Common Licence



  • With effect from 2 March 2015, foreign nationals from countries outside the European Economic Area are no longer able to marry in a Church of England ceremony after the publication of banns or under the authority of a Common Licence. Instead they need to apply either for a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate (this is the route which they should normally follow) or, where necessary (because they have no qualifying connection with the relevant parish church, or where they wish to marry in a building which is not licensed for marriages) a Special Licence from the Archbishop’s Faculty Office. The note at Immigration Act 2014 – Guidance Note gives more information about this. A Special Licence is only appropriate to authorize marriages according to the rites of the Church of England, and will be necessary where a couple does not have a legal right to be married in a particular parish church or where the building itself is not licensed for marriages, including school and college chapels, cathedrals, etc. A Special Licence is also necessary for Anglican marriages to take place in a hospital or hospice or at home, where there is urgent medical necessity and where no other preliminary is available. Otherwise the parties should proceed under the authority of a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate.
  • Applications for Common Licences made before 2 March 2015 are unaffected.
  • Where both parties to an intended marriage are UK nationals, the marriage may proceed after the publication of banns or on the authority of a Common Licence, as at present, or on the authority of a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate or, where necessary, a Special Licence.
  • Where one or both parties are nationals of other countries in the European Economic Area, the parties should apply for a Common Licence as at present, or may proceed on the authority of a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate or, where necessary, a Special Licence.

If you have questions about the correct procedure under the new rules, please contact the Diocesan Registrar, Stuart Jones (telephone 01603 756501, email for advice.


A Common Licence is a Bishop’s permission for a marriage to take place in a particular church. The issue of a Common Licence is at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop. In order to qualify for the issue of a Common Licence, either (1) one of the parties to the proposed marriage must have lived in the parish where the marriage is to take place for at least 15 days immediately preceding the date when the application for the Common Licence is made, or else must be on the church electoral roll or, (2) one of the parties must be able to show a ‘qualifying connection’ with the church, as defined in the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008.

An application for a Common Licence should not be made until the three month period prior to the proposed wedding date. The Licence will be valid for a maximum of three months (like a certificate that banns have been published) so if the Licence is issued too early it will expire before the proposed wedding date.

An application for a Common Licence may be made by prior appointment at the office of the Diocesan Registrar. However, for those living at some distance from the Diocesan Registry, an application may be made instead to one of a number of clergy around the diocese who have been appointed Surrogates for receiving marriage licence applications. The list of Surrogates is being reviewed to improve coverage across the diocese but in the meantime current Surrogates include the following:

  • The Revd Canon Tony Billett, Diss
  • The Revd Mark Capron, Dersingham
  • The Revd Paul Cubitt, North Walsham
  • The Revd Christian Heycocks, Sheringham
  • The Revd Canon Christopher Ivory, King’s Lynn
  • The Revd Matthew Jackson, Attleborough
  • The Revd Canon Stuart Nairn, Narborough
  • The Revd Bob Nichols, Caston, Attleborough
  • The Revd Canon Barry Oake, Great Hospital, Norwich
  • The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond, Eaton Christchurch, Norwich
  • The Revd David Smith, East Harling
  • The Revd Canon Sally Theakston, Dereham
  • The Revd Stephen Thorp, Swaffham
  • The Revd Selwyn Tillett, Winterton

Contact details for Surrogates may be obtained from the Diocese of Norwich website, using the ‘Find a Person’ search function.

Applicants for a Common Licence should produce evidence of their identity and address (see paragraphs 1 and 2 below).The Legal Advisory Commission recommends that, where one of the parties to a proposed marriage is a foreign national, the marriage ought to be by licence (which involves the making of a sworn statement as to status), rather than by banns. The foreign party should provide the Registrar or Surrogate with the following:-

  • Evidence of identity, such as an original passport or birth certificate (not a fax or photocopy) showing the full name and date of birth of the party concerned.
  • Evidence of the party’s current address, such as an original utility bill, bank statement or other document showing the name and address of the party concerned. Again, a photocopy will not be sufficient and an original document must be supplied.
  • Evidence of the single status of the party concerned. Normally the applicant for a Common Licence will make a sworn statement that they and their intending spouse are not under any impediment which would prevent them from being married, and would swear to their current status, e.g. ‘single’ or ‘previous marriage dissolved’ etc, and this should be sufficient. In any case where there is any doubt on the part of the minister, additional evidence that the applicant is single may be requested (such as a recent passport supported by a copy of their birth certificate, both showing the same name, or a letter from the party’s lawyer or priest).
  • A letter from the appropriate embassy, confirming that the foreign party is free to marry under the law of his and her own country and that if the marriage takes place in England it will be recognised in the foreign country (or otherwise indicating what additional steps may need to be taken for the marriage to be recognised in the foreign country). The Registrar/Surrogate will not normally require a letter from the embassy if the foreign party is a citizen of a Commonwealth or a former Commonwealth country or of the United States of America or a country within the European Union.
  • Where the foreign party has previously been married and divorced, the original decree absolute of divorce and a completed Form and Explanatory Statement. See the section below dealing with Marriage following Divorce.
  • Where any document produced is in a foreign language, the party concerned may be required to provide a certified translation.

The fee payable for a Common Licence in the Diocese of Norwich is £120.00.

Note that where one or both parties proposing to marry have previously been married and divorced, written approval must be obtained from the Bishop of Norwich before a Common Licence can be issued. The Bishop will wish to be satisfied that the questions set out in the Guidelines for Clergy on Marriages in Church following Divorce have been addressed before consenting to the issue of a Common Licence. This approval is normally sought by the parish priest, but previously divorced parties wishing to marry by Common Licence should allow time for this approval to be sought.