What is an apostille certificate 1

Frequently asked questions about apostille and consular legalization

A certification of German public documents for submission in other countries can take place according to the following procedure:

  • Legalization of the document by the diplomatic representation of the foreign state in Germany (consular legalization)
  • Affixing an apostille to the document (apostille)

The apostille is used for those states that have signed the Hague Convention of 1961, which introduced the procedure for affixing the apostille. Germany has also acceded to this agreement. For all other cases you have to resort to consular legalization.

No not always.

Firstly, the authenticity of the German public documents does not have to be confirmed separately if they are presented in another EU member state. This regulation is stipulated by the EU directive 2016/1191.

The abolition of legalization applies to the following documents that were issued in the member states of the EU:

  • Birth certificates
  • Life certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Name certificates
  • Marriage certificates (including marriage certificates and marital status certificates)
  • Divorce certificates, documents on the dissolution of marriage without divorce and on the nullity of the marriage
  • Civil partnership documents (including documents on the possibility of entering into this partnership and on the status of the registered partnership)
  • Certificates of descent
  • Adoption Certificates
  • Registration certificates
  • nationality
  • Certificates of good conduct
  • Proof of active or passive right to vote in municipal elections and elections to the European Parliament

Second, Germany has signed bilateral agreements with some states that completely abolish any formalities for mutual recognition of the authenticity of documents (including apostilles). The list of documents to which this regulation applies is specified in the actual contracts.

The states mentioned include:

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Austria
  • Switzerland

Thirdly, Germany is a signatory to the agreement of the International Commission on Civil Status (CIEC). Therefore, German civil status certificates (birth, marriage and death certificates) and certificates of marital status are valid in other contracting states of this agreement without separate authentication, provided they are made out on special multilingual forms.

In addition to Germany, the following states are contracting states to the 1976 CIEC agreement on civil status documents:

  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Italy
  • Cape Verde
  • Croatia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Switzerland
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Turkey

In addition to Germany, the contracting states of the CIEC agreement on the issuing of certificates of marital status include:

  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Portugal
  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Turkey

An apostille is a special mark (stamp) that is affixed to public documents issued by authorities in one state so that they are recognized in another state.

The apostille confirms the validity of the signature, the status of the official and the validity of the seal or stamp on the public document. The apostille does not certify the validity of the content of the document.

Compared to consular legalization, apostille is a simplified procedure and only applies between the contracting states of the Hague Agreement of 1961. Germany has also acceded to this agreement.

German public documents that are certified with an apostille are recognized in all contracting states of the Hague Convention and do not require any other forms of certification. Conversely, documents from the contracting states of the Hague Agreement (with a few exceptions) are recognized in Germany.

A consular legalization is a procedure with the help of which the authenticity of a public document (the signature, the status, the seal of the issuing official) is certified for recognition in another country. This procedure is always carried out in the country in which the document was issued.

Compared to apostillation, consular legalization is a more complex and lengthy process, as it involves the certification of the document in judicial authorities, in the foreign ministry and then in the consulate of the country of destination.

Consular legalization is used for relations between Germany and those states that have not signed the Hague Agreement of 1961.

What is common to apostille and consular legalization is that they confirm the authenticity of a public document for submission to authorities in another country. Yet they have numerous differences.
criteriaApostilleconsular legalization
scope Between member states of the 1961 Hague Agreement Between all other states, insofar as at least one of which has not signed the Hague Agreement of 1961
Cost of the procedure Low (you only have to contact a government agency that is responsible for the apostille) High (it is necessary to contact several authorities)
Contacting the consulate unnecessary necessary
Use of the legalized document Can be used in any member state of the 1961 Hague Convention Can only be used in the state whose consulate has legalized it
An apostille is a square stamp, at least 9x9 cm, and must contain the title "Apostille" and a reference to the Hague Convention of 1961 in French (Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961).

APOSTILLE
(Convention de la Haye du 5 octobre 1961)

1. Country ............................................... .....
This public document
2. is signed by (name) ....................................
3. in his capacity as ....................................
4. it bears the stamp / seal (name of the institution)
...........................................................
Approved
5. in ............................ 6. on (date) ............. ....
7. by (name of the confirming authority) .........................
8. Under No. ............................................. .........
9. Seal / stamp
10. Signature ...............................

The text of the apostille must contain the following information:

  • Heading "Apostille (Convention de la Haye du 5 octobre 1961)"
  • Name of the issuing state
  • Name of the person who signed the document certified with the apostille
  • Official position of the person who signed the document certified by the apostille
  • Name of the authority that issued the document
  • Name of the authority that issues the apostille
  • City in which the apostille is issued
  • Date of apostille
  • Apostille number
  • Seal / stamp of the authority issuing the apostille
  • Signature of the official who issues the apostille
The apostille has no period of validity.

However, it should be noted that the apostilled documents themselves have a period of validity, which is why documents with an expired period of validity in the other country are not accepted even if they are certified with the apostille. It is believed that a maximum of six months (in some cases three months) must elapse since the document to be apostilled was issued.

