TN 46 (09-15)
GN 00305.020 Preferred Proof of Ceremonial Marriage
Obtain one of the following:
1. Certified copy of (or statement as to) a public record of marriage
A copy of (or statement as to) a public record of marriage, certified by the custodian of the record or by an authorized SSA, State Department, or VA employee. For more information on certified photocopies, see GN 00301.030A.3., GN 00301.080, GN 00301.095, and NOTE following GN 00305.020A.4. in this section. For more information on SSA staff authorized to certify a marriage record, see GN 00301.090.
2. Certified copy or statement of a religious record of marriage
A copy or statement of a religious record of marriage, certified by the custodian of the record or by an authorized SSA, State Department, or VA employee. See GN 00301.030A.3., GN 00301.080, and GN 00301.095 for instructions on certification of records. Also see NOTES below.
3. Original certificate of marriage
The original certificate of marriage.
4. Foreign records
Foreign records. (A foreign document based on church or civil records issued pursuant to the foreign law which shows the claimant and the worker as husband and wife.)
Preferred proof of marriage does not include a souvenir certificate (SC), also known as a keepsake, ornate, ceremonial, complimentary, goodwill, memento, or heirloom certificate.
See GN 00305.020C for general guidelines on evaluation of original religious marriage certificates and certified copies of religious marriage records. See GN 00301.050C for instructions on distinguishing between original or certified religious marriage certificates and SC’s, and evaluating SC’s as secondary proof of marriage.
B. Procedure - general
If the claimant has no preferred proof of marriage in his or her possession and the marriage took place in the U.S., have the claimant request proof of marriage from the custodian of the record. The marriage record must contain sufficient information for audit trail purposes. (See GN 00305.020C.3.b.)
C. Procedure - religious marriage records
1. Original religious certificate of marriage
An original religious certificate of marriage showing the date and place of the ceremony, completed and signed by the officiating clergyman, and given to the couple at the time of the ceremony is acceptable as preferred proof of ceremonial marriage. See GN 00301.050C for instructions on distinguishing between original religious marriage certificates and SC’s, and evaluating SC’s as secondary proof of marriage when preferred proof cannot be obtained. FOs should use their judgment and knowledge of local practices in evaluating these documents.
2. Certified copy of religious marriage record
A photocopy of the original marriage record or an extract from the record is acceptable as preferred proof of marriage if it is certified by the custodian of the religious records in his/her official capacity or by an authorized SSA, State Department, or VA employee. The record custodian must attest to the document’s authenticity and accuracy by a signed or stamped statement executed at the time the photocopy/extract is made; or by affixing his/her seal of office to the photocopy/extract. See GN 00301.080.
The custodian must indicate his/her official status, and his/her relationship to the records, by the use of the organization’s letterhead or seal, or his/her own seal of office. In some cases, there may be no printed letterhead, but the name of the church or religious entity will be typed or handwritten in the appropriate space on the document.
See GN 00301.050C for instructions on distinguishing between certified copies of religious marriage certificates and SC’s. FOs should use their judgment and knowledge of local practices in evaluating these documents.
3. Evaluation of religious marriage records
a. Factors that could raise questions about validity of certificate
Factors that could raise a question about the validity of an original marriage certificate or certified copy of a religious marriage record include:
Entries that have apparently been altered;
Entries that were apparently added at a later date (shown by the use of a different typewriter, ink, and/or handwriting); or
Paper that does not appear as old as the purported age of the document.
b. Audit trail information
The marriage record must have sufficient audit trail information so that SSA could verify the document, if desired, with the officiant (for an original certificate), or the custodian of the record (for a certified copy of a marriage record). Audit trail information includes:
The name of the State and county or city (borough) in which the marriage took place; and
For a certified copy of a religious record, the name and location (specific enough for FO contact by mail or in person) of the religious entity where the ceremony took place or under whose auspices the ceremony took place. If the required information is not on the record, obtain other evidence of marriage preadjudicatively.
c. Records issued blank or partially completed
The FO should also question records that appear to have been issued blank or partially completed (SC’s). See GN 00301.050C for how to distinguish between an original or certified religious marriage record and an SC, and how to evaluate an SC as secondary proof of marriage if preferred proof does not exist.
See GN 00301.015 for general guidelines on acceptance of evidence.
See GN 00301.030 for general guidelines on acceptability of documentary evidence.
See GN 00308.000 for fees and to determine where to write for the record.
See GN 00301.286C.3. for general guidelines on MCS evidence documentation