What is the Apostille Convention and how is it relevant to a Notary Public Service?

The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, the Apostille convention, or the Apostille treaty is a global treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It stipulates the modalities through which a file issued in among the nations that are signatory can be certified for legal purposes in the rest of the signatory states. This type of certification is called an apostille (French: certification). It’s a worldwide certificate comparable to a notarisation in national law, and usually supplements a local notarisation of the file.

Apostilles are affixed by Competent Authorities designated by the government of a state which is party to the convention. A listing of these authorities is maintained by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Examples of designated authorities are embassies, ministries, courts or (local) governments. In the USA, for instance, the Secretary of State of each state and her or his deputies are usually capable authorities. In Milton Keynes, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issues all apostilles in Great Britain.

To be entitled to an apostille, a document must be issued or certified by an officer recognised by the authority that will issue the apostille. In the US state of Vermont, for instance, the Secretary of State maintains specimen signatures of all notaries public, so documents that have been notarised are not ineligible for apostilles. Moreover, courts in the Netherlands are eligible of placing an apostille on all municipal civil status files directly. In some instances, intermediate certifications may be required in the state before it’ll be entitled to an apostille where the document originates. For example, in Nyc, 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 County Clerk of New York County must certifies the signature of the City Clerk to make the birth certificate qualified for an apostille. In India the apostille certification can be obtained from the Ministry of External Affairs.


States that haven’t signed the Convention must define foreign legal documents can be certified for its use. Two nations may have a special convention on the recognition of the public records of each other, but in practice this is not frequent. The record must be certified by the international ministry of the authorities where the document will be used and by the international ministry of the country where the document originated; among the certifications will frequently be performed at an embassy or consulate. In practice this means the file must be certified before it can have legal effect in the receiving nation. As a non-signatory, for example, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa or by a Canadian consular official must abroad certifies Canadian records for use abroad and afterwards by consulate or the relevant government office of the receiving state.

Apostille vs. Legalization

An Apostille of the Hague issued by the State of Alabama

As a non-signatory, Canadian documents for use abroad must be certified twice: at the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and afterwards by the consulate of the receiving state (in this case, the Netherlands)

States parties

The convention is in force for all members of the European Union and 10 although all members of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

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