Apostille Convention

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Not to be confused with Apostle (messenger, esp. Christian); or an apostil, meaning a marginal note or gloss.
Apostille Convention
Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents
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  State parties to the convention (members of the HCCH)
  State parties to the convention (non-members of the HCCH)
  States Parties for which the convention has not entered into force
Signed 5 October 1961
Location The Netherlands
Effective 14 January 1965
Condition ratification by 3 states[1]
Parties 105
Depositary Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Netherlands)
Languages French (prevailing in case of divergence)
and English
Apostille Convention at Wikisource

The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, the Apostille Convention, or the Apostille Treaty is an international treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It specifies the modalities through which a document issued in one of the signatory countries can be certified for legal purposes in all the other signatory states. Such a certification is called an apostille (French: certification). It is an international certification comparable to a notarisation in domestic law, and normally supplements a local notarisation of the document.

Procedure[edit]

Apostilles are affixed by Competent Authorities designated by the government of a state which is party to the convention.[2] A list of these authorities is maintained by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Examples of designated authorities are embassies, ministries, courts or (local) governments. For example, in the United States, the Secretary of State of each state and his or her deputies are usually competent authorities. In the United Kingdom, all apostilles are issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes.[3]

To be eligible for an apostille, a document must first be issued or certified by an officer recognised by the authority that will issue the apostille. For example, in the US state of Vermont, the Secretary of State maintains specimen signatures of all notaries public, so documents that have been notarised are eligible for apostilles.[4] Likewise, courts in the Netherlands are eligible of placing an apostille on all municipal civil status documents directly. In some cases, intermediate certifications may be required in the country where the document originates before it will be eligible for an apostille. For example, in New York City, the Office of Vital Records (which issues, among other things, birth certificates) is not directly recognised by the New York Secretary of State.[5] As a consequence, the signature of the City Clerk must be certified by the County Clerk of New York County to make the birth certificate eligible for an apostille.[6][7] In Japan all the official documents are issued in Japanese language, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, JAPAN) then provides an apostille for these documents.[8] In India the apostille certification can be obtained from the Ministry of External Affairs[9]

Information[edit]

An apostille issued by Norwegian authorities.

The apostille itself is a stamp or printed form consisting of 10 numbered standard fields. On the top is the text APOSTILLE, under which the text Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961 (French for Hague Convention of 5 October 1961) is placed. This text must be written in French for the Apostille to be valid (article 4 of the Convention). In the numbered fields the following information is added:

  1. Country ... [e.g. Hong Kong, China]
    This public document
  2. has been signed by [e.g. Henry Cho]
  3. acting in the capacity of [e.g. Notary Public]
  4. bears the seal/stamp of [e.g. High Court of Hong Kong]
    Certified
  5. at [e.g. Hong Kong]
  6. the ... [e.g. 16th Apr.2014]
  7. by ... [e.g. the governor of the special administrative district of Hong Kong, China]
  8. No ... [e.g. 2536218517]
  9. Seal/stamp ... {of the authority giving the apostille}
  10. Signature

The information can be placed on the (back of the) document itself, or attached to the document as an allonge.

Eligible documents[edit]

Four types of documents are mentioned in the convention:[1]

  • court documents
  • administrative documents (e.g. civil status documents)
  • notarial acts
  • official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as official certificates recording the registration of a document or the fact that it was in existence on a certain date and official and notarial authentications of signatures.

All educational, non educational documents, commercial documents.

Legalization[edit]

A State that has not signed the Convention must specify how foreign legal documents can be certified for its use. Two countries may have a special convention on the recognition of each other's public documents, but in practice this is infrequent. Otherwise, the document must be certified by the foreign ministry of the country where the document originated, and then by the foreign ministry of the government of the state where the document will be used; one of the certifications will often be performed at an embassy or consulate. In practice this means the document must be certified twice before it can have legal effect in the receiving country. For example, as a non-signatory, Canadian documents for use abroad must be certified by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa or by a Canadian consular official abroad and subsequently by the relevant government office or consulate of the receiving state.

Apostille vs. Legalization
An Apostille of the Hague issued by the State of Alabama 
As a non-signatory, Canadian documents for use abroad must be certified twice: at the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and subsequently by the consulate of the receiving state (in this case, the Netherlands

States parties[edit]

The convention is in force for all members of the European Union and all but 10 members of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The most recent countries to accede to the convention are Nicaragua (entry into force 14 May 2013) and Bahrain (entry into force 31 December 2013)

