Apostille Convention

The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of 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. A certification under the terms of the convention is called an apostille (from Latin post illa and then French: a marginal note) or Hague Apostille.[2] It is an international certification comparable to a notarisation in domestic law, and normally supplements a local notarisation of the document. If the convention applies between two countries, such an apostille is sufficient to certify a document's validity, and removes the need for double-certification, by the originating country and then by the receiving country.

Apostille Convention
  State parties to the convention (members of the HCCH)
  State parties to the convention (non-members of the HCCH)
  State parties for which the convention has not entered into force
Signed5 October 1961
LocationThe Netherlands
Effective14 January 1965
Conditionratification by 3 states[1]
DepositaryMinistry of Foreign Affairs (Netherlands)
LanguagesFrench (prevailing in case of divergence)
and English
Apostille Convention at Wikisource


Apostilles are affixed by Competent Authorities designated by the government of a state which is party to the convention.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] Likewise, courts in the Netherlands are eligible to place an apostille on all municipal civil status documents directly. In some cases, intermediate certifications may be required in the country in which the document originates before it is 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.[6] 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.[7][8] In Japan all official documents are issued in Japanese; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, JAPAN) can then provide an apostille for these documents.[9] In India the apostille certification can be obtained from the Ministry of External Affairs[10] in New Delhi, after authentication by the administration of the Indian state where the document was issued (for educational documents).


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 (which may be in the official language of the authority which issues it, or in a second language):

  1. Country … [e.g. Korea, Spain]
    This public document
  2. has been signed by [e.g. Henry Cho]
  3. acting in the capacity of [e.g. Notary Public]
  4. bears the seal/stamp of [e.g. High Court of Hong Kong]
  5. at [e.g. Hong Kong]
  6. the … [e.g. 16 April 2014]
  7. by … [e.g. the Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong]
  8. No … [e.g. 2536218517]
  9. Seal/stamp … [of the authority giving the apostille]
  10. Signature

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

Eligible documents

Four types of documents are mentioned in the convention:[1]

  • court documents
  • administrative documents (e.g. civil status documents)
  • notarial acts
  • official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as official certificates recording the registration of a document or the fact that it was in existence on a certain date and official and notarial authentications of signatures.


A state that has not signed the Convention must specify how foreign legal documents can be certified for its use. Two countries may have a special convention on the recognition of each other's public documents, but in practice this is infrequent. Otherwise, the document must be certified by the foreign ministry of the country in which the document originated, and then by the foreign ministry of the government of the state in which the document will be used; one of the certifications will often be performed at an embassy or consulate. In practice this means the document must be certified twice before it can have legal effect in the receiving country. For example, as Canada is not a signatory, Canadian documents for use abroad must be certified by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa or by a Canadian consular official abroad, and subsequently by the relevant government office or consulate of the receiving state.

States that are party to the convention

The convention has 118 parties and is in force for all members of the European Union and all but nine members of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

