Definition of an apostille
The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, the Apostille Convention, or the Apostille Treaty, is a global treaty that was put in place by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. An Apostille is an uncomplicated way of certifying and authenticating the contents of an official document so that it can be used in any one of The Hague Convention member countries.
The Apostille Treaty specifies the modalities for the issuing of a document in one of The Hague Convention member countries so that it can be used for legal applications in all signatory countries. When a document is apostilled, it is certified as true and authentic. Comparable to a Notarisation in domestic law, an Apostille is an international certification that supplements the local notarisation of a document if the country it is to be used in forms part of the Hague Convention.
If you are traveling to a country that forms part of the Convention, an Apostille certifies your official South African document’s validity and eliminates the need for double-certification, first by the originating country and then by the receiving country.
History of apostilles
According to the Hague Convention’s Apostille Handbook, the Apostille Treaty is over 50 years old and is one of the most widely accepted and applied of all the international treaties concluded under the auspices of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. With the aim of facilitating the worldwide circulation of public documents, the Apostille Convention is finding new life in an age of unprecedented global interconnectivity, in which international trade and investment, as well as the cross-border movement of people, find support in the mutual recognition given by countries to these documents.
Procedure for apostille
Apostilled certificates are issued by competent authorities designated by the government of a state that forms part of the Hague Convention. Embassies, ministries, courts, and local governments are examples of these competent authorities. In South Africa, usually a high court or DIRCO completes apostilles.
For a document to be apostilled, it first has to be issued or certified by an officer that is recognized by the authority that will issue the apostille. Sometimes, intermediate certifications may be required in the origin country of the document before the document can be apostilled for legal use abroad.
The apostille is a stamp or a printout that consists of 10 numbered standard fields. The top of the text contains the word APOSTILLE, followed by the words Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961 under it. In the number fields, the following information is added:
• Name of the issuing authority
• Designation of the authority
• The seal or stamp of the High Court
• Place of signature
• Date of signature
• Certificate number
• The seal or stamp of the issuing authority
• The signature of the issuing authority
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