The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, or the Apostille convention is an international treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law(HCCH). 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. Such a certification is called an Apostille. It is an international certification comparable to a notarisation in domestic law. It is one of the most successful Conventions adopted under the eyes of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.
Currently, HCCH is having 65 Member States (List of Member states at Annexure – I), and there are 87 State Party to the Apostille Convention (List of Non- Member states at Annexure – II). This signifies that there is a difference in between the State™s decision to join the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), i.e., the Organisation as such, and a State™s decision to join one of the 36 Conventions adopted so far under the support of the HCCH and a State may become a party to any Hague Convention whether or not that State is a Member of the HCCH.
The Apostille Convention facilitates the circulation of public documents executed in one State party to the Convention and to be produced in another State party to the Convention. It does so by replacing the cumbersome and often costly formalities of a full legalisation process (chain certification) with the mere issuance of an Apostille (also called Apostille Certificate or Certificate). The Convention has also proven to be very useful for States that do not require foreign public documents to be legalised or that do not know the concept of legalisation in their domestic law: the citizens in these States enjoy the benefits of the Convention whenever they intend to produce a domestic public document in another State party which, for its part, requires authentication of the document concerned.
An Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of public documents (e.g. a birth, marriage or death certificate, a judgment an extract of a register or notarial attestation). Apostilles can only be issued by the countries which are party to the Apostille Convention and that are to be used in another country which is also a party to the convention.
An Apostille may be required if all of the following apply:-
- The country where the document was issued was a party to the Apostille Convention
- The country where the documents are to be used is a party to the Apostille Convention
- The law of the Country where documents was issued considers it to be a public document
- The country in which the document is to be used would require an Apostille in order to recognise it as a foreign public document.
An Apostille may never be used for the recognition of a document in the country where the document was issued~ Apostilles are to be strictly used for the use of public documents abroad.
These are the following documents which shall be considered to be public documents for the purposes of this convention:-
- documents emanating from an authority or an official connected with the courts or tribunals of the State, including those emanating from a public prosecutor, a clerk of a court or a process server
- administrative document
- 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 authentications of signatures.
The convention does not apply to (exceptions):-
- to documents executed by diplomatic or consular agents;
- to administrative documents dealing directly with commercial or customs operations