Apostille process and how to use it

2023/11/28 09:38:13

On March 8, 2023, China formally acceded to the Convention on the Cancellation of the Certification Requirements of Foreign Public Documents (also known as the Hague Convention), which came into forceon November 7, 2023.

After joining the Hague Convention, it will be greatly convenient forcross-border companies and individuals to handle all kinds of authentication documents for use abroad. Originally, it may take more than 20 working days to handle an authentication document for use abroad, but after joining the Convention, it will be reduced to only 3-6 working days, which will increase the efficiency of the authentication of the overall documents by more than 70% and reduce the cost by about 70%; and it will also simplify the process ofcross-border enterprises' employees' application for visas and workpermits, which will benefit roughly 70% of the export-related business documents.

I.What is Hague Certification

Hague authentication refers to the system of authentication of publicinstruments in accordance with the Hague Convention, and specifically refers to the process and result of the act of confirming the authenticity of the signatures and seals of the competent authorities of a public instrument by a specific official body mutually recognized by the signatory States as a specific kind of"authentication".

Before October 5,1961, if the document needs to be used internationally, it needs to go through the formalities of consular certification (doublecertification). The document shall first be notarized by a notary office, then sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and finally sent to the diplomatic ministry and consulate. This process requiresthree times of authentication, which is cumbersome and time-consuming.

In order to simplify the certification process, shorten the time and improve the efficiency, the draft Convention on the Cancellation of Foreign Public Document Certification Requirements was adopted in The Hague, The Netherlands in 1961, and decided to come into force on 24 January 1965. Since then, without consular certification, the document is circulated in member states, only by the competent authorities.

II.The Hague Certification Process

TheHague Certification Process:

Preparation of authentication documents --> Notarization by a notary public--> Authentication by a competent institution --> Receipt of authentication documents

Each country / region for the main process of Hague certification isbasically the same, the main difference is that each country / regionis responsible for the Hague certification of the competent authorities are different:

1.Certification Authority of The Hague: Foreign Affairs offices authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2.Certification Authority in The Hague, Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong High Court

3.Certification Authority of The Hague, Macao, China: Macao Legal Bureau

4.Certification authorities in The Hague:

Documents issued by individual US residents and the state government arecertified by the Secretary of State at The Hague

Documents issued by the federal government are certified by the State Department at The Hague

5.British Hague Accreditation Authority: British Foreign Office

6.Hague Accreditation Authority in Singapore: Law Society of Singapore, Hague Accreditation Office

III.Notes on Hague Certification

1.Hong Kong documents to be used in the Mainland only need to be notarized by lawyers, without the need to go through the Hague authentication, relatively more convenient.

2.If translations are required, the documents can be translated, thecopies notarized together with the translations, and then certifiedin The Hague; or they can be notarized and certified in The Hague, translated in the country of use and notarized in the translation; and bilingual or small-language counter signatures can be used by the competent authorities in some regions.

3.Fees mainly include notarization fees (fees charged by notariespublic), certification fees (fees charged by the Hague certification authority) and courier fees, etc., which may vary from country tocountry and region to region, so please consult the agency for details.

4.Hague certification after the document is valid for a long time, but according to past experience, usually the use of organizations willrequire the issuance of nearly half a year of Hague certification documents. In the use of different organizations on the certificationtime requirements are different, more lenient, can be issued nearly ayear of the Hague certification documents.

IV.Difference between Hague certification and consular certification

Both Hague Authentication and Consular Authentication are authentication systems for the purpose of interoperability of domestic and foreign documents. Both authenticate only the signature/stamp of the issuer of the document, not the content of the document. However, there arethe following differences between the two:

1.Different certification processes and time cycles

Hague certification only the competent authorities, and consular certification after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs certification also needs to be certified by the embassy or consulate (Hague certification and consular certification are required to notarize the documents in advance), Hague certification is generally 3-6 workingdays can be dealt with, and consular certification takes about 20 working days.

Therefore, compared with the consular certification, The Hague certification process is relatively simple, short cycle, low cost.

2.Differences in scope of use

Hague certification can be used in all Hague member countries and countries that are not party to but recognize the Hague Convention, whileconsular certification can only be used in one country of the destination country of the process.

Therefore for the authentication of documents, if the documents are circulating between the Hague Convention countries, we can choose to apply forHague authentication; if one of the parties involved is a non-Hague Convention country, then we need to apply for consular authentication.

V.What is the scope of documents certified by The Hague?

1.Corporate documents

Certificateof Incorporation, Articles of Incorporation, Minutes of Meetings,Incorporation Documents, Legal Personality, Contracts, Authorizations, Declarations, Certificates, Letters of Appointment, Trademark Certificates, Proof of Assets, Certificates of Credit worthiness, Invoices, Certificates of Origin, Customs Declarations, Product Certificates, Product Introductions, etc.

2.Individual documents

Greencard, passport, transcripts, academic certificates, professional qualification certificates, power of attorney, declarations, invitations, real estate certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, single certificates, judgments, criminal records, medical certificates, kinship, death certificates, wills and so on.

VI.Who are the States that have acceded to the Hague Convention?

Below is the updated list of States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of Requirements for the Authentication of Foreign Public Documents (as of October 31, 2023)

Asia (22):

China, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tajikistan,Turkey, Uzbekistan

Africa (16):

Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Swaziland, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Tunisia

Europe (44):

Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonian, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Moldova, Romania, Russia, SanMarino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, UK

North America (21):

Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincentand the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States

South America (12):

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela


Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu

Note1: On January 11, 2024, the Hague Convention will enter into force for Canada, and the application of the Hague Convention between Chinaand Canada will commence on that date. on June 5, 2024, the Hague Convention will enter into force for Rwanda, and the application ofthe Hague Convention between China and Rwanda will commence on that date.

Note2: The Hague Convention does not apply between China and those members of the Hague Convention that it does not recognize assovereign States.

Note3: The Hague Convention does not apply between China and India.









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