What is an Apostille?
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. It is an international certification comparable to a notarisation in domestic law.
What is the procedure for an Apostille?
Apostilles are affixed by Competent Authorities designated by the government of a state which is party to the convention. 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.
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. 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. 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. In Japan all the official documents are issued in Japanese language, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, JAPAN) then provides an apostille for these documents. In India the apostille certification can be obtained from the Ministry of External Affairs.