What is the Apostille Convention?

The purpose of the Convention is to abolish the requirement of legalisation and to facilitate the use of public documents abroad by introducing a simplified authentication process, the Convention facilitates the use of public documents abroad thus promoting international trade and investment.

An international treaty developed and adopted by the Hague Conference. The full title of the Convention is the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. The final text of the Convention was adopted by the Hague Conference at its Ninth Session on 26 October 1960 and was first signed on 5 October 1961 (hence the date in its full title). In accordance with its Article 11(1), the Convention entered into force on 21 January 1965, 60 days after the deposit of the third instrument of ratification. The Hague Conference has adopted many other international treaties (known as the Hague Conventions).

The Apostille Convention is the most widely ratified and acceded to of all the Conventions adopted under the auspices of the Hague Conference (known as the “Hague Conventions”). It is in force in over 100 States from all major regions representing all major legal systems of the world, making it one of the most successful international treaties in the area of international legal and administrative co-operation.

Legal Definition of and history of the word Apostille

Origin of the Word Apostille - Hague Apostille Convention

The word “Apostille” (pronounced a-pos-TEE, not a-pos-TEAL or a-pos-TILL-ee) is of French origin. It comes from the French verb “apostiller”, which derives from the old French wordpostille meaning“annotation”, and before it the Latin wordpostilla, a variation of the word postea, which means “thereafter, afterwards, next” (Le Nouveau Petit Robert: Dictionnaire alphabétique et analogique de la langue française, Paris, 2004). Usage of the words “Apostille” and “apostiller” dates back to the end of the 16th century in France.

Thus, an Apostille consisted of an annotation in the margin of a document or at the end of a letter.

During the negotiations on the Hague Apostille Convention, the term “Apostille” was preferred because of its novelty. According to the reporter: “Following a discussion on terminology [in the French language], the word Apostille have been preferred because of its appealing novelty.” The meanings of the word Apostille described above are still valid today.

Dictionary Meaning

1 archaic : a marginal note

2 : a document used in international law that is issued by a government in accordance with the Hague Convention and that certifies that another document has been signed by a notary public.

History and Etymology for apostille. Middle French, from apostiller to add notes, ultimately from Medieval Latin postilla note, probably from post illa (verba textus) after those (words of the text)

What does a South-African Issued Apostille look like?

While an Apostille should conform as closely as possible to the Model Certificate, in practice Apostilles issued by different Competent Authorities vary. These variations may be in design, size and colour as well as in any additional elements mentioned outside the box that holds the 10 numbered standard informational items. Such variations in appearance are not a basis for refusal of an Apostille by the intended recipient! Hereunder a sample of an South-African Apostille. Also see our Examples Gallery for more images.

Apostille DIRCO

Apostille Issued by High Court

Dirco Apostille Stamp.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding Apostille Certificates

