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What is the Hague Apostille Convention?

The Hague Apostille Convention is formally known as the The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. It has been signed by 96 countries, including Australia, and is an agreement that any notarized documents sent between member countries do not need to be verified by a consulate or embassy, but can be authenticated internally by a governmental body (in Australia this is the DFAT) by confirming the validity of a notary’s signature or seal. The purpose of the convention is to make it easier and quicker for public documents to be sent between member countries.

The terms of the Convention state that Public Documents are:

  • 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 (“huissier de justice”)

This includes all decisions made by courts, special tribunals and ecclesiastical courts. 

  • Administrative documents

This refers to all documents issued by administrative authorities within a state and includes degree certificates, marriage, birth and death certificates and extracts from the population register.

  • Notarial Acts

Any documents drawn up by a notary.

  • 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.

This means that the legalization of a private instrument by a notary is deemed to be an official certificate, so that the document in question is covered by the Convention and may have an apostille appended.

If you require documents to be legally recognized by countries that are not members of The Hague Apostille Convention, we recommend contacting the relevant embassy to enquire about the exact process that you will be required to follow. In most circumstances your documents will need to be authenticated by the DFAT before being sent to the embassy or consulate of that country for legalization. Your notary can assist you in this process by liaising with the DFAT and helping to ensure your documents are sent to the appropriate party as quickly as possible.