State Entry into force Apostille not recognised in Comment
Albania 9 May 2004 Belgium (until 2015), Germany (until 2016), Greece (until 2018), Italy (until 2011), Spain (until 2017)
Andorra 31 Dec 1996
Antigua and Barbuda 1 Nov 1981
Argentina 18 Feb 1988 Kosovo
Armenia 14 Oct 1994 Kosovo
Australia 16 Mar 1995
Austria 13 Jan 1968 Burundi, Dominican Republic, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan
Azerbaijan 2 Mar 2005 Germany, Hungary (until 2005), Kosovo, Netherlands (until 2010)
Bahamas 10 Jul 1973
Bahrain 31 Dec 2013
Barbados 30 Nov 1966
Belarus 31 May 1992 Kosovo
Belgium 9 Feb 1973 Albania (until 2015), Dominican Republic, India (until 2008), Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Ukraine (until 2004), Uzbekistan
Belize 11 Apr 1993
Bolivia 7 May 2018
Bosnia and Herzegovina 6 Mar 1992
Botswana 30 Sep 1966
Brazil 14 Aug 2016
Brunei 3 Dec 1987
Bulgaria 29 Apr 2001
Burundi 13 Feb 2015 Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland
Cape Verde 13 Feb 2010
Chile 30 Aug 2016
Colombia 30 Jan 2001
Cook Islands 30 Apr 2005
Costa Rica 14 Dec 2011
Croatia 8 Dec 1991
Cyprus 30 Apr 1973 Kosovo
Czech Republic 16 Mar 1999
Kingdom of Denmark 26 Dec 2006 Does not apply for Greenland and the Faroe Islands
Dominica 3 Nov 1978
Dominican Republic 30 Aug 2009 Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands (until 2017)
Ecuador 2 Apr 2005
El Salvador 31 May 1996
Estonia 30 Sep 2001
Fiji 10 Oct 1970
Finland 26 Aug 1986 Philippines
France 24 Jan 1965
Georgia 14 May 2007 Germany (until 2010), Kosovo, Greece (until 2015)
Germany 13 Feb 1966 Albania (until 2016), Azerbaijan, Burundi, Dominican Republic, Georgia (until 2010), India, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru (until 2014), Philippines, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Ukraine (until 2010), Uzbekistan
Greece 18 May 1985 Albania (until 2018), Georgia (until 2015), Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Peru, Philippines, Tunisia, Uzbekistan
Grenada 7 Apr 2002
Guatemala 18 Sep 2017
Guyana 18 April 2019
Honduras 30 Dec 2004
Hong Kong 25 Apr 1965 The convention is still applicable to Hong Kong despite the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 Jul 1997.[11]
Hungary 18 Jan 1973 Azerbaijan (until 2005),
Iceland 27 Nov 2004
India 14 Jul 2005 Belgium (until 2008), Finland (until 2009), Germany,[12] Netherlands (until 2008), Spain (until 2008), Kosovo
Ireland 9 Mar 1999
Israel 14 Aug 1978 Kosovo
Italy 11 Feb 1978 Albania (until 2011),
Japan 27 Jul 1970
Kazakhstan 30 Jan 2001
Kosovo 14 Jul 2016 Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China (for Hong Kong and Macao), Cyprus, Germany, Georgia, Greece, India, Israel, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Mexico, Moldova, Namibia, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela
Kyrgyzstan 31 Jul 2011 Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece
Latvia 30 Jan 1996
Lesotho 4 Dec 1966
Liberia 8 Feb 1996 Belgium, Germany, the United States (until 2015)
Liechtenstein 17 Sep 1972
Lithuania 19 Jul 1997
Luxembourg 3 Jun 1979
Macau 4 Feb 1969 Kosovo The convention is still applicable to Macau despite the transfer of sovereignty over Macau on 20 Dec 1999.[11]
Malawi 2 Dec 1967
Malta 3 Mar 1968
Marshall Islands 14 Aug 1992
Mauritius 12 Mar 1968 Kosovo
Mexico 14 Aug 1995 Kosovo
Moldova 16 Mar 2007 Germany, Kosovo
Monaco 31 Dec 2002
Mongolia 31 Dec 2009 Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greece
Montenegro 3 Jun 2006
Morocco 14 Aug 2016 Germany
Namibia 30 Jan 2001 Kosovo
Kingdom of the Netherlands 8 Oct 1965 Azerbaijan (until 2010), Dominican Republic (until 2017), India (until 2008), Aruba, Curaçao, Netherlands, Sint Maarten
New Zealand 22 Nov 2001
Nicaragua 14 May 2013 Kosovo
Niue 2 Mar 1999
North Macedonia 17 Nov 1991
Norway 29 Jul 1983
Oman 30 Jan 2012
Palau 23 Jun 2020
Panama 4 Aug 1991
Paraguay 30 Aug 2014 [13] Germany, Kosovo
Peru 30 Sep 2010 Germany (until 2014), Greece, Kosovo
Philippines 14 May 2019 Austria, Finland, Germany, Greece
Poland 14 Aug 2005 Kosovo
Portugal 4 Feb 1969
Romania 13 Mar 2001 Kosovo
Russia 31 May 1992
Saint Kitts and Nevis 14 Dec 1994
Saint Lucia 31 Jul 2002
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 27 Oct 1979
Samoa 13 Sep 1999
San Marino 13 Feb 1995
São Tomé and Príncipe 13 Sep 2008
Serbia 27 Apr 1992 Kosovo Ratified as the  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Seychelles 31 Mar 1979
Slovakia 18 Feb 2002 Kosovo
Slovenia 25 Jun 1991
South Africa 30 Apr 1995
South Korea 14 Jul 2007
Spain 25 Sep 1978 Albania, India (until 2008), Kosovo
Suriname 25 Nov 1975
Swaziland 6 Sep 1968
Sweden 1 May 1999
Switzerland 11 Mar 1973
Tajikistan 31 Oct 2015
Tonga 4 Jun 1970
Trinidad and Tobago 14 Jul 2000
Tunisia 30 Mar 2018 Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece
Turkey 29 Sep 1985
Ukraine 22 Dec 2003 Belgium (until 2004), Greece (until 2010), Kosovo
United Kingdom 24 Jan 1965 Includes Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories
United States 15 Oct 1981 Liberia (until 2015)
Uruguay 14 Oct 2012
Uzbekistan 15 Apr 2012 Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Kosovo
Vanuatu 30 Jul 1980
Venezuela 16 Mar 1999 Kosovo


