The ABCs of Apostilles

February 18, 2019

 

Have you ever seen a document bearing the stamp shown above? Has anyone required you to affix an apostille on a public document?

 

The word apostille originally comes from Latin: post illa  then French, meaning a marginal note. It is an international certification issued to a public document signed for use in another country. Documents that may require an apostille are: birth certificates, marriage certificates, judgments, corporate records, patents and notarized acknowledgments. Before The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, these documents underwent a slow, expensive processes called legalization which involved authentication in both the issuing and destination countries.

 

Now the processes is much faster. First, apostilles are affixed by Competent Authorities (embassies, ministries, courts or (local) governments) who are designated by the government of a state which is a party to the convention. Then the country of destination determines if the document is authenticated with the apostille or requires certification through legalization.

 

The apostille itself is a stamp or printed form consisting of ten 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 title 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 (may be in official language of the authority which issues it or in a second language):

 

- Country ... [e.g., Hong Kong, China]

This public document

- has been signed by [e.g., Henry Cho]

- acting in the capacity of [e.g., Notary Public]

- bears the seal/stamp of [e.g., High Court of Hong Kong]

Certified

- at [e.g. Hong Kong]

- the ... [e.g., 16 April 2014]

- by ... [e.g., the governor of the special administrative district of Hong Kong, China]

- No ... [e.g., 2536218517]

- Seal/stamp ... {of the authority giving the apostille}

- Signature

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

 

As you can see, apostilles are efficient, international (within member states) and standardized. Do you need one? Let me know, and I will help you.

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