Apostilles for German documents are issued in Germany by German authorities. They cannot be issued in the country of destination. The competent authorities differ depending on whether the certificate was issued at the federal or state level.

Authorities authorized to issue an apostille in Germany:

  • For documents issued by federal authorities and courts - Federal Office of Administration
  • For documents from the Federal Patent Court or the German Patent Office (DPMA) - head of the DPMA
  • For documents issued by state authorities, the responsible authorities differ depending on the state.

As a rule, documents of the districts (with the exception of the judicial authorities) are apostilled by the interior ministries of the federal states, the district chairmen or by the district administration.

Documents of the judicial authorities, the ordinary courts and the notaries are certified by the justice ministries of the federal states or by the presidents of regional courts. Documents from other courts can be certified by ministries of the interior, chief executive officers of the state, district chairmen, justice ministries, district court presidents, state or district chairmen.

Non-commercial official documents (public documents), i.e. documents issued by courts, authorities or persons with public powers, are apostilled, namely:

  • Excerpts from the commercial register
  • Documents issued or certified by a notary
  • Documents issued by a court: judgments and decisions
  • Translations made by the court translator
  • Public documents issued by state authorities
  • Other public documents

Business contracts, invoices, diplomatic, consular and customs documents are not apostilled. In the case of Germany, these types of documents must first be certified in the chambers of commerce, industry or craft and then in the consulate of the country of destination.

In addition, according to international practice, there are a number of documents that are not subject to legalization, namely documents that are provided with a photo:

  • Passports and passport sets (including identity cards)
  • Union books
  • Workbooks
  • Defense passes
  • Pension cards
  • Driving licenses
  • Testimonies
  • Proof of religious affiliation and class

Usually, a maximum of six (in some cases - three) months must elapse from the date of issue of the document to be apostilled. The document must be in an appropriate condition, the seals and signatures on it must be legible.

No, a translation is not a public document that is subject to legalization. Exceptions are cases in which a court president confirms the quality of the translation and the authenticity of the translator's signature. This official confirmation is considered a public document that can be apostilled or legalized in the consulate.

A translation made by a sworn translator can be apostilled.

For the time being, preliminary certification from the educational institution that issued the document is required.
The apostillation of educational documents and their certification as part of consular legalization are carried out by the competent state authorities. These include district chairpersons, public authorities, interior ministries or special authorities. The competent authority must be determined separately for each federal state.

The apostille of German civil status documents (birth, marriage and death certificates) and their certification as part of the consular legalization is carried out by the competent state authorities. These include district chairmen, authorities, interior ministries or special authorities. In each individual case, the competent authority must be determined separately for each federal state.

As a rule, an apostille can only be issued for the original of a document issued in Germany. A copy can only be apostilled if it is authenticated.

The level of government fees differs depending on the authority issuing the apostille, the type of document, and some other circumstances. This question must be clarified in the specific authority.

The consular legalization takes place via the diplomatic representation of the country where the German document is to be presented. Before this, such a document must be certified by the German authorities at state level.

The responsible authorities differ depending on the federal state. Usually the competencies are distributed as follows:

  • For documents from administrative authorities (birth certificates, registration certificates, etc.): District presidents, district chairmen or state interior ministries in federal states without districts
  • For judicial or notarial documents: presidents of regional or district courts
  • For educational certificates - the same authorities as for district documents, however, some federal states have special authorities for this (ministries of culture and science in Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Saarland)
  • For commercial documents (certificates of origin of goods, invoices, etc.): chambers of industry, commerce or handicrafts
  • For certificates of good conduct: Federal Central Register at the Federal Office of Justice in Bonn

In some countries, the consulates require an additional final certification of German documents. This is done by the Federal Office of Administration after certification by the above. Authorities carried out.

These states include

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • Iraq
  • Iran (with the exception of university diplomas)
  • Jordan
  • Cambodia
  • Qatar
  • Lebanon (only for education certificates)
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Rwanda
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Taiwan (only for legal documents)
  • Togo

In order for a public document issued by the authorities of a foreign country to be recognized in Germany, its authenticity must be confirmed with the help of certain legalization procedures (apostille, consular legalization).

This requirement does not apply if documents are recognized in Germany without additional confirmation on the basis of international contracts.

No not always.

If a document is issued in an EU country, its authenticity does not have to be confirmed. This requirement is laid down in the EU Directive 2016/1191.

The public documents do not have to be legalized if they were issued in an EU country and primarily serve to prove one or more of the following facts:

  • birth
  • the fact that a person is alive
  • death
  • Names
  • Marriage, including eligibility for marriage and marital status
  • Divorce, separation without dissolution of the marriage bond or annulment of a marriage
  • registered partnership, including the ability to enter into a registered partnership and registered partnership status
  • Dissolution of a registered partnership, separation without dissolution of the registered partnership or declaration of invalidity of the registered partnership
  • ancestry
  • adoption
  • Residence and / or place of residence
  • nationality
  • No criminal record, provided that public documents are issued for a Union citizen by the authorities of the Member State of which that citizen is a national

In addition, the requirement for the legalization of public documents from abroad on the basis of bilateral agreements between Germany and certain countries has been abolished. A list of the documents to which this regulation applies can be found in the actual contracts.

