Apostille Convention

An example of an apostille from Japan.

What is the Apostille Convention?

The best and most accurate means to describe the Apostille Convention is to use its formal name: The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 (Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents). As you might already know, if you plan on using legal documents outside of South Africa, you will have to get them apostilled in order to ensure their validity.

In this post, we will be taking a look at which countries form part of the Apostille Convention, and also look at what your options are for getting documents legalised for use in a country that doesn’t form part of the Apostille Convention.

What is the Apostille Convention?

The Hague Convention, as it is known in short, replaced the “Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents”, which was a tedious way of having to confirm documents between countries (both countries had to sign two different confirmations in the past. Also know as the Convention de La Haye du 5 Octobre 1961, or the Apostille Treaty, the Apostille Convention is an international treaty created by the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

Basically, it defines how a document issued in any of the member countries (signatory countries) can be certified for use among all the other member countries. Thus, if both South Africa and Japan belong to the Apostille Convention, then an apostille is used to confirm the document between the two countries. Within South Africa alone, an apostille would be the equivalent of a notarisation by a notary public.

Apostille convention Hague countries flags

The Apostille Convention covers all of these countries.

Who are the Member Countries of the Apostille Convention?

The Hague Conference (Apostille Convention) currently (as of March 2018) has 83 member countries, 82 States and 1 Regional Economic Integration Organization (as of March 2018). South Africa is one of the Apostille Convention countries. The others include:

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burundi
  • Cape Verde
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Cook Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kosovo
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau
  • Macedonia
  • Malawi
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Namibia
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niue
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tajikistan
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Venezuela

For a full and up to date list of signatory countries, please click through to The Hague Conference on Private International Law.

Which are the Hague Conference Connected States?

There are 68 States in total who do not form part of the Apostille Convention on Private International Law, but have signed, ratified, or acceded to one or more Hague Conventions or are in the process of becoming a member. These states include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cambodia
  • Colombia
  • Cook Islands
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • El Salvador
  • Fiji
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Haiti
  • Holy See
  • Honduras
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mongolia
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Niue
  • Pakistan
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Swaziland
  • Tajikistan
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Zimbabwe

Authentication of Documents of Non-Apostille Convention Member Countries

If you plan on using official South African documents outside of the Republic of SA within a country that does not form part of the Hague Conference, your documents cannot be apostilled for validity and verification. You must still, however, be able to prove that your documents are legitimate and have been legitimately signed by the correct authorities, which is why some additional steps may be required.

If you need documents certified and legalised for a non-apostille member country, you’ll need to take steps such as state verification or department of state verification if needed, and Embassy or Consulate legalisation. Depending on the type of document you need to have legalised, the origin of your document, and the country requesting your document, the process of legalisation may differ. Contact us in this case for help.