them because they do not believe there is another option (28 Nov. 2013). The Associate Professor explained that forced marriages occur for many reasons: in poor families, so that the girls “can be taken care of by someone else;” to “bring assets into the family;” or even “to settle family disputes” (15 Nov. 2013). According to the Réflexion article, women are not the only ones who are victims of forced marriage; men are [translation] “often” forced by their parents to marry a woman on the basis of heritage (3 Sept. 2012).
Forced marriages in LGBT community
The Director of Abu Nawas Algérie, an organization that describes itself as “a group of Algerian militants” for the rights of LGBT persons, states that “we often hear of forced marriage in the homosexual community in Algeria,” and adds that some homosexual individuals who are not necessarily victims of forced marriage “end up getting married to satisfy their family and entourage” (14 Nov. 2013).
An article from Algérie-Focus on the life of three Algerian lesbians states that “an increasing number of lesbians get married under the pressure of their parents” and that “since marriage is essential in Algeria, this family pressure is very strong” (Algérie-Focus 28 Aug. 2012). One of the women interviewed stated that “a good number of families who hear about their daughter’s homosexuality will have her married by force, if they do not disown her”. According to the Abu Nawas Algérie Director, forced marriages could be preceeded by “corrective and collective rapes” when parents learn that their daughter is a lesbian (14 Nov. 2013).
Violence against women
While Algeria signed the Maputo protocol in December 2003, it has not yet been ratified (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 2017). There is no overarching legal framework governing violence against women, although there are individual laws concerning rape and sexual violence (Amnesty International, 2014).
Misyar and mut’a marriages
Misyar marriage and mut’a marriage are not valid in the sense of the law and cannot be documented with a marriage certificate, women have no rights in the event of separation or if the spouse dies, and children have no inheritance rights. Both the authorities and women’s organisations therefore warn against such marriages. As this form of cohabitation gives weak rights for women, the authorities have instructed the country’s religious leaders to only conduct the religious ceremony after the civil marriage has taken place.
Child marriages are restricted by law however there may be exceptions where a couple may be married before the age of 19. However, UNICEF and the UN Population Fund reported that 4.2% of women in rural areas and 2.2% in urban areas, excluding the capital Algiers, are married before the age of 19. In Algiers 59 marriages with minors were registered in the period 2012 to 2016. It is especially women in rural areas, especially in the Oran region and in the south, with no or little schooling, who are most frequently married while still minors.
Many traditional marriages involve minors and are only registered with the authorities when the girl is 19. Traditional marriage can therefore be a way to bypass the age requirement for marriages. It is therefore difficult to assess the true extent of marriages with minors, because only when the couple have been given consent by a judge to deviate from the age requirement, they are recorded in public statistics.