What is an Apostille and when do I need one?
An Apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document (e.g., a birth, marriage or death certificate, a judgment, an extract of a register or a notarial attestation). The Model Apostille Certificate is reproduced at the beginning of this brochure.Apostilles can only be issued for documents issued in one country party to the Apostille Convention and that are to be used in another country which is also a party to the Convention.You will need an Apostille ifallof the following apply: • the country where the document was issued isparty to the Apostille Convention; and• the country in which the document is to be used is party to the Apostille Convention; and• the law of the country where the document wasissued considers it to be a public document; and• the country in which the document is to be usedrequires an Apostille in order to recognise it as a foreign public document.An Apostille may never be used for the recognition of a document in the country where that document was issued – Apostilles are strictly for the use of public documents abroad!An Apostille may not be required if the laws, regulations, or practice in force in the country where the public document is to be used have abolished or simplified the requirement of an Apostille, or have exempted the document from any legalisation requirement. Such simplification or exemption may also result from a treaty or other agreement that is in force between the country where the public document is to be used and the country that issued it (e.g., some other Hague Conventions exempt documents from legalisation or any analogous formality, including an Apostille).If you have any doubts, you should ask the intended recipient of your document whether an Apostille is necessary in your particular case
n which countries does the Apostille Convention apply?
The Apostille Convention only applies if both the country where the public document was issued and the country where the public document is to be used are parties to the Convention. A comprehensive and updated list of the countries where the Apostille Convention applies, or will soon apply, is available in the Apostille Section of the Hague Conference website – look for the link entitledStatus table of the Apostille Convention.
What do I do if either the country where my public document was issued or the country where I need to use my public document is not a party to the Apostille Convention?
Usse the Authentiaction or Embassy Legalisation Process. See our page on Embassy Authentication. If your public document was issued or is to be used in a country where the Apostille Convention does not apply, you should contact the Embassy or a Consulate of the country where you intend to use the document in order to find out what your options are. The Permanent Bureau (Secretariat) of the Hague Conference does not provide assistance in such cases.
To which documents does the Apostille Convention apply?
The Convention only applies to public documents. Whether or not a document is a public document is determined by the law of the country in which the document was issued. Countries typically apply the Convention to a wide variety of documents. Most Apostilles are issued for documents of an administrative nature, including birth, marriage and death certificates; documents emanating from an authority or an official connected with a court, tribunal or commission; extracts from commercial registers and other registers; patents; notarial acts and notarial attestations (acknowledgments) of signatures; school, university and other academic diplomas issued by public institutions.
Where do I get an Apostille in South Africa?
Contact us for a no obligation quotation or enquire at the your nearest High Court or DIRCO.
What do I need to know before requesting an Apostille?
Before you approach a Competent Authority about getting an Apostille, you should consider questions such as:

• Does the Apostille Convention apply in boththe country that issued the public document and the country where I intend to use it

• If the country that issued the public document hasdesignated several Competent Authorities, which one is the relevant Competent Authority to issue an Apostille for my public document

If I have multiple documents, will I need multiple Apostilles?
We can bind some documents together in a set. It's best to enquire with the end user as to how they want documents bound. If unsure rather bind seperately.
How much does an Apostille cost and what forms of payment are available?
Fill in our online form to get a no obligation quotation.
How long will it take to get the Apostille?
The short anwer is 1 - 21 days. Its best to complete our online quotation form. We will give current time estimate. Timelines change from time to time especially in with Covid restrictions.
Do all Apostilles have to look exactly the same?
While an Apostille should conform as closely as possible to the Model Certificate, in practice Apostilles issued by different Competent Authorities vary. These variations may be in design, size and colour as well as in any additional elements mentioned outside the box that holds the 10 numbered standard informational items. Such variations in appearance are not a basis for refusal of an Apostille by the intended recipient.

No. An Annex to the Apostille Convention provides a Model Apostille Certificate(which is reproduced at the beginning of this brochure). Apostilles should conform as closely as possible to this Model Certificate. In particular, an Apostille must:• be identified as an Apostille; and• include the short version of the French title of the Convention (Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961); and• include a box with the 10 numbered standard informational items.An Apostille may also provide additional information. For example, an Apostille may:• provide extra information about the public document to which it relates;• recall the limited effect of an Apostille (i.e., that it only certifies the origin of the public document to which it relates);• provide a web-address (URL) of a register where the origin of the Apostille may be verified; or• specify that the Apostille is not to be used in the country that issued it.However, such additional information must be outside the box that holds the 10 numbered standard informational items

