The Hague Apostille or “Apostille” is a procedure that allows legal documents issued in one country to be automatically recognised by the authorities of any HCCH Member State.
It consists of a note attached to the document whose authenticity must be certified.
In some countries, such as Spain, there is a digital version that replaces the physical signature with a valid electronic signature. For these cases, there is a digital register in which all issued digital Apostilles are recorded and can be tracked.
If the document needs to be translated, the Apostille must be done before the translation.
Which documents can be Apostilled?
All public documents can be certified with an Apostille. This means any document that has been issued by a public official or Notary. It may vary from country to country, but generally covers administrative, judicial and notarial documents.
These documents include:
- Documents issued by judges or courts
- Marriage records, ecclesiastical documents
- Contracts, minutes, and other civil documents
- Degrees, transcripts and other academic documents
- Other documents issued by ministries, governments, mayors’ offices, etc.
- Other documents issued by private entities
Original and certified copies issued by the Public Administration Authorities or certificates of authenticity by exhibition made by a Notary may be apostilled or legalised.
Documents exempt from Apostille
- Certificates and attestations issued by Embassies
- Diplomatic representations and consulates
- Some international conventions, both bilateral and multilateral
- Administrative documents issued by customs and relating to business transactions between private individuals are also exempt.
- Criminal records certificates whose scope is limited exclusively to nations within the regional block (EU member states only).
How do I get an Apostille?
Each country has its own method. For example, in Spain the process depends on the Ministry of Justice, in Germany it can also be done by the Federal Governors or the Ministry of the Interior.
In the United States, you must go to the Secretary of State, while in Argentina you must go to the Foreign Ministry and Notary Public Associations. And if you are outside our country, you can contact your embassy (as long as you belong to a state that has signed the agreement).
It can be obtained both physically and digitally in all countries, but for the latter it is necessary to have an electronic signature. On the website of each of the competent bodies it is easy to find information on the steps to follow, as each state has its own protocol.
How long does an Apostille take?
An Apostille is usually issued on the same day as the application if it is made in person.
When done online it can take around 15 days.
How long are apostilled documents valid for?
Apostilled documents only expire if the document has a limited period of validity.
Who can request an Apostille?
Any person, natural or legal, can apply for an Apostille. Moreover, you do not need to do so in your own name, that is, you do not need to be the person named in the document. This means that there are companies that are dedicated to managing Apostilles, which can be a good option for many people who only need to certify a document on a one-off basis.