What is an Apostille and When is it Used?

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What is an Apostille and When is it Used?

In order for public documents executed within the Republic of South African to be legally valid for use in countries abroad, they must be legalised and affixed with either an Apostille Certificate or a Certificate of Authentication.

The determination of which Certificate will be issued, is dependent on whether the country in question is party to the 1961 Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, colloquially referred to as the ‘Hague Convention’.

The Hague Convention, to which South Africa is party, aims to simplify the formalities required for legalising public documents in that, if both countries are party to the Hague Convention, all that is required for legalisation is the issuance of an Apostille Certificate by a competent authority designated by the State.

The authority competent to issue the Apostille Certificate is determined by the nature and source of the document.

For example, birth certificates, marriage certificates, letters of non-impediment and other documents signed and stamped by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) are apostilled by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

Degrees and other academic qualifications must first be verified by the Department of Higher Education or UMALUSI before an Apostille Certificate is issued by DIRCO.

Unaffected classes of documents, such as passports, identity documents, affidavits, and power of attorneys must be verified by a Notary Public and the Apostille Certificate issued by the Registrar of the High Court in the region where the Notary Public practices.

Where a country is not party to the Hague Convention, the competent authority will issue a Certificate of Authentication rather than an Apostille Certificate.

The document which has been authenticated by the competent authority will then be sent to the relevant country’s Embassy, situated within South Africa, for final authentication.

Let us assist you

We assist clients with the legalisation of all South African public documents and has a dedicated courier service to DIRCO. Due to the different legalisation procedures, we would advise that applicants first contact our offices to obtain a quotation based on the specific documentation that must be legalised.

Speak to us for professional advice

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If you need legal advice or drafting of a legal document feel free to get in touch with us, we’re more than happy to help you with your query

Megan Catherine Lee


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