As the latest Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International bears out, Nepali bureaucracy is notoriously corrupt—and slow. There must not be a single adult Nepali who has not been frustrated with the seemingly endless hassles of getting just about anything done in a government office. Turns out, foreigners are not spared either, as the first foreign couple to register their marriage in Nepal would readily agree. Australian national Wayne Allan Logue (51) and his Indonesian wife Farida Sari Kusumaningrum (43) describe the ordeal of getting their marriage registered in Nepal.
A rental agreement for tourists was something neither they nor their Nepali legal team had heard of
“We couldn’t get married in Indonesia because that would require me to take up Islam,” explains Wayne. Nor could Farida easily get an Australian visa. “The other option was Hong Kong because both of us could easily get a visa, but then the overall cost of getting married there turned out to be too high.” The couple opted to come to Nepal, where getting a visa was easy and wedding costs manageable. Little did they know what was waiting for them in Nepal.
Among countless other hassles they had to face, a court asked the couple to produce a rental agreement with the homestay they were staying in. Now a rental agreement for tourists was something neither they nor their Nepali legal team had heard of before. For this they first had to get a PAN number and an official stamp of the homestay. “There were complications everywhere,” says Wayne.
At the ward office, they were asked to fork out Rs 5,100 each for staying in their ward as foreigners!
Farida remembers the day when the couple were asked to fill the marriage registration forms, with the names of their fathers and grandfathers. “In Indonesia, we are only asked to give our mothers’ name,” Farida says. “Neither of us could understand what the names of our grandfathers had to do with our marriage.”
The trials and tribulations of the first foreign couple to register their marriage in Nepal
The notoriously tardy and corrupt bureaucracy of Nepal frustrates not just natives but also many foreigners, especially when they have to get some paperwork done from a government office. “It was an epic process with endless pitfalls,” is how Australian citizen Wayne Allan Logue describes the three-week-long ordeal to get his marriage to Indonesian citizen Farida Sari Kusumaningrum registered in Nepal. In the end, the couple were successful in registering their marriage, thus becoming the first foreign couple to do so in Nepal. Wayne, 51, and Farida, 43, found each other on an online dating site in July 2017, and after being together for a couple of years, decided to put a legal stamp on their relationship. They had to get married by January 2019 for Farida to be able to accompany Wayne to China on a spouse visa. Wayne is taking up a teaching position at a Chinese school.
“We couldn’t get married in Indonesia because that would require me to take up Islam,” explains Wayne. Nor could Farida easily get an Australian visa to get married there. “The other option was Hong Kong because both of us could easily get a visa, but then the overall cost of getting married there turned out to be too high.” Thus the couple opted to come to Nepal, where getting a visa was easy and wedding costs manageable. They would also get to see a new country in the process.
“So we planned to get married here. I was already trying to communicate with lawyers here even before we came,” says Wayne. But that was just the beginning of their ordeal. The legal agencies they contacted were not very responsive. Once in Nepal, they looked for a legal advisor who could help them get a marriage certificate from the Kathmandu District Court (KDC). They then came in contact with Trilegal Nepal, a law firm that helped them get legally wed in Nepal.
Impediments to marriage
It was not an easy ride though. The couple had to go through three weeks of excruciatingly complex legal processes to get married. They had all the documents they thought were necessary to apply for a marriage certificate—their legal visas, the compulsory 15 days of stay in Nepal and a ‘Letter of no impediment to marriage’ from their respective countries. They were also asked to provide the court with translated marriage acts from their native countries, which they also did. But that was not enough, they later found out.
The court then asked the couple to produce a rental agreement with the homestay they were staying in. Now a rental agreement for tourists was something neither they nor their Nepali legal team had heard of before. For this they first had to get a PAN number and official stamp of the homestay. “There were complications everywhere,” says Wayne.
“Our homestay didn’t have a stamp and I was running around trying to get a rubber stamp made for them. Then there were lengthy rides and even longer days at various ward offices which seemed to have no clue what to do!” After much confusion about which ward to go to for their documents (the homestay owners seemed to have no clue either), they finally located the right ward office. But the battle was not won—not yet. At the ward office, they were asked to fork out Rs 5,100 each for staying in their ward as foreigners! They were dumbfounded. Hadn’t they already paid their visa fees for the very purpose?
“Every office we went to, including the court, tried to make Wayne and Farida cough up money under different pretexts,” says Arya Singh, the lawyer from Trilegal Nepal who helped the couple get married. “Since it was a first-of-its-kind case in Nepal, we realized that our laws and rules are not foreigner-friendly. Instead of simplifying the process, we have regulations whose sole purpose seem to be to extort foreigners.” Singh says that although legal requirements like ‘a letter of no impediment to marriage’ and valid visas are important, there is no logic in making tourists go to ward offices for a marriage permit. “Most tourists book their hotels and guest houses online and only get bills and receipts in return. So why force them to get rental agreements?”
Brokers in court
Singh also complains of the high level of corruption in government offices, especially when a foreigner steps in for any work. Wayne and Farida had backs turned on them right through the process, as they were unfamiliar with the “under-the-table” system. Once, the physical copy of the marriage act from Australia that Wayne had submitted was declared missing, stalling the legal process. The document was later found in the same file folder that had been originally submitted. “From the ward offices to the district court, they were given unnecessary trouble in the name of following the law,” Singh says. “There came a point when I couldn’t leave them alone even for a while in the government offices. When I had to, I told them not to pay a dime to anyone who comes asking for money to get something done. As a Nepali, it is shameful for me to admit that there are brokers inside the district court.”
Farida remembers the day when the couple were asked to fill the marriage registration forms, with the names of their fathers and grandfathers. “In Indonesia, we are only asked to give our mothers’ name,” Farida says. “With due respect to the laws of the country, neither of us could figure out what the names of our grandfathers had anything to do with our marriage.”
The couple also recall the final day of their adventure. “We were called inside the room and made to sign some papers and put our thumbprints on them,” Wayne says. “We did as told and were happy that it is finally over. We’re married. But no! We are then asked to go to another room for more signatures. Then we had to wait for a while at the court, with hand-cuffed criminals all around us. Following this, we were summoned to yet another room for more signatures.”
All said and done, the couple don’t harbor any resentment against the Nepali bureaucracy. In fact, they now find the whole ordeal funny and something to laugh at. Almost half of their two months in Nepal was spent getting legally married and the adventure will surely last them a lifetime. “The people at the court told me that we were the first foreign couple to get married in Nepal and we were not surprised,” Farida says.
“The long drives to the various ward offices, the days spent among criminals at the district court, the never-ending series of signatures and formalities, even as we were thrilled about one of our lives’ biggest decisions—we will never forget,” Wayne says. When asked if they made the marriage process easier for other foreign couples, “We might have,” they reply in unison. “But we definitely won’t recommend it”.