What Is an Apostille and Why Do I Need One?

Consider the following question. If you were presented with a document from another country how would you know that it was genuine? This problem is made even more difficult if the document is not written in your own language. Unfortunately we live in a world where documents can forged, recreated, adjusted and ultimately misused. The Hague Convention introduced the apostille service to assist member countries in the certification of documents that are required in an official capacity.

There are many examples of when an apostille may be required. If you were to marry overseas you may need to get an apostille certificate on your birth certificate or a sworn affidavit stating that you are single and legally allowed to marry. People purchasing properties abroad often need to legalise a power of attorney that allows an individual to act on your behalf during the transaction. If you have changed your name by deed poll and looking to move abroad the local government mat need to see a legalised version of your name change deed poll. If seeking employment overseas you may need an apostille certificate on a criminal record check or on your educational documents.

The requests for apostille certificates are increasing. More than 60 countries now recognise the apostille certificate and its use is becoming more widespread. If you need an apostille certificate then you will need to find a service provider in the country that the document originates from. For example, it is not normally possible to legalise documents within the UK that were created in India.

Before a document can be processed with the legalisation office it must be officially certified and signed by a notary public or solicitor, be an official government document or it should bear the seal or stamp of a relevant authority. Common examples of documents includes general registry documents, court papers and academic results.

Over 60 countries have agreed to this specific convention on Apostille Certificates, including the UK, most of Europe and the USA. The list of countries continues to grow and the apostille is increasingly being requested by more governments and organisations within each country.

Whilst the legalisation of documents may be seen as bureaucratic by some it has been welcomed by many countries that need to check the paperwork of another member state. The apostille is not a foolproof way of checking documents but it provides some assurance and helps to reduce the burden on local courts and embassies certifying documents.