There is no lack of similarities between Belarus and my motherland Italy. One of these is the aura of mystery around the state’s administrative routine. Love can cross any border and open any door, they say. Unless it’s Belarusian bureaucracy?
Just to summarize my background briefly, I am a 30-years-old Italian citizen who was lucky enough to meet a holy woman from Belarus willing to put up with my temper.
The first question asked with a mix of suspicion and curiosity from everyone is “did you meet on the internet?”. Niet, in the 21st century, people still travel and meet other people in real life.
I and Ksenia are both musicians and we met together playing in France with our respective bands. After several adventures and randomness worthy of a novel, we decided to carry on a project of life together.
To do this in absolute safety without having to depend on work contracts or other potentially dangerous constraints, the only valid possibility was to be officially a family. There’s nothing worse than being blackmailed, right?
Based on these considerations, we decided to get married a little faster than typical western standards. Except for weddings in Las Vegas, those are unbeatable in terms of speed.
Marry in Belarus – ZAGS, translations and less than $100 of fees
Since the sky has been gray for months and people in Minsk seem to have been hit by a pre-New Year’s Meteoropathy attack, let’s start from the positive things. Honestly, I did not think it would be so quick and easy to carry out all matrimonial practices in Belarus.
Less than a month passed from the marriage proposal to the wedding.
So here are some useful tips to complete a wedding in Belarus without too many hitches.
The first step is to go to “ZAGS” – the administrative office dedicated to weddings. We chose the one in Kamunistyčnaja Street in Minsk. There you can ask all the information on the necessary documents, bureaucratic procedures and so on.
If you are foreigners who want to marry in Belarus, be prepared to be looked upon with suspicion by the operators that will probably think that yours is a marriage of interest.
From a certain point of view, I can understand them. Next to us, there was another couple composed of an Italian in his 70s who was about to marry a much younger Belarusian woman without particular linguistic skills. A demonstration of the fact that certain insinuations of the people, although unpleasant and often unjust, have a basis of realism.
Then you must go to your embassy and request a document that certifies the non-existence of a second, third or fourth secret wives (or husbands) hidden somewhere in another part of the world. This document, called “Nulla Osta” in Italy, is normally sent to the embassy in one week by the local administration of your city of residence.
I hope for you that this process will work better than mine. Italians might be very good at cooking, but they are much worse at sending documents via email between one administrative office and another.
In our case, they doubled the waiting because local administrators made a mistake with sending the data and because the person responsible for our procedure had gone on holidays. The colleagues could not log into his account. Big. Giant. Facepalm.
Next, the Nulla Osta must be validated by apostille at the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Karl Marx Street. Theoretically, you can leave the papers in the morning and collect them in the afternoon.
At the Embassy I suggest you also to ask for the contact of one of their accredited translators, who will have to translate the Nulla Osta and your foreign passport into the Russian language.
Once this is done, you will go to the notary of your district, who will certify the translations. Then, collect all these translations, add a photocopy of your registration document made at the Belarusian Immigration Office and return to ZAGS.
This time you will need the presence of a person with a certificate or degree in languages (to be shown at the meeting together with the passport) who will be subsequently present during the ceremony to translate the speech.
Deliver the documents, set the date of the big day and, as the French say, “les jeux sont fait”.
In short, getting married in Minsk, at least from a bureaucratic point of view, is not that difficult. Excluding accidents with my embassy, the process was rather fluid, well managed and relatively cheap.
We are talking about less than 100 U.S. dollars total. We spent much more on the restaurant than on fees.
Sorry, signore, you need a visa
Sadly, I can not give equally positive feedback regarding the management of the release of the next residency permit for spouses.
We asked for information as usual at the immigration office, where they explained to us how to regularize my stay in Minsk. My wife, who has a legal university education, was extremely clear in requesting all the necessary papers for this purpose.
We could decide between a temporary Belarus residency permit for one year or a long-term Belarus residency permit. The second one is more versatile but also requires a longer and more complex release procedure. We opted for the one-year permission. If I remember correctly, we spent less than 40 U.S. dollars.
In just two weeks, I got my annual permit to attach to my passport.
However, back from my first trip to Italy in June, I was stuck at Belarusian customs. In fact, nobody in the immigration office considered the possibility of explaining to us that the temporary residence permit and the entry visa are two separate documents.
It seems absurd because the permit should be legally stronger than a simple visa. But no! Although you have permission to LIVE in Belarus, it does not mean that you have the right to ENTER Belarus…
My Belarusian wife, shocked, began to discuss animatedly with the agents, who fortunately understood the misunderstanding and let me go by using the 5 days (now 30) of permanence without a visa.
Obviously, I had to run back to the usual office to prepare the visa with an emergency procedure and 100 dollars less in the wallet…
Please, foreign friends, be very careful to these details and ask everything ten times, possibly to ten different officials.
So, as we say in Italy, the entire procedure of getting married in Belarus was richly seasoned with imprecations. Would I face this adventure again? Yes, of course, because the reward is priceless.
And my wife sitting next to my laptop at the moment is definitely not the reason why I wrote this. I swear!
Text submitted to BelarusFeed by Andrea, a contributor.