What is an Apostille and when do I need one?
An Apostille is a certificate that verifies the origin of a public document. This could be a birth, marriage, or death certificate, a judicial ruling, a registry extract, or a notarial confirmation. An example of the Model Apostille Certificate can be found below. Apostilles can only be issued for documents originating from a country that is a party to the Apostille Convention, intended for use in another country which also participates in the Convention.
You will require an Apostille if the following conditions are met:
• The document was issued in a country that is a signatory to the Apostille Convention. • The document is to be used in another country that is also a party to the Apostille Convention. • The legislation of the issuing country classifies it as a public document. • The country where the document is to be used demands an Apostille for recognizing it as a foreign public document.
An Apostille can never be employed for document recognition within the country where the document originated – Apostilles are exclusively for the usage of public documents overseas!
There may not be a need for an Apostille if the laws, regulations, or existing practices in the country where the public document is to be used have waived or simplified the Apostille requirement, or have exempted the document from any legalisation requirement. This simplification or exemption could also be a result of a treaty or other agreement in effect between the country where the public document will be used and the country that issued it (for instance, some other Hague Conventions exempt documents from legalisation or any similar formality, including an Apostille).
If you harbor any uncertainty, it is advisable to consult the intended recipient of your document concerning whether an Apostille is required.
What countries use an Apostille?
The Apostille Convention is applicable only when both the country issuing the public document and the country where it is intended for use are signatories to the Convention. You can find a comprehensive and up-to-date list of countries where the Apostille Convention applies or will soon apply in the Apostille Section of the Hague Conference website here.
The Status table of the Apostille Convention is divided into two parts: the first part enumerates countries that have joined the Apostille Convention and are also members of the Hague Conference (i.e., the organization that established the Convention); the second part lists countries that have joined the Apostille Convention but are not members of the Hague Conference. Hence, a country does not need to be a member of the Hague Conference to be a party to the Apostille Convention.
When consulting the Status table of the Apostille Convention, remember the following:
- Confirm that both the country issuing the public document and the country where the document is to be used are listed in either part of the Status table.
- It doesn't matter whether a country appears in the first or second part of the Status table – the Convention applies equally to members and non-members of the organization.
- Verify the date of the Convention's entry into force for both countries. Look for the column labeled 'EIF' – only after this date can the relevant country issue and receive Apostilles.
- There are various ways for a country to become a party to the Convention (ratification, accession, succession, or continuation), but these differences do not affect the Convention's operation within a country.
- If a country has acceded to the Convention, ensure that the other country hasn't objected to this accession. Look at the column titled 'Type' next to the acceding country's name and check if there's a link titled 'A**'. Click on it and verify whether the other country is listed.
- Determine whether the Convention applies to the entirety of a country or only specific parts.
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 produced, or is intended to be used, in a country that does not adhere to the Apostille Convention, you should get in touch with the embassy or consulate of the country where you plan to use the document. This will allow you to find out your available options.
Which documents require an Apostille Convention?
The Convention is only applicable to public documents. The classification of a document as a public document is dictated by the law of the country that issued it. Countries generally apply the Convention to a broad range of documents. Apostilles are most often issued for administrative documents such as birth, marriage, and death certificates; documents originating from a court, tribunal, or commission authority or official; extracts from commercial and other registries; patents; notarial acts and notarial confirmations (acknowledgments) of signatures; and school, university, and other academic diplomas issued by public institutions.
The Apostille Convention does not apply to documents executed by diplomatic or consular agents. Additionally, the Convention does not encompass certain administrative documents linked to commercial or customs operations.
Where do I get an Apostille?
Each nation that is a signatory to the Convention is required to identify one or more authorities authorized to issue Apostilles. These designated bodies are known as Competent Authorities and are the only ones allowed to issue Apostilles. Here is a list of all Competent Authorities identified by each country that is part of the Apostille Convention.
Some countries have identified only one Competent Authority, while others have named multiple Competent Authorities. The latter approach is often to ensure the presence of authorities in various regions of the country or because different governmental entities are responsible for different types of public documents. For instance, in some federal systems, the national government may be accountable for certain document types, whereas state or local governments may handle others.
In countries with several Competent Authorities, it's crucial to identify the appropriate authority for your request. Most Apostilles are issued on the same day of request. Full contact information for most Competent Authorities, including links to their respective websites if available, can be found here.
What do I need to know before requesting an Apostille?
Before contacting a Competent Authority to obtain an Apostille, you should take into consideration the following queries:
- Is the Apostille Convention applicable in both the country that issued the public document and the country where I plan to use it?
- If multiple Competent Authorities have been designated by the country that issued the public document, which one is the relevant authority to issue an Apostille for my document?
- Is my document eligible for an Apostille, that is, is it classified as a public document under the legislation of the country where it was issued?
- Can I request an Apostille via mail, or is my presence required in person? This is particularly significant if you reside in a country other than the one that issued your public document.
- If I possess multiple documents, will I require multiple Apostilles?
- Apart from the public document, are there any other documents or additional information that I need to provide to obtain an Apostille (e.g., a document verifying my identity or a stamped envelope for mail requests)?
How much does an Apostille cost?
The Apostille Convention does not provide guidelines regarding the cost of Apostilles, leading to varied practices among Competent Authorities. Many of these authorities do levy a charge for Apostilles, but the pricing can significantly differ. For pragmatic information on the costs individual countries impose, you can refer to the information available in the Apostille Section of the Hague Conference website. As Canada has only just recently joined the convention, Global Affairs Canada has not announced what the fee for an Apostille will be or if it will be provided as a free service such as authentication.
