Apostille and Hague Convention

One might wonder when there is attestation, why the need for apostille? Well, both the terms basically mean the legalization of documents. The major difference is the countries. There are countries that accept certificate attestation of documents, while some countries mandate document apostille. And the countries for which apostille of documents is compulsory, have signed the petition for the Hague Convention.

This article is two-parter, the first part is about apostille as an individual term and its role and significance in the process of document legalization. Secondly, the Hague Convention or Apostille Hague Convention is explained in detail with its history and importance.

What is Apostille?

Apostille, pronounced as ‘ ah-poh-steel ’, is a French word that means certification of something. The term has a different meaning in the formal context. Certificate apostille is a process that is carried out for the legal documents of three types – personal, educational and commercial. It is done at the time when there is a requirement for particular documents by the concerned authorities. It is simply the process of obtaining an apostille sticker and stamp on the public documents. The documents are authenticated by the department of central government that attends to the foreign affairs of the country. It varies from country to country.

Why is it required?

In certain cases, an attestation simply is not sufficient. Not every country approves an attestation, and as a result, in cases where the documents have to be used in countries belonging to the Hague Convention, an apostille is required. This can include documents used for several purposes such as applying for a visa or permanent residency, performing business-related work, and so on. By doing an apostille, the document possesses a higher value and becomes valid in all those countries.

Apostille procedure

With the documents, the procedures for the same vary too. Personal and educational documents are generally legalized by a government department, while the commercial documents are authenticated by a non-governmental organization named Chamber of Commerce. The general apostille procedure is as follows:

  • Regional Level: It is the beginning stage of the certificate legalization procedure. This stage of verification can be done by the notary or the board or University from where the documents were issued, as per the requirement or from the Chamber of commerce in the case of commercial documents. This is generally the same for all the countries.
  • State Level: The verification of certificates from the state is carried out by different departments as per the requirement of the document type. Secretariats or the Desk Officers at the State Government perform this procedure. For instance, apostille in India is done by the Home Department or HRD Department. On the other hand, in the USA, the Secretary will attest your documents. There are respective officials and departments in different countries.
  • Central Level: In this step, the central government department provides a sticker which contains the name and other details of the applicant. It is the final step of apostille attestation and is performed by the central government. The Ministry of External Affairs in India and the US Department of State in the USA are the government organizations that apostille the documents. The departments vary from country to country.

Depending on the type of document, the classification of the procedure is given below:

Personal document apostille

The documents that contain personal information of an individual are classified as personal documents. These documents are certified for the issuance of resident, student visa and at times employment visa as well. The step-by-step procedure is as follows:

Educational document apostille

Educational documents are those that contain details of your academic performance like mark sheets or grade sheets, your curriculum and formal documents like school-leaving certificate, migration certificate or the degree certificate. The procedure for the apostille of educational documents differs as per the specific requirement of the country and the institute and state of issuance. The processes are as follows:

Commercial document apostille

Business-related documents that witness the already settled business like the Memorandum of Association, Trademark, Company Profile, and others, are all categorized as commercial documents. The procedure for the apostille of commercial documents is as follows:

When the processes are done on the documents, they are ready to be submitted to the respect Apostille documented authorities. Unlike the attestation process, embassy attestation is not required for the apostilled document. The process is completed by the officials at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) by providing a stamp and an apostille sticker on the document.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention is a treaty that was passed in order to abolish the necessity for the authentication of documents and promote liberalization. The treaty was signed on 5th of October, 1961 in the Netherlands. Effective from January 14th, 1965, the convention now has 117 country members. When one obtains an apostille on documents once, there is no need for the same documents again for another signatory country. Due to the introduction of the Hague Convention, barriers in trading and other areas have been reduced and there is better accessibility through the nations.

The Apostille Convention was drafted under the Private International Law which is an organization that functions to resolve legal conflicts that occur when one crosses international boundaries. The Hague Conference was the party that drafted the convention.

Apostille in India

Apostille in India is being carried out for 14 years now since it has been a recognized member of the convention. India has been a member of the Apostille Hague Convention since 2005, being accepted in almost all the Hague countries. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is the central government department that carries out the apostille procedure. It is the department that deals with all the foreign matters. In India, the validity of the apostille sticker is six months. The procedure is an indirect course of action that involves attestation readily from the regional and the state government before approaching the MEA.

Generally, the document apostille is done with the assistance of professionals. It is so because the documents that need to be legalized are sensitive and must be handled properly. Apostille services provide facilities in order to make the process convenient for the customer. With the chain of vendors, getting apostille becomes facile.

Article contributed by Ms. Nilam Bhong,

Director, PEC Attestation, Apostille & Translation  Pvt Ltd

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