State Entry into Force Apostille not recognised in Comment
Albania Albania 9 May 2004 Belgium, Germany, Greece, and Spain
Andorra Andorra 31 Dec 1996
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda 1 Nov 1981
Argentina Argentina 18 Feb 1988
Armenia Armenia 14 Oct 1994
Australia Australia 16 Mar 1995
Austria Austria 13 Jan 1968
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 2 Mar 2005 Germany
The Bahamas Bahamas 10 Jul 1973
Bahrain Bahrain 31 Dec 2013
Barbados Barbados 30 Nov 1966
Belarus Belarus 31 May 1992
Belgium Belgium 9 Feb 1973
Belize Belize 11 Apr 1993
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 6 Mar 1992
Botswana Botswana 30 Sep 1966
Brunei Brunei 3 Dec 1987
Bulgaria Bulgaria 29 Apr 2001
Cape Verde Cape Verde 13 Feb 2010
Colombia Colombia 30 Jan 2001
Cook Islands Cook Islands 30 Apr 2005
Costa Rica Costa Rica 14 Dec 2011
Croatia Croatia 8 Dec 1991
Cyprus Cyprus 30 Apr 1973
Czech Republic Czech Republic 16 Mar 1999
Denmark Kingdom of Denmark 26 Dec 2006 does not apply for Greenland and the Faroe Islands
Dominica Dominica 3 Nov 1978
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic 30 Aug 2009 Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands
Ecuador Ecuador 2 Apr 2005
El Salvador El Salvador 31 May 1996
Estonia Estonia 30 Sep 2001
Fiji Fiji 10 Oct 1970
Finland Finland 26 Aug 1986
France France 24 Jan 1965
Georgia (country) Georgia 14 May 2007 Greece
Germany Germany 13 Feb 1966 India[10]
Greece Greece 18 May 1985
Grenada Grenada 7 Apr 2002
Honduras Honduras 30 Dec 2004
Hong Kong Hong Kong 25 Apr 1965 The convention is still applicable to Hong Kong despite the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997.[11]
Hungary Hungary 18 Jan 1973
Iceland Iceland 27 Nov 2004
India India 14 Jul 2005 Germany[10]
Republic of Ireland Ireland 9 Mar 1999
Israel Israel 14 Aug 1978
Italy Italy 11 Feb 1978
Japan Japan 27 Jul 1970
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 30 Jan 2001
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan 31 Jul 2011 Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Greece
Latvia Latvia 30 Jan 1996
Lesotho Lesotho 4 Dec 1966
Liberia Liberia 8 Feb 1996 Belgium, Germany, and the United States
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein 17 Sep 1972
Lithuania Lithuania 19 Jul 1997
Luxembourg Luxembourg 3 Jun 1979
Macau Macau 4 Feb 1969 The convention is still applicable to Macau despite the transfer of sovereignty over Macau on 20 Dec 1999.[11]
Republic of Macedonia Macedonia 17 Nov 1991
Malawi Malawi 2 Dec 1967
Malta Malta 3 Mar 1968
Marshall Islands Marshall Islands 14 Aug 1992
Mauritius Mauritius 12 Mar 1968
Mexico Mexico 14 Aug 1995
Moldova Moldova 16 Mar 2007 Germany
Monaco Monaco 31 Dec 2002
Mongolia Mongolia 31 Dec 2009 Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, and Greece
Montenegro Montenegro 3 Jun 2006
Namibia Namibia 30 Jan 2001
Kingdom of the Netherlands Kingdom of the Netherlands 8 Oct 1965 Aruba, Curaçao, Netherlands, and Sint Maarten
New Zealand New Zealand 22 Nov 2001
Nicaragua Nicaragua 14 May 2013
Niue Niue 2 Mar 1999
Norway Norway 29 Jul 1983
Oman Oman 30 Jan 2012
Panama Panama 4 Aug 1991
Paraguay Paraguay 30 Aug 2014[12]
Peru Peru 30 Sep 2010 Germany and Greece
Poland Poland 14 Aug 2005
Portugal Portugal 4 Feb 1969
Romania Romania 13 Mar 2001
Russia Russia 31 May 1992
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis 14 Dec 1994
Saint Lucia Saint Lucia 31 Jul 2002
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 27 Oct 1979
Samoa Samoa 13 Sep 1999
San Marino San Marino 13 Feb 1995
São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé and Príncipe 13 Sep 2008
Serbia Serbia 27 Apr 1992 ratified as the  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Seychelles Seychelles 31 Mar 1979
Slovakia Slovakia 18 Feb 2002
Slovenia Slovenia 25 Jun 1991
South Africa South Africa 30 Apr 1995
South Korea South Korea 14 Jul 2007
Spain Spain 25 Sep 1978
Suriname Suriname 25 Nov 1975
Swaziland Swaziland 6 Sep 1968
Sweden Sweden 1 May 1999
Switzerland Switzerland 11 Mar 1973
Tonga Tonga 4 Jun 1970
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago 14 Jul 2000
Turkey Turkey 29 Sep 1985
Ukraine Ukraine 22 Dec 2003
United Kingdom United Kingdom 24 Jan 1965 including Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories
United States United States 15 Oct 1981
Uruguay Uruguay 14 Oct 2012
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan 15 Apr 2012 Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Greece
Vanuatu Vanuatu 30 Jul 1980
Venezuela Venezuela 16 Mar 1999

Abuse[edit]

The Apostille does not give information regarding the quality of the document, but certifies the signature (and the capacity of who placed it) and correctness of the seal/stamp on the document which must be certified. In 2005 The Hague Conference surveyed its members and produced a report in December 2008 which expressed serious concerns about Diplomas and Degree certificates, titled "THE APPLICATION OF THE APOSTILLE CONVENTION TO DIPLOMAS INCLUDING THOSE ISSUED BY DIPLOMA MILLS". The possible abuse of the system was highlighted "Particularly troubling is the possible use of diploma mill qualifications to circumvent migration controls, possibly by potential terrorists." (page 5) The risk comes from the fact that the various government stamps give the document an air of authenticity without anyone having checked the underlying document. "An official looking certificate may be issued to a copy of a diploma mill qualification, and then subsequently issued with an Apostille, without anyone having ever verified the signature on, let alone the contents of, the diploma." (page 7) Further member states indicated "they would be obliged to issue an Apostille for certification of a certified copy of a diploma issued by a diploma mill". (page 15) The Hague Conference expressed concern as to whether this issue could affect the entire convention. "...the Apostille does not 'look through the certification' and does not relate to the diploma itself .... There is a clear risk that such practices may eventually undermine the effectiveness and therefore the successful operation of the Apostille Convention". (page 5)[13]

In February 2009 the Hague Conference decided to amend the wording on the Apostille to make it clear that no one was checking whether the document being attested was genuine or a fake. The new wording to be used was as follows. "This Apostille only certifies the signature, the capacity of the signer and the seal or stamp it bears. It does not certify the content of the document for which it was issued."[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]