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Marrying into the Maldives

10th March 2016

Words by Daniel Bosley; Pictures by Aishath Naj

After centuries in which Maldivians were reluctant to marry someone who wasn’t from the same island, marriages to foreigners are becoming more common.

In fact, complaints from the Family Court regarding the rise of marriages to foreigners in the past few years has resulted in a tightening of the rules. 2013, for example saw the number of marriages to foreign men double to more than 60 from the previous year.

But it’s not easy.

After proving an income of more than  $1000 per month, and receiving written consent from the bride’s father, the new husband now becomes his wife’s custodian under shariah law. In practice, however, he still requires her written consent to open a local bank account, and the bride’s name will often appear on her husband’s ID card under the heading ’employer’.

After a further mountain of paperwork, and the signed agreement that the Maldivian will pay for their partner’s flight home should trouble arise in paradise, a foreign spouse will receive a marriage visa.

In a country whose economy now relies on the pomp and expense of foreign marriages (and honeymoons), Maldivian marriages by contrast have traditionally been low-key affairs, with the presence of the bride herself not always a requirement in the past.




In modern Maldives, however, weddings have become more elaborate, with the presentation of the dowry in particular – a now mostly-symbolic sum of money demanded by the bride – giving the groom chance to impress with his creativity.

The road to full citizenship is one not often travelled, with the foreign minister’s final approval needed. Any new Maldivian will have to meet residency requirements, as well as passing tests in both Dhivehi and Islam.

Comments (19)

  1. anjunazinaz

    Is it dowry? Muslims must realize that there is an enormous difference between dowry, bride-price and mahr.
    The mahr is a compulsory part of an Islamic marriage contract. The other words for mahr generally used in the Qur’an are sadaqah and ajr, meaning reward or gift to the bride in which there is profit but no loss, and faridah, literally that which has been made obligatory, or an appointed portion. Allah commanded: ‘Give women their faridah as a free gift.’ (4:4) (Unfortunately the word is frequently incorrectly translated as ‘dowry).

    • 2thousandisles

      [DB] You’re right – a dowry would go the other way, right? Everyone has just taken to calling it a dowry it seems…so I thought I’d follow suit, but well-pointed out. Isn’t it also just referred to as ‘ran’?

  2. Ahsuil

    The Maldivian Men doesn’t have to earn $1000 while getting married to a foreign women but the law is made in such a way that female is once again deprived of marrying the person she chose. It get worse as unlike other Asian countries its not the family demanding this but the legal system of the country.
    So in name of protecting Maldivian women. Most protection is needed from is actually a local men who keeps divorcing and marrying 03 to 10 times a life time and leave the previous family with nothing.
    I have gone through the pain of Marrying my husband under Maldivian law as he was a poor Bangladeshi.
    It took me five years to get legally married in Maldives because we are poor. But he is my choice and I have the right to marry him, I made it happened but with a struggle.

    • 2thousandisles

      [DB] Well done for persevering, and thanks for sharing your experience. The money issue seemed quite invasive to me – people should be free to make their own choices with something so personal, regardless of personal finances. Obviously, foreigners shouldn’t become a burden on the state, but $1000 a month is a large income here.

  3. Bailis

    I know the man must usually convert to marry but what does this process actually involve? Do I just proclaim on a form that I am Islamic or is there some test I need to pass to prove that I am? Curious as I am engaged to a Maldivian woman.

  4. Ana

    Thank you for all the information.
    One important question.
    When a foreign woman marries a Maldivian man, which is the property ownership between spouses regime: community property or separate property?

    • 2thousandisles

      Glad you found this helpful. With regards to property, we’re not experts on the legal side of this, though we can say that marriage does not significantly change the legal status of the foreign partner – for example, marriage visas are currently only given on an annual basis – and foreigners are not permitted to own land in the Maldives.

  5. Janvi

    Hello, can anyone tell about if people want to marry in maldives (not with the maldivian) on tourist visa. Is it possible? And will it be acceptable for both country

    • 2thousandisles

      Marriages carried out between foreigners in the Maldives – normally on the resorts – are not legally binding, as the Maldives is a strictly Muslim country and so cannot officially recognise/sanction such unions. Those advertised on the resorts are usually just symbolic in nature (but still very nice!).

  6. Casper

    I need an answer on a question. Is it difficult for a Danish guy to marry a Maldivian girl in the Maldives?
    if so why and is it looked bad upon?

  7. Leo

    Is this the official/legal policy that is also valid for foreign women marrying Maldivian male citizens? Thank you in advance for your reply.

  8. ahmed

    hi, if someone foreigner earn like $450 as salary in Maldives, is he eligible to marry Maldivian girl, if he is educated with a university degree, but having low salary in Maldives

  9. Ana

    While the country is a 100% Muslim country be it real or for political reasons; it’s not under the conditions of Islam for the man to earn a 1000$ per month, we are a third world country barely getting by and some of our neighbouring countries have it worse. This is so unfair.