The apostille does not give information regarding the quality of the content in the underlying document but certifies the signature (and the capacity of who placed it) and correctness of the seal/stamp on the document which must be certified. In 2005 the Hague Conference surveyed its members and produced a report in December 2008 which expressed serious concerns about Diplomas and Degree certificates issued by diploma mills. The possible abuse of the system was highlighted "Particularly troubling is the possible use of diploma mill qualifications to circumvent migration controls, possibly by potential terrorists." (page 5) The risk comes from the fact that the various government stamps give the document an air of authenticity without anyone having checked the underlying document. "An official looking certificate may be issued to a copy of a diploma mill qualification, and then subsequently issued with an Apostille, without anyone having ever verified the signature on, let alone the contents of, the diploma." (page 7) Further member states indicated "they would be obliged to issue an Apostille for certification of a certified copy of a diploma issued by a diploma mill". (page 15) The evaluation commission of the Hague Conference expressed concern as to whether this issue could affect the entire convention. "... the Apostille does not 'look through the certification' and does not relate to the diploma itself ... There is a clear risk that such practices may eventually undermine the effectiveness and therefore the successful operation of the Apostille Convention". (page 5)[14]

In February 2009 the Hague Conference recommended to amend the wording on the apostille to make it clear that only the seal and the signature were authenticated. The wording to be added is:

This Apostille only certifies the signature, the capacity of the signer and the seal or stamp it bears. It does not certify the content of the document for which it was issued."[2]

See also


  1. "12: Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents". Hague Conference on Private International Law. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
  2. Permanent Bureau (February 2009). "Conclusions and Recommendations of the Special Commission on the Practical Operation of the Hague Apostille, Service, Taking of Evidence, and Access to Justice Conventions" (PDF). Hague Conference on Private International Law. p. 13.
  3. "ABCs of Apostilles p. 13" (PDF). Hague Conference on Private International Law.
  4. "United Kingdom, Competent Authorities". Hague Conference on Private International Law. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
  5. Authentication Archived 30 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine 2009
  6. Birth certificate application Archived 4 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine 2010
  7. Crampton 2007
  8. Apostiles Archived 24 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine n.d.
  9. Apostille, MOFA Japan (website in Japanese)
  10. MEA, India Legalisation of Documents.
  11. Information on the application of the convention to Hong Kong and Macau
  12. "Status Table - 12: Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents". Hague Conference on Private International Law. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 September 2014. Retrieved 18 September 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. Permanent Bureau (December 2008). "The application of the Apostille Convention to diplomas including those issued by diploma mills" (PDF). Hague Conference on Private International Law.

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