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The Hague Convention, the Apostille Convention and Legalization

The Hague Convention is the international treaty addressing the preservation of cultural patrimony in case of global armed conflicts. The convention took place in 1954 in The Hague, Netherlands following the massive destruction of cultural


The Hague Convention is the international treaty addressing the preservation of cultural patrimony in case of global armed conflicts. The convention took place in 1954 in The Hague, Netherlands following the massive destruction of cultural patrimony during World War II. This was the first treaty intended to safeguard cultural patrimony at a global scale.

At present, The Hague Convention works towards a world in which both natural and legal persons are offered a high level of legal certainty, regardless of the differences in their own judicial systems. This organization holds ordinary meetings every four years where negotiations are carried out and new agreements are reached.


Map #1.

Member States of The Hague Convention

Member States of The Hague Convention

Source: https://www.hcch.net/es/states/hcch-members Date of inquiry: August 22, 2019

All agreements are prepared by special committees meeting numerous times during the year, usually at the Peace Palace in The Hague. During these meetings, special committees are organized to ascertain that all agreements have been put into effect and/or to make recommendations leading to higher efficiency.


The Hague Convention: What was agreed upon?

Between 1954 and 2008, 38 international agreements were adopted, whether ratified or not. Such agreements have an impact on each of the member (and non-member) states’ legal systems, thus creating a source of inspiration for those seeking the unification of International Private Law.

Amongst the agreements ratified by the most members are:

  • Access to Justice
  • Service of Documents
  • Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization (Use of apostilles).
  • International Adoption
  • International Child Abduction
  • Obtaining Evidence Abroad
  • Form of Testamentary Dispositions


The Hague Treaty Convention 12 (or the Apostille Convention), on the other hand sought to facilitate the circulation of public documents issued by a State, which must be delivered to the other party, as this replaces the legalization formalities, complexity, and cost of the chain of certifications. In light of this, the issuing of apostilles was established.

Why are documents apostilled?

Apostilles are intended to attest the validity of the signature and the capacity in which the person signing the document acted. Apostilles do not certify the content of the public document to which they relate.


The Hague Apostille

The Hague Treaty Convention 12, signed on October 5, 1961, abolished the requirement of legalization for foreign documents, thus streamlining the process. Since then, all signatory countries agreed that in order to attest the authenticity of a document, the issuance of an apostille should suffice, and this helped unburden the cumbersome chain of legalization. An apostille is a simplified method for legalizing documents; it is a certification issued by The Hague Apostille Convention authorities which authenticates documents to later be used abroad. The main purpose of an apostille is to certify that a given document is authentic and valid.


What does an apostille look like?

It is a sheet of paper that is attached on the front or back of a document, or as an additional page, which accompanies a document signed by a competent authority.

What types of documents may be apostilled?

  • Public documents
  • Judicial documents: Any documents issued by a government official, including those by the Attorney General’s Office or a judicial agent.
  • Administrative documents
  • Private documents (certifications), birth certificates, certifications on the certainty of a given date, and official/notarial signature certifications of private documents.


What types of documents may not be apostilled?

  • Any documents issued by diplomatic or consular agents
  • Administrative documents directly related to commercial or customs operations
  • Any documents which, through the application of other international agreements, are not subject to legalization or the issuance of an apostille.


Benefits of an Apostille

Amongst the improvements brought about by apostilles, when compared to traditional document laws, is a reduction of the costs and time required to request and authenticate specific documents. As a result, the main advantage is that apostilles make the legalization of documents much easier for any documents issued in a given country to later be used overseas without any complications.

Apostilles abolish long chains of legalization and create a simple process where a single special seal is applied to the document. To make this possible, the country involved in this process must be part of the convention. Otherwise, the special seal will not be valid.

Although uncommon, apostilles are not effective in all former members of the Hague Council. For instance, Canada, a former member, did not sign the agreement to abolish the requirement of legalization of documents. Therefore, in this case, the jurisdiction applied in member states of the Apostille Convention is not valid, thus the importance of knowing who the sending and receiving countries are in order to conclude whether they both will recognize an apostille.

Every country processes an apostille in a different manner. Many of them have delegated this responsibility to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and/or Department of State. Others, such as Sweden, process their apostilles through their notary public offices.

Figure #1.

The Apostille Convention. List of Member States

The Apostille Convention. List of Member States

Source: https://apostil.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Apostille-countries-flags.jpg Date of inquiry: 30/09/2019

In summary, it is essential to remember that all documents issued need to follow a process to be deemed valid in the country. May it be the simplified apostilled process or the cumbersome legalization, documents must receive the pertinent seals or stamps to be valid. Therefore, if you are applying for Residency or Citizenship, take into consideration that your original documents will not be accepted locally if they have not completed the authentication process, may it be an apostille or legalization.



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