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What is the Apostille? What is it for? In which countries is the Apostille needed?

Updated: Aug 9, 2023


Notary stamp
















Contents:


1. What is it?

2. How does it work?

3. When you will need an Apostille?

4. List of states which require the Apostille

5. Procedure for non-member states

6. Can Apostilles be rejected by the receiving state?



1. What is it?

The Apostille is a document generally issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the relevant state (in the UK this body is called The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, in Spain “Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores”, but other countries may even have several competent authorities to issue Apostilles) which certifies the origin of the public document to which it refers. In other words, it certifies the authenticity of the signature or stamp/seal of the person (such as a Notary Public) or authority who signed or stamped the public document and in which capacity it was carried out.


It is important to note that the Apostille does not certify the content of the public instrument: the content is certified by the authority that signs it in the country of origin.


For instance, if a Notary Public is to sign a Power of Attorney it will be the Notary´s job to make sure that the document complies with all the formalities for execution and that the person who grants the power has been duly identified.


It is formally known as The Hague Convention Apostille and both, individuals and professionals, refer to it with the term “legalisation” as its purpose is to verify the authenticity in the sphere of the Private International Law. It is a small sheet of paper that is attached next to the issuing authority’s signature in the public document.



2. How does it work?

Before a public document (Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates, Powers of Attorney and other deeds, etc) can be used in a foreign country it is often the case that the origin of these documents need to be authenticated.


Apostilles can only be attached to documents issued in countries that are members of the Apostille Convention of 5th October 1961 which are going to be used in another member state.


3. When you will need an Apostille?

If the following requirements are present you will need an Apostille:

  • The document is issued in a member state.

  • The document is to be used in a member state.

  • It is considered to be a public document by the laws of the state in which it is issued.

  • The receiving country in which the document will be used requires the Apostille to recognise it as a foreign public document.

  • You will never need an Apostille for the acceptance of a document in the state in which it was issued. Apostilles are ONLY required for use abroad.


4. List of states which require the Apostille

As explained, the Apostille Convention is only applicable if both, the country in which the document was issued and the country in which is to be used, are members of the Convention. You may find below an updated list of the countries in which the Convention is applicable.


https://www.hcch.net/en/states/hcch-members


5. Procedure for non-member states

If the public document was issued or is to be used in a state which is not part to the Apostille Convention, you will need to follow the guidance offered by the Embassy or Consulate of the state where you intend to use the document. Often it is required that the relevant authority of the country where the document is issued, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, legalise the signature of the official issuing the document before it can then be legalised by the Embassy or Consulate of the country where the document will be used.


It is usually the case that even though some states such as United Arab Emirates, Qatar or Iraq are not member states to the Convention, documents for use in these countries must first be legalised by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office before they can be legalised by the relevant consular section.


6. Can Apostilles be rejected by the receiving state?

They must be recognised by all the contracting states. However, they could be rejected when:

  • Its origin cannot be ascertained. This may happen when the information contained in the document does not match the information provided by the Apostille.

  • Its formal elements differ substantially from the sample used in the Convention.


At Lopez & Moreno Associates we can deal with your Apostille application (standard or express) as well as consular legalisations. We can also help you to obtain your public documents (Birth, Marriage, Death Certificates, ACRO, Companies House documents, etc) and notarise them if required. Please get in touch to obtain free advice as to the requirements of your documents for use abroad.

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