The Apostille Convention

INTRODUCTION


The snappily titled, Hague Convention of 5th October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, or as it since become known as “Apostille Convention”.


The Apostille Convention was signed in 1961 and came in to force in 1965.


Just 3 nations ratified the Apostille Convention when it began in 1961; France, United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Since then another 114 countries and parties have taken up membership of the Apostille Convention.


The latest member is Guyana (18th April 2019) and the next member is the Philippines (14th May 2019).


PURPOSE


The purpose of the Apostille Convention was, and is, to standardise the process across international borders for the circulation of public documents in order that a document's signatory could be verified once in its host country, instead of once in both the host and destination country, as it was previous to 1965.


The Apostille Convention proclaimed the end to the inefficient and expensive practice of full legalisation processes that countries had previously created and were insisting on. This is carried out by simply issuing an apostille certificate (similar to the model below).


Model of Certificate (Apostille)

DOCUMENTS


The Apostille Convention applies to public documents issued by "an authority or official connected with a court or tribunal of the State". In the UK, this includes bodies such as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the General Register Office, Companies House and the Court system.


Examples of public documents are things like Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Death Certificates, extracts from Companies House, records from HMRC, Court rulings and orders.


An apostille certificate can also be applied to a solicitor certified copy of many of these and other examples. Although in the UK, an apostille certificate cannot be applied to solicitor certified copies of any General Register Office documents or Disclosure Scotland & ACRO Police Certificates.


ISSUING AN APOSTILLE


The apostille certificate can only be issued by what is known as a "Competent Authority". The Competent Authority is declared by the Member State and they are responsible for the format of the apostille (within the agreed limits), it's issuance, and the price (£30 in the UK for a regular service and £75 for a same/next day service).


In the UK it is a separate certificate issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Competent Authority), a little smaller than A5 in size (148 x 168mm, roughly 6" x 7") placed and glued on the back of the document in question and embossed with a stamp.


EFFECT OF THE APOSTILLE


The apostille certificate can only certify the authenticity of the signature or stamp placed on the document by statutory body or solicitor. The apostille does not relate to the content of the document itself and is not a verification of it in any way.

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