Manama: History was made in the Red Sea city of Jeddah when two foreigners had their marriage contract drawn and signed at home.
Under Saudi regulations, only Saudi couples can get married without having to go to a court to have their marriage contract approved and signed.
However, an amendment has allowed non-Saudis to enjoy the same benefit and avoid going through a court for their marriage and Jeddah on Sunday had its first contract between a bride and a groom who were not Saudi nationals.
A copy of the contract was widely circulated on social media, enabling Saudis to express their support for the move.
Foreigners have at times expressed reluctance to start their marriages in courts where the process could take weeks as appointments are not secured easily.
Marriage contractors welcomed the decision, saying that it would ease pressure and speed up the process for marriage between foreign couples.
“This means that courts will no longer have to consider marriage contracts and will devote their time and energy to other matters,” one contractor was quoted as saying by Saudi news site Al Marsad on Monday.
However, courts will keep the prerogative of marriages between couples in which one of the spouses is not a Saudi national.
Such marriages require the approval of the Saudi authorities after they assess that they meet the conditions.
According to rules promulgated in 2016, a Saudi man has to be between 40 and 65 years old to be able to marry a non-Saudi woman, and a Saudi woman has to be between 30 and 55 if she wants to take a non-Saudi husband.
A Saudi man has to make at least 3,000 Saudi riyals (Dh2,938) a month and have an adequate house or apartment to have his mixed marriage approved.
The woman whom he wants to marry must be at least 25 years old and the age difference between the two spouses in all cases must not exceed 30 years.
If the applicant is divorced, at least two years should have passed following the separation before he applies to marry a foreigner, and in case he is married with a Saudi woman and wants a foreigner as a second wife, he must produce a certificate from a public or private hospital stating that his first wife is unable to assume all her marital responsibilities or is infertile. The certificate must be endorsed by the ministry of health.
The rules for Saudi women planning to marry foreigners include a clause that stipulates that the age difference between them must not exceed 10 years.
The condition was set to ensure there is no exploitation of Saudi women.
The only exception for the minimum age for the woman is the existence of a physical handicap or special needs, or being born to unknown parents.
In such cases, the minimum age is lowered from 30 to 27 and should be approved by the social affairs ministry.
A non-Saudi cannot take a Saudi wife if he is already married or if he had married a Saudi woman. He must also present a certificate showing that he has no criminal record in his country of origin and in Saudi Arabia.
He must also present evidence he is not suffering from any infectious or genetic diseases. He must not have been a member of the military in a foreign country, must not be on the lists of those banned from entering Saudi Arabia, must have a monthly salary of at least 5,000 Saudi Riyals and a valid residence permit and must possess an appropriate family residence.
He must not be stateless and must have a specific nationality and must prove it with a passport from his country that has at least another 12 months of validity. He must also clear all security checks to be carried out by the competent authorities in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi woman has to sign a statement that her marriage with a foreigner did not necessarily mean he or their children would have the right to be granted the Saudi citizenship.
Around one third of the 32 million people living in Saudi Arabia are foreigners, working mainly in the construction and service sectors.