These states include:

  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Austria
  • Switzerland

Thirdly, Germany is a signatory to the agreements of the International Commission on Civil Status (CIEC). Therefore, civil status documents (birth, marriage, death certificates) and certificates of marital status from these countries are valid in Germany without separate authentication, provided they are made out on special multilingual forms.

In addition to Germany, the following states are contracting states to the 1976 CIEC agreement on civil status documents:

  • Belgium
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Italy
  • Cape Verde
  • Croatia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Switzerland
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Turkey

In addition to Germany, the contracting states of the CIEC agreement on the issuing of certificates of marital status include

  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Portugal
  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Turkey

In Germany, apostilles from the following countries are recognized:

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • China (only for documents from the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions)
  • Cook Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Fiji
  • Georgia
  • Grenada
  • United Kingdom (including Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, St. Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands)
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Honduras
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Cape Verde
  • Kazakhstan
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Lesotho
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Malawi
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Mexico
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • Namibia
  • New Zealand (except Tokelau)
  • Nicaragua
  • Netherlands (including Aruba, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba)
  • Niue
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Sweden
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Tonga
  • § Trinidad and Tobago
  • Czech Republic
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Hungary
  • Uruguay
  • United States
  • Vanuatu
  • Venezuela
  • Belarus
  • Cyprus

Legalization by a German diplomatic mission abroad is used to prove the authenticity of public documents, namely:

  • Documents issued or certified by a notary
  • Documents issued by a court: judgments and decisions
  • Translations made by the court translator
  • Public documents issued by state authorities
  • Other public documents

Business contracts, invoices and diplomatic, consular and customs documents are not subject to legalization.

In addition, according to international practice, there are a number of documents that are not subject to legalization, namely originals and copies of documents with a photo:

  • Passports and passport sets (including identity cards)
  • Union books
  • Workbooks
  • Defense passes
  • Pension cards
  • Driving licenses
  • Testimonies
  • Proof of religious affiliation and class

The document must be in an appropriate condition, the seals and signatures on it must be legible.

For consular legalization, the original documents must be presented to the diplomatic mission. Copies are usually not certified unless the copy has been certified by the same authority that issued the original.

Consular legalization is used for states that have not signed the Hague Convention of 1961 (link to document).

In addition, Germany does not apply the convention for some contracting states either, i.e. apostilled documents from these countries are not recognized and must be authenticated by consular legalization.

These states include:

  • Azerbaijan
  • Burundi
  • Dominican Republic
  • India
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Kosovo
  • Liberia
  • Morocco
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Paraguay
  • Philippines
  • Tajikistan
  • Tunisia
  • Uzbekistan

Legalization has been discontinued in some states.

A German diplomatic mission in the relevant country can refuse to legalize a document if Germany has discontinued the legalization process for this country. This is due to the increased number of unreliable documents or documents issued by unauthorized authorities.

These countries include:

  • Afghanistan
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Azerbaijan
  • Ethiopia
  • Bangladesh
  • Benin
  • Burundi
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ivory Coast
  • Eritrea
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Iraq
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Kenya
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Congo
  • Kosovo
  • Laos
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Mali
  • Morocco
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Togo
  • Chad
  • Tunisia
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uganda
  • Uzbekistan
  • Central African Republic

Consular legalization always takes place in the country in which the document was issued and is only used for public documents.
The following steps are necessary for the consular legalization of a document for Germany:

  • Authentication of the document by the competent authority in the country of origin
  • Legalization of the document in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if required by law
  • Certification of the document in the responsible German diplomatic mission
  • In some cases, a translation of the document may be required before it is presented to the embassy

In the context of consular legalization, in some cases documents are not only certified by the competent authority but also by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Germany has introduced this requirement for the following countries:

  • Afghanistan
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Benin
  • Burundi
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Dominican Republic
  • Djibouti
  • Ivory Coast
  • Eritrea
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Iraq
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Kenya
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Congo
  • Kosovo
  • Laos
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Mali
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Ethiopia

No, documents issued by diplomatic missions are not subject to legalization by German missions abroad. The German Foreign Ministry cannot certify the authenticity of such documents either.

Germany is a signatory to the European Convention of June 7, 1968 on the exemption from legalization of documents drawn up by diplomatic or consular representatives. For this reason, documents issued by contracting states to this convention are recognized in Germany without additional authentication.

These states include:

  • Belgium
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Greece
  • Great Britain
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Moldova
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Czech Republic
  • Turkey
  • Cyprus

What is consular legalization?

In our video we tell you what consular legalization is and where to apply for it. We also report on the historical background and how consular legalization differs from the apostille.

If you want to legalize a foreign document, Schmidt & Schmidt is always at your side.

Schmidt & Schmidt offers you legalization from more than 80 countries.

What is an apostille?

In our video we tell you what an apostille is and how and where you can apply for it.

If you want to legalize a foreign document with an apostille, Schmidt & Schmidt is always at your side. We offer apostilles from more than 100 countries.