CertificationS and Apostille



'Certified true copy ' -Sound familiar? Are you being requested to produce documents for a bank or other authority but have no idea where to start? Certification of documents, mainly for compliance reasons, is becoming the nightmare of the 2020's. A warranted lawyer is able to assist you with such a process by certifying documents as a true copy of the original and also obtaining an Apostille for certain circumstances. A competent lawyer will be able to guide through the requested list and assist you with the preparation of such requirements.

Dr Nicola also offers a flexible service to visit you onsite for certification of multiple documents.


What is an apostille?

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. 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.

How it is done

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.


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 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. 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 official documents are issued in Japanese; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, JAPAN) can then provide an apostille for these documents. In India the apostille certification can be obtained from the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, after authentication by the administration of the Indian state where the document was issued (for educational documents).

Image on the right of this page:

Displays an apostille issued by Norwegian authorities.

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):

Country ... [e.g. Korea, Spain]

This public document

has been signed by [e.g. Henry Cho]

acting in the capacity of [e.g. Notary Public]

bears the seal/stamp of [e.g. High Court of Hong Kong]


at [e.g. Hong Kong]

the ... [e.g. 16 April 2014]

by ... [e.g. the Chief Executive of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong]

No ... [e.g. 2536218517]

Seal/stamp ... [of the authority giving the apostille]


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:

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 / lawyer authentications of signatures.