The ABCs of Apostilles from HCCH: How to ensure that your public documents will be recognized abroad

Updated: Sep 29



What is HCCH (the Hague Conference on Private and International Law)?


The Hague Conference is a global organization created to bring together the different legal systems that exist in each member country with a view to simplifying legal activities which involve the jurisdiction of two or more countries.


The conference held its first meeting in 1893 and it became a permanent inter-governmental organization in 1955, upon entry into force of its Statute.


Legal Activities can be personal and family or commercial in nature. Member states adopt special rules known as “private international law” rules.


The Apostille Certificate is the result of a Hague Convention abolishing the requirement for legalization.


Brochure Highlights


Model of an Apostille

HCCH published a brochure providing practical replies to some frequently asked questions about the Apostille Convention. Here are some highlights:


Question 1 What is an Apostille and when do I need one?


An Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document (e.g., a birth, marriage or death certificate, a judgment, an extract of a register or a notarial attestation).


Apostilles can only be issued for documents issued in one country party to the Apostille Convention and that are to be used in another country which is also a party to the Convention.


You will need an Apostille if all of the following apply:

  • the country where the document was issued is party to the Apostille Convention; and

  • the country in which the document is to be used is party to the Apostille Convention; and

  • the law of the country where the document was issued considers it to be a public document; and

  • the country in which the document is to be used requires an Apostille in order to recognize it as a foreign public document.


An Apostille may never be used for the recognition of a document in the country where that document was issued – Apostilles are strictly for the use of public documents abroad!


An Apostille may not be required if the laws, regulations, or practice in force in the country where the public document is to be used have abolished or simplified the requirement of an Apostille, or have exempted the document from any legalization requirement. Such simplification or exemption may also result from a treaty or other agreement that is in force between the country where the public document is to be used and the country that issued it (e.g., some other Hague Conventions exempt documents from legalization or any analogous formality, including an Apostille).


Question 2 In which countries does the Apostille Convention apply?


The Apostille Convention only applies if both the country where the public document was issued and the country where the public document is to be used are parties to the Convention. A comprehensive and updated list of the countries where the Apostille Convention applies, or will soon apply, is available in the Apostille Section of the Hague Conference website.


When checking the Status table of the Apostille Convention, always keep the following in mind:

  1. Check if both the country where the public document was issued and the country where the document is to be used are listed in either part of the Status table.

  2. It does not matter whether a country appears in the first or the second part of the Status table – the Convention applies equally to Members and nonMembers of the Organisation.

  3. Check the date of entry into force of the Convention for both countries. Look for the column entitled ‘EIF’ – only after that date can the relevant country issue and receive Apostilles.

  4. There are different ways for a country to become a party to the Convention (ratification, accession, succession, or continuation), but these differences have no impact on how the Convention operates in a country.

  5. If one of the countries has acceded to the Convention, check that the other country has not objected to that accession; to find out, see the column entitled ‘Type’ next to the acceding country’s name and check if there is a link entitled ‘A**’ – if so, click on it and check whether the other country is listed.

  6. Check whether the Convention applies to the entire territory of a country or only to parts of it; to find out, see if there is a link in the columns entitled ‘Ext’ and ‘Res/D/N’ – if so, click on it and read the relevant information.


Question 3 What do I do if either the country where my public document was issued or the country where I need to use my public document is not a party to the Apostille Convention?


If your public document was issued or is to be used in a country where the Apostille Convention does not apply, you should contact the Embassy or a Consulate of the country where you intend to use the document in order to find out what your options are.


US Notary Service Center: usually, you need to have your documents notarized by a notary public, then authenticated by the Secretary of State or Department of State (depends on the issuing authority of your documents), finally legalized by the Embassy or a Consulate of the destination country.


Click here to see the full brochure.


Source: hcch.net


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