How are Apostilles affixed to public documents?
An Apostille must be placed directly on the public document itself or on a separate attached page (called an allonge). Apostilles may be affixed by various means, including rubber stamps, self-adhesive stickers, impressed seals, etc. If an Apostille is placed on an allonge, the latter can be attached to the underlying public document by a variety of means, including glue, grommets, staples, ribbons, wax seals, etc. While all of these means are acceptable under the Convention, Competent Authorities are encouraged to use more secure methods of affixation so as to safeguard the integrity of the Apostille. See example. Document is bound by using lint, red seal and embossing stamp in South Africa.
What are the effects of an Apostille?
An Apostille only certifies the origin of the public document to which it relates: it certifies the authenticity of the signature or seal of the person or authority that signed or sealed the public document and the capacity in which this was done.An Apostille does not certify the content of the public document to which it relates.Apostilles are not grants of authority and do not give any additional weight to the content of underlying documents.An Apostille may never be used for the recognition of a document in the country where that document was issued – Apostilles are strictly for use of public documents abroad.It is up to the country where the Apostille is to be used to decide how much weight to give to the underlying public document.
Once I have an Apostille, do I need anything else to show that the signature or seal on my public document is genuine?
No. An Apostille issued by the relevant Competent Authority is all that is required to establish that a signature or seal on a public document is genuine and to establish the capacity of the person or authority that signed or sealed the public document. Enquiries can be made with the High Court, DIRCO and the Notary Public in South Africa.
If the recipient of my Apostille wants to verify my Apostille, what should I suggest?
hague conference on private international law | conférence de la haye de droit international privé2726www.hcch.net > Apostille SectionEach Competent Authority is required to keep a registerin which it records the date and number of every Apostille it issues, as well as information relating to the person or authority that signed or sealed the underlying public document.Recipients may contact the Competent Authority identified on the Apostille and ask whether the information on the Apostille corresponds with the information in the registe. In South Africa that means that the High Court, DIRCO or Notary Public can be contacted.
Can Apostilles be rejected in the country where they are to be used?
Apostilles issued in accordance with the requirements of the Convention must be recognised in the country where they are to be used. Apostilles may only be rejected if and when:

• their origin cannot be verified (i.e., if and when the particulars on the Apostille do not correspond with those in the register kept by the Competent Authority that allegedly issued the Apostille); or • their formal elements differ radically from the Model Certificate annexed to the Convention.

What about electronic Apostilles and electronic Registers of Apostilles?
The Convention does allow Competent Authorities to issue Apostilles in electronic form (e-Apostilles) and to maintain electronic registers of Apostilles (e-Registers).Many Competent Authorities are developing and implementing e-Apostilles and e-Registers, as suggested by the Permanent Bureau. South Africa does not maintain an electronic register.
Tell me more about the Hague Conference on Private International Law
The Hague Conference on Private International Law was established in 1893 and became a permanent intergovernmental organisation in 1955. Today, the Hague Conference is the pre-eminent World Organisation dealing with cross-border legal issues in civil and commercial matters. Its mission is to work towards a world in which individuals and companies can enjoy a high degree of legal certainty in cross-border situations.Responding to the needs of a globalising international community, the Hague Conference develops multilateral Conventions (45 since 1893) and assists with their implementation and practical operation. These Hague Conventions deal with such diverse fields as Apostilles; service of process abroad; taking of evidence abroad; shares, bonds and other securities; child abduction, intercountry adoption, maintenance obligations, etc. These Conventions serve to build bridges between various legal systems while respecting their diversity. The Secretariat of the Hague Conference is called the Permanent Bureau.

Documents we frequently legalise with Apostille Certificate

  • Birth Certificate (Abridged and Unabridged)
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Death Certificate
  • Divorce Order and Settlement Agreement
  • Letter of No Impediment to Marriage
  • Degrees and Diploma's with Transcripts
  • TEFL and TESOL Certificates
  • Foreign Degrees (Notarised)
  • School Transfer Transcripts
  • Copy of Passport
  • Copy of Driver’s License
  • Travel Consent Letter
  • Company Incorporation Documents
  • Certificate of Good Standing
  • Certification of Free Sale
  • Certification of Origin
  • Corporate Power of Attorney
  • Commercial Invoice
  • Commercial Contracts
  • International Litigation
  • Foreign Property Transfer Documentation
  • Affidavits and Declarations
  • Company Resolutions