How to Get a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) in the UK

Created: Apr 2, 2024 | Updated: Apr 2, 2024

What is a CNI? - The Certificate of No Impediment (CNI), ‘Certificate of Nulla Osta’ or a ‘Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage’ is an essential document for those planning to marry abroad. It serves as an official declaration from the UK government that no legal barriers are preventing an individual from getting married. This certificate is crucial for British nationals who wish to have their wedding ceremonies outside the United Kingdom, ensuring their marriage is recognised in the UK and in the country where the ceremony will take place.

The primary purpose of obtaining a CNI is to facilitate the legal recognition of an overseas marriage. It is a key step in the process of international marriage planning, ensuring that your union will be acknowledged as valid and binding. Moreover, a CNI also helps in simplifying the bureaucratic procedures involved when marrying abroad, by providing a clear, government-issued document stating your eligibility to marry.


What are the Eligibility Requirements for Obtaining a CNI?

If you're from the UK and you don’t want to get married in the UK, you're going to need a CNI. To get one, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You have to be old enough to marry. At least 18 years old. 
  • You can't already be married to someone else. If you've been married before, you need to show that you're divorced or that your previous spouse has passed away.
  • You should be living in the UK to apply for it.

Bring the following documents to the local registry office closest to you:

  • Your passport, to prove who you are.
  • Deed poll proof of any name change.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • Adoption certificate, if adopted.
  • Proof of where you live like a utility bill or a bank statement that shows your address.
  • A divorce certificate (If you were married before) or a death certificate (if your previous spouse has died).
  • Proof of Payment of the CNI fee (Between £30 and £40).

Sometimes, you may need to pay extra for a fast-track certificate of no impediment, if you're in a hurry. The best way to know exactly how much it will cost and how you can pay is to check the official government website or contact the local registry office linked above, where you'll be applying.

Make sure all these documents are current and correct. If any of your documents are not in English, you'll also need to get them officially translated by a Certified translator in UK.


Complete Application Process of CNI

  1. Prepare all the Required Documents: First, think of this as gathering all the important papers that tell your story. Following the documents stated above, prepare your application portfolio.
  2. Make an Appointment with Your Local Registry Office: In the UK, CNIs are issued by the local registry office where you reside. You must make an appointment and attend in person to give notice of your intention to marry abroad. The process may vary slightly depending on your location, so it's important to check with your local registry office for specific instructions.
  3. Understand the Processing Time: After you've given all your papers to the registry office, there's a bit of a wait, usually about 28 days, when they make sure everything is in order and that nobody has any objections to your marriage. The total time from when you start the process until you have your CNI can vary. Sometimes it's quick, and other times it might take a bit longer, so it's wise to start this well before your wedding date.
  4. The Role of Certified Translations in Obtaining a CNI: A reputable translation agency can provide certified translation services that are recognised by UK authorities. This is essential for the successful processing of your CNI application, as any document submitted in a language other than English must be accompanied by a certified translation to be considered valid.

What are the benefits of getting a certificate of no impediment?


Common Queries Regarding CNI (Certificate of No Impediment)


What is the Validity Period of CNI

The validity period of a CNI varies by country but is typically around three to six months from the date of issue. It is important to check the specific requirements of the country where you plan to marry, as you'll need to ensure your CNI is valid at the time of your wedding. A CNI issued in Scotland is valid for 3 months. A CNI issued in England, Wales or Northern Ireland will not expire.


Obtaining a CNI for Non-UK Citizens

Non-UK citizens residing in the UK and wishing to marry abroad may also need to obtain a CNI, depending on their destination country's requirements. The process for non-UK citizens is similar but may involve additional documentation, such as proof of legal residence in the UK.


What are the Alternatives of a CNI?  

For UK citizens or residents planning to marry in another country, there are a few alternative options to a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) if the destination country does not require it or if for some reason it cannot be obtained. Each country has its own rules for marriage involving foreign nationals, so it's important to check with the local authorities of the country where you intend to marry. Here are some of the alternatives:

  1. Affidavit or Sworn Declaration: Some countries accept an affidavit or a sworn declaration made in front of a notary public or solicitor in the UK. This document can state your single status and your free will to marry. It's a personal declaration about your eligibility for marriage.
  2. Statutory Declaration of Single Status: Similar to an affidavit, this is a formal statement made by you, declaring that you are legally free to marry. This declaration must be signed in the presence of a solicitor or a notary public.
  3. Letter of No Trace: As mentioned earlier, a Letter of No Trace is issued by the UK government when a CNI cannot be provided. It states that a search has been conducted and no record of a current marriage has been found in your name within the UK. However, acceptance of this document varies by country.
  4. Consular Services: In some cases, the British embassy or consulate in the country where you wish to marry may provide assistance or documents that can serve as an alternative to a CNI. This could involve issuing a consular letter stating that the UK government has no objection to the marriage. The availability and acceptance of such services depend on the receiving country.
  5. Using a Marriage Licence Issued in the Destination Country: Some countries may allow foreign nationals to marry under a marriage licence issued by their local authorities. This would involve applying for and complying with the marriage requirements of the country where the wedding will take place.


Apostille for No Impediment Certificate

When you get a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI), sometimes another country wants to be extra sure it's legit. That's where an apostille comes in. An apostille is like a gold seal that says, "This document is definitely real", according to an international agreement called the Hague Convention.

So, after you get your CNI, if the country where you're getting married asks for it, you might need to also get this apostille. It's not always needed, but when it is, it's basically a stamp of approval from your own country that the document is genuine and should be accepted everywhere.


Frequently Asked Questions


How Long Does it Take to Get a CNI?

Typically, after giving notice of marriage, there is a 28-day waiting period in the UK. However, the total time from the initial application to receiving the CNI can range from several weeks to a few months. It's advisable to start the application process well in advance of your intended wedding date.


What are the Benefits of Getting a Certificate of No Impediment?

There are several benefits of getting a CNI, some of which are listed below: 

  1. Legal recognition of your marriage.
  2. Simplifies the process of marrying abroad.
  3. Prevents delays.


What is a Letter of No Trace in the UK?

A letter of no trace is a document issued by the UK government when a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) cannot be provided. This situation may arise if the individual's circumstances do not meet the criteria for a CNI or if their residential status does not allow for the issuance of a CNI in the UK. The letter of no trace confirms that a search has been conducted in the relevant records, and no trace of a marriage or civil partnership has been found for the individual in question. It is often used as an alternative proof of eligibility to marry abroad, although acceptance varies by country.

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