What is the Apostille Convention?

The Apostille Convention is an international treaty that systemises and simplifies the authentication of documents between countries around the world. The official title of the convention is the “Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents”. The convention was concluded on 5 October 1961, the date in its title, and entered into force on 21 January 1965.

The Apostille Convention allows countries which are signatories to legally recognise documents which have been issued with a certificate called an “apostille”. Prior to the 1961 convention, the process of document legalisation was often considerably more complicated. Different countries each had their own requirements, the standards of which were commonly inconsistent. For countries which are not signatories, the process of document legalisation can similarly still be a complicated process.

Over the years, more countries have become signatories to the convention. This significantly eases the legal burden on individuals or businesses seeking dealings in other signatory countries around the world.

Issuing an Apostille Certificate

Signatories to the convention are known as “Contracting States” or “Contracting Parties”. Each Contracting State designates a government body who is responsible for issuing apostille certificates. In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is the only body permitted to authorise documents and issue the apostille certificate.

The process of obtaining an Apostille Certificate to use official documents for overseas requires certain steps;

  1. You must arrange an in-person appointment with a notary public and bring original versions of the documents you want authenticated.
  2. The original documents are sighted and copies of those documents certified by the notary public. Certification requires that the individual is formally identified and signature witnessed. Alternatively, if you are overseas the certification and witnessing can be done at an Australian consulate.
  3. The notary public prepares the notarial certificate(s) and attaches it to the subject document. Documents are sewn together with a ribbon, signed by the notary and sealed with the notary’s seal.
  4. Certified copies are sent to DFAT for checking and confirmation.
  5. The Apostille certificate is issued to the documents and registered by DFAT.
  6. Documents can then be used in convention signatory countries without further authentication.

What is required for countries who are not signatories to the Apostille Convention?

For countries which are not signatories to the convention, documents require an Authentication Certificate instead of an Apostille. The process is very much similar to the above, with one important addition. Following the issuance of the Authentication certification and registration with DFAT, document will still need to go through a final step of Legalisation.

Legalisation involves making the authenticated copy of the document valid for use in another non-signatory country. Each country in which you intend to use the documents will have its own process for legalisation. This typically involves further verification, certification and seals from the country’s consulate.

There is an important point of difference to note between Apostille and Authentication/Legalisation. Documents issued with an Apostille can be used in any country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention. Documents issued with an Authentication and Legalised are only valid for the country which has performed the legalisation.

GP Legal Notary Services

Based in Dee Why, GP Legal provide notary public services to residents and businesses in the Northern Beaches and North Shore.

Arranging an Apostille, Authentication and Legalisation can be time-consuming and sometimes complicated. We can help you through the process with advice and support based on many years of experience. If you need documents authorised or legalised for overseas use, please come and speak with us.