What is the Hague Apostille Convention?

Have you come across the Hague Apostille Convention but not really sure what it all really means? The Apostille Convention is not as complex or daunting as its name suggests. By breaking down the Convention into small steps, you too can understand how this important international convention can help you.

The Hague Apostille Convention is officially known as The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. It was drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and has been signed by about 100 countries including Australia. In the Convention, public documents are considered to be:

  • 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”)
  • Administrative documents
  • Notarial Acts
  • 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.

In respect of countries for which the Convention has come in to force, you no longer need to have your document legalised by an individual country’s diplomatic or consular service. Instead, you simply need to present your notarised document to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) which will check that the signature and seal provided by your Notary Public is authentic. Once the Notary’s signature and seal are verified, DFAT will place an Apostille on your document. An Apostille is a certificate/stamp that includes DFAT’s seal to show that the notarisation is authentic.

If you require documents to be legally recognised in countries that are not signatories to the Apostille Convention, you may need to contact that county’s Consulate or Embassy to find out what arrangements are in place. For documents to be legalised in some of these countries, it can be complex and expensive. It is important to note that in Commonwealth countries including New Zealand, legalisation or authentication of Australian public documents is not required. A Public Notary can provide information as to the requirements of an individual country, so that you can be sure that your documents are going to be legally recognised.

As you can see, The Hague Apostille Convention makes it easier for public documents to be recognised throughout the world.