If you would like to have a document or certificate that was issued abroad legalised or apostilled and are wondering how to proceed, read on. We tell you everything you need to know about legalising a foreign document and discuss the most important steps you should take.
What is the legalisation of documents and what is its purpose?
Legalisation of a foreign document that is intended for an administrative authority is an authentication procedure designed to certify the accuracy of the signature, the function and authority of the signatory, and the identity of the seal or stamp. Legalisation makes it possible for a foreign document to be legally certified in the signatory's country of origin.
This authentication may be required in situations such as:
- Returning from abroad
- Establishing a subsidiary abroad
- Producing a tender abroad
- Applying for an equivalent certificate of qualification after studying at a foreign university
- Applying for naturalisation
- A marriage between couples of different nationalities
- An adoption procedure
Conversely, legalisation can also be carried out for a document that is issued in one country but is intended for another country. Depending on the document to be legalised and the country concerned, the rules and steps for legalisation may not be the same.
Which documents can be legalised?
Most foreign public and private documents can be legalised. These include:
- death certificates birth certificates, and marriage certificates etc.
- notarial deeds
- documents issued by the court (e.g. divorce decrees)
- extracts from the commercial register
- certificates from administrative authorities
- private documents (affidavits, letters of recommendation, handwritten wills, powers of attorney, informal contracts of sale, etc.)
Legalisation or Apostille: Which should you choose?
An apostille is a simplified and faster authentication procedure than legalisation and is regulated by the Hague Convention. It is the authentication of a document for use in another country. The apostille certificate certifies the authenticity of the seal, the signature and the identity of the signatory (as does legalisation).
Choosing which authentication method to use also depends on the countries concerned.
In addition, certain foreign documents do not have to be legalised or apostilled if the country issuing the document has established a bilateral agreement for this type of document. This is particularly the case for certain public documents.
How can I have a document or deed legalised or apostilled?
Step 1: You need to have the document translated.
Before a document in a foreign language can be legalised, it must first be translated by a sworn translator or translation agency, as only they are authorised to produce official translations. This certified translation, which is an exact copy of the original, certifies the legal validity of the translated document. This step is mandatory before you can apply for legalisation or apostille.
At Alphatrad, we produce all types of certified translations, regardless of the language pairing (Chinese-English, French-English, Spanish-English, Arabic-English, etc.). Your document is entrusted to a qualified and experienced translator and this translator, or our agency, will also take care of the legalisation and apostille of your foreign document: thereby guaranteeing that your official translation can be used immediately. Contact us to find out more.
→ Good to know: If you have your documents or certificates translated in the country where they are needed, you can be sure that the translations will be accepted.
Step 2: You need to apply for legalisation or apostille
As soon as the translation is available, you must submit the original document together with the translation to the embassy or consulate of the issuing country. The document must also have been pre-certified by the competent authority of the issuing country (in most cases the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Once the procedure has been completed, the document is given an official legalisation stamp, which confirms the authenticity of the document.
In some cases, the authentication request may be rejected, for example:
- if the document does not have an original signature or stamp
- if the signature or seal is unknown or cannot be verified
- if it is a religious certificate (e.g. a baptism certificate)
- if the document is laminated or glued
- if the document was issued by a non-recognised body.
Costs and deadlines for the legalisation and apostille of a foreign document
The delivery time for legalisation depends on the processing time required for pre-certification by the authorities of the country issuing the document. This process, which requires double legalisation, takes longer than a legalisation procedure with an apostille.
To legalise a foreign document, you can also use an agency that specialises in this type of authentication service.
The cost of legalising a document or deed depends on the issuing state: it can range from £20 to over £100, depending on the country.
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FAQ on the legalisation and apostille of documents
Legalisation of a foreign document or deed is an authentication procedure designed to certify the accuracy of the signature, the function and authority of the signatory and the identity of the seal or stamp.
Both procedures are used to confirm the authenticity of a document. However, the apostille is always issued by a designated authority of the state in which the document was issued (i.e. different from legalisation).
Depending on the country, the certified translation must be prepared by a sworn translator or translation agencies that specialise in official translations. The apostille is obtained from the competent authorities. Our translation agency can do both for you and provide a certified translation with apostille. Contact us via our online form or by email.
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