An apostille is a certification for authenticating documents to be used in foreign countries. The sole function of the apostille is to certify the authenticity of one or more signatures in a document. The certificate is around 15 cm2 in size and is permanently attached to the document which authenticity it is approving.
Once attached, both – the apostille and the document are embossed with an official government seal. Apostilles can be issued for commercial documents, documents related to adoption cases, official documents related to vital statistics, land records, court records as well as patent applications and school documents.
Content of apostille certificate
Generally, the apostille contains numbered fields with the information below:
Country (name of the country that is issuing the apostille)
This public document
Has been signed by…
Acting in the capacity of …
Bears the seal/stamp of … (issuing authority)
At … (place of issue)
The … (date of issue)
By … (issuing authority)
No … (number of registration)
Signature (of the issuing authority’s representative)
An apostille as an authentication was provided for by the 1961 Hague Convention to specify how a document issued by one country can be authenticated by another country. This international certification is comparable to certification under domestic law and usually supplements a domestic certification of the document.
An apostille can be issued and is only accepted by countries that are parties to the Convention. There are currently 115 parties to the Convention and all but 10 are also members of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. All members of the European Union are parties to the Convention and the latest country to join the Convention is Guatemala.
If a country refuses to sign the convention, it must establish a process for authenticating foreign legal documents – the process of legalization. If this is not available either, the document must be certified by the State Department of the state from which the document originates and then by the State Department of the state in which the certified document is to be used. In general, this means that the document must be notarized twice before it can have legal effect in the country where it is used. For example, Canada has not signed the convention, which means that all documents intended for use abroad must be authenticated by the Deputy Secretary of State or a Canadian consular officer abroad and then by the consulate or government agency in the receiving state.
Apostille Certification Process
Apostilles are issued by the competent authority appointed by the government of each Apostille Convention member state. In order to certify your document, you must first find out if your country is a signatory to the Convention and which authority in your country is responsible for issuing apostilles. This information is usually available on the Internet or from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In order for the document to be authenticated with an apostille, it must first be issued or authenticated by an official notary. When submitting the document for apostille certification, you must present an ID card, a completed application form and proof of payment of the government fee. All countries may have slightly different procedures for issuing an apostille, including the fee and how many working days the apostille is issued.