Understanding Apostilles

An apostille (French: apostille) is a special certificate with a seal for authentication (legalization) of documents by the Secretary of State in the that in which the document was issued.  Apostille holders shall be exempt from any additional form of authentication.

The use of an apostille as a form of legalization of documents is governed by the Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, signed at the Hague on October 5, 1961.  The Convention envisages the authenticity of a particular class of documents (public documents) to be certified using a unified method – by putting on the document itself or attached to it a special certificate – an apostille. For the purposes of the Convention, public documents include:  documents issued by a state court; administrative documents;  documents executed before a notary public; 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.  The can include birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees and adoption decrees.

An apostille releases the document to which it is attached from any further certification and legalization as by the country of issue, and in the country – party to the Convention where the document will be presented.  Thus, documents originating from countries – parties to the Hague Convention, and provided with an apostille, are not legalized by the diplomatic or consular mission accredited to the country they are intended to be used in. However, If a document does not have or cannot be provided with an apostille, to produce action on the territory of Bulgaria, for example, it must be authenticated (legalized) according to usual procedure – certification by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the issuing country, then legalization by the Bulgarian diplomatic or consular mission in that country or by an office accredited to it. The same regime applies to Bulgarian documents intended to produce action on the territory of any of the rest parties to the Convention. In many countries it is possible local authorities to recognize not only original documents, but also copies of documents provided with an apostille, when the copy is certified by the competent local authority or a notary in accordance with domestic law. This means that it is possible once issued, a document to be used repeatedly in different States Parties to the Convention. It raises the question of the Certified Translation of the document. In cases where holder of the document intends or needs to personally present it to the authorities of other States Parties to the Convention, he or she may obtain a Certified Translation into the respective language in any country according to local requirements.

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