Frequently Asked Questions relating to Document Legalisation (Apostilles, Authentication, Embassy Attestation & Notary Public Services.

The apostille certificate is attached and sealed to another document that is required in another country. This is done as a failsafe against tampering. After a document has been checked and the signatures or stamps have been verified the apostille can be issued. We aim to complete all apostille orders in just 1 – 14 working days and currently achieve this with approximately 98% of orders. In most circumstances documents are ready in just 24 hours. We are a leading apostille service. With over 10 years experience legalising documents we are trusted by customers to handle their order securely and quickly.

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We know that everyone's situation is unique and may have different notary services or document legalisation needs. Our document legalisation specialists will work closely with you to ensure that all documents receive the proper certification that is required for the relevant country and situation. If you would like to clarify the process on your documents or have any special requests, please Message Us
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Before starting the document legalisation process of your South African public documents, you’ll need to verify the appropriate process to follow by ascertaining that the destination country where your document will be used is have subscribed to the Hague Apostille Convention (Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Consular Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents). A South Africa public documents must be legalised or authenticated using the Apostille Certificate if the the destination country have subscribed to the Apostille Convention.

South Africa is a subscribing country to the Hague Apostille Convention Under this Convention, member countries (contracting states) have agreed to an truncated more efficient document legalisation and authentication process namely an Apostille Certificate by an South African designated (Competent) authority.
Louwrens Koen Attorneys deliver comprehensive Apostille certificate services. Contact us Tel: 0870010733 or Email info@louwrenskoen.co.za for more information.
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The Convention thus facilitates a more efficient verification process of public documents. Apostille certificates is thus required for all contracting states of the Hague Apostille Convention. When the destination country of your South African document is not a subscribing member to the Hague Apostille Convention, such document will have to be legalised using the longer chain document “authentication’ and verification process regulated by High Court Rule 63 of the Uniform Rules of Court as the verification of any signature on a document.

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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 if all of 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 was issued considers it to be a public document; and
• the country in which the document is to be used requires 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
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Use the Authentication 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.

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Contact us for a no obligation quotation or enquire at the your nearest High Court or DIRCO.

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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
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Yes. We can assist even if you are living abroad. Contact us for a no obligation quotation to get started. Get Apostille Certificate Quotation.
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 separately. Get Apostille Certificate Quotation.
Sometimes. Message us to find out more. Get Apostille Certificate Quotation.
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How much does an Apostille cost and what forms of payment are available?
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 color 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.
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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.

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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.
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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.
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Each Competent Authority is required to keep a register in 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 register.

In South Africa that means that the High Court, DIRCO or Notary Public can be contacted.
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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.
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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 yet. Get Apostille Certificate Quotation.
The Hague Conference on Private International Law was established in 1893 and became a permanent intergovernmental organization in 1955. Today, the Hague Conference is the pre-eminent World Organization 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 globalizing 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.
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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.
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In South Africa, Apostille Certificates are issued primarily by

1. The Registrar of the High Court, where documents have been
  • Authenticated by a notary public;
  • Translated by a sworn translator;
2. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation's (DIRCO) in respect of the following documents
  • Unabridged birth and marriage certificates;
  • Police clearance certificates;
  • Degrees, diplomas and transcripts;
  • Matric certificates, school transfer certificates and reports;
  • Drivers license confirmation letter;
  • Medical Reports;
Louwrens Koen Attorneys deliver comprehensive Apostille certificate services. Contact us Tel: 0870010733 or Email info@louwrenskoen.co.za for more information.
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  • When a document issued in South Africa is required to be used in another country which is also a signatory to the Apostille Convention, an Apostille Certificate will be issued either by the High Court or by the Department of International Relations (DIRCO). This will be the end of the Apostille process.
  • Where a document is required to be used in a country which is not a signatory to the Apostille Convention (such as China or the UAE) the document will receive an Authentication of Signature Certificate (not an apostille certificate), which must be issued by DIRCO, irrespective of whether the document has gone to the High Court first.
  • Once authenticated by DIRCO, the document must then be submitted to the relevant country's Embassy for legalisation. Only once legalised by the Embassy will the authentication process be complete.
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Albania 
The following Countries have not subscribed to the Hague Apostille Convention:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burma Myanmar, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Congo Republic, Congo Democratic, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar Burma, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Tanzania, Togo, Thailand, Turkmenistan, UAE (United Arab Emirates), Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Documents which are being presented for use in a country which is not party to the Hague Convention (relating to apostilles) will often request further legalisation and possibly embassy attestation. This usually involves having an apostille attached to the document and then carrying out further legalisation through the embassy of that country. This can add considerable complexity to the process as all embassies have different procedures and costs. It is also advisable to ask the person or authority that you intend to present the document to what their exact requirements are.