Do all Apostilles look exactly the same?
No, there is an example of an Apostille Certificate provided above. Apostilles should align as closely as possible with this example Certificate.
Specifically, an Apostille must:
- Be identified as an Apostille.
- Include the short French version of the Convention's title (Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961).
- Include a box with 10 numbered standard informational items.
An Apostille can also contain supplementary information. For instance, an Apostille may:
- Supply additional data about the public document it is linked to.
- Reiterate the restricted effect of an Apostille (i.e., it merely certifies the origin of the associated public document).
- Provide a web address (URL) where the Apostille's origin can be verified.
- Indicate that the Apostille should not be used in the country that issued it.
However, any additional information must be placed outside the box containing the 10 standard informational items.
How are Apostilles affixed to public documents?
An Apostille must be directly attached to the public document itself or be affixed on a separate appended page, also known as an allonge. Various methods can be used to affix Apostilles, which include the usage of rubber stamps, self-adhesive stickers, and impressed seals, among others.
In the case of an Apostille being affixed to an allonge, the allonge can be secured to the corresponding public document by employing several methods such as glue, grommets, staples, ribbons, or wax seals. Although the Convention accepts all these methods, Competent Authorities are advised to utilize more secure methods of attachment to ensure the Apostille's integrity.
Not adhering to a specific method of affixing an Apostille cannot be a reason for the rejection of the Apostille.
What does an Apostille do?
An Apostille solely authenticates the origin of the public document to which it is related. It validates the authenticity of the signature or seal of the person or authority that signed or sealed the public document, and the capacity in which this action was performed.
An Apostille does not verify the content of the associated public document. They do not confer authority nor add any value to the content of the underlying documents.
Apostilles are strictly for the use of public documents outside the country in which they were issued. They are not intended for recognition or use within the issuing country.
The authority to decide the extent of credibility to accord the underlying public document lies with the country where the Apostille is to be used.
Once I have an Apostille, do I need anything else to show that the signature or seal on my public document is genuine?
No, an Apostille issued by the pertinent Competent Authority is the only requirement needed to verify the authenticity of a signature or seal on a public document. Additionally, it confirms the position or authority of the person or entity that has signed or sealed the document.
If the recipient of my Apostille wants to verify my Apostille, what should I do?
Each Competent Authority has an obligation to maintain a record, wherein it documents details such as the date and number of every Apostille issued, as well as specifics about the person or entity that signed or sealed the associated public document.
If recipients wish to validate an Apostille, they can reach out to the specified Competent Authority mentioned on the Apostille, inquiring if the details on the Apostille match those recorded in the register. The Apostille Section of the Hague Conference website provides contact information for the Competent Authorities, including phone numbers and URLs of e-Registers, where applicable.
A large number of Competent Authorities have initiated online electronic Registers (e-Registers), which offer a convenient method to conduct online inquiries for Apostille validation. This alleviates the need for Competent Authorities to individually respond to these queries via phone or email. If a Competent Authority maintains such an e-Register, the web address of this e-Register is mentioned directly on the Apostille.
Can Apostilles be rejected in the country where they are to be used?
Apostilles issued in accordance with the guidelines of the Convention are required to be recognized in the country where they are intended to be used. There are only a couple of scenarios where an Apostille may be legitimately rejected:
- If the Apostille's origin cannot be confirmed, that is, if the specifics provided on the Apostille do not match with the records maintained by the Competent Authority that supposedly issued the Apostille.
- If the formal elements of the Apostille diverge significantly from the Model Certificate attached to the Convention.
While an Apostille should ideally closely match the Model Certificate appended to the Convention, in reality, Apostilles provided by different Competent Authorities can vary in terms of design, size, color, and additional elements that might be included on the certificate. Such aesthetic variations should not be a basis for refusal of an Apostille.
The way in which an Apostille is attached to the public document also does not provide valid grounds for refusal. The simple fact that an Apostille was affixed using a method different from the one(s) used by the country where it will be used is not a reason for the Apostille's rejection.
Any additional text outside of the box containing the 10 standard informational items does not provide a valid reason for the Apostille's rejection.
Furthermore, 'Apostille Certificates' issued by countries that have not signed the Convention should be rejected in all other states, as this contradicts the provisions of the Convention.
What about electronic Apostilles and electronic Registers of Apostilles?
The Apostille Convention does permit Competent Authorities to issue electronic Apostilles, also known as e-Apostilles, and to maintain electronic registers of Apostilles, known as e-Registers. Many Competent Authorities are working on developing and implementing e-Apostilles and e-Registers, as suggested by the Permanent Bureau (the Secretariat) of the Hague Conference under the Electronic Apostille Pilot Program (e-APP).
For more information about the e-APP in general, and to find out whether a specific Competent Authority issues e-Apostilles and/or maintains an e-Register, you can visit the e-APP website at www.e-APP.info.
Conclusion Trust The Experts @ Global Document Solutions
In conclusion, the Apostille Convention simplifies the process of verifying public documents for international use. It requires an understanding of which countries participate in the convention, the types of documents that qualify, and the designated competent authorities responsible for issuing Apostilles in each country. Additionally, the Convention allows for the use of electronic Apostilles and e-Registers. Before requesting an Apostille, individuals should ensure that the Convention applies to both the issuing and receiving countries, identify the correct Competent Authority, and understand the specific procedures for obtaining an Apostille, including any associated costs and processing times. Ultimately, Apostilles serve to certify the authenticity of a document's origin but do not validate its content, a distinction that is key to their role in international affairs.