What is an apostille?
An apostille is a special seal applied by an authority to certify that a document is a true copy of an original. Apostilles are available in countries, which signed the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization of Foreign Public Documents, popularly known as The Hague Convention. This convention, created in 1961, replaces the time consuming chain certification process used so far, where you had to go to four different authorities to get a document certified.

Why do I need one?
For example, if you open a Swiss bank account by mail, the bank will not see the original of your passport. The people who process your application in the back office will have to check that the copy is correct. Each bank has devised its own way of establishing whether a passport copy is acceptable to open an account. Some banks will accept a passport copy if it has been authenticated (legalized, certified) by a notary public, but most will require that the document bears an apostille.

Where can I get an apostille?
Each country party to the Hague Convention designates an authority within its territory that can issue apostilles. For example, in the USA, it is the office of the state’s secretary. In practice, you should contact a notary to get an apostille. Please note that some notaries may not be familiar with this procedure – they may propose you an ersatz that they are more familiar with. If it does not bear the term “APOSTILLE” in big, that’s not it. Finally, please bear in mind that there are some countries that did not sign this treaty yet and thus no apostilles can be obtained.

What are apostilles normally used for?
An apostille can be used whenever a copy of an official document from another country is needed. For example for international marriages, adoptions, inheritance, but also for plain contracts. The apostille is an official certification that the document is a true copy of the original. It does not certify that the original document’s content is correct, however.

The following states/countries are all members of the Hague Convention and recognize apostilles. The apostille certificate will be legally recognized and no further legalization or embassy certification should be required.

Member Countries of the Hague Convention
Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan
Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria
China (Hong Kong), China (Macao), Colombia, Cook Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic
Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic
Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia
Fiji, Finland, France, FYR of Macedonia
Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada
Honduras, Hungary
Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy
Kazakhstan, Korea (Republic of)
Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg
Malawi, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro
Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Norway
Panama, Poland, Portugal
Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation
Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland
Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey
Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA
Vanuatu, Venezuela

If the country you intend to present the documents in is not listed please check with the entity you intend to accept the apostille. They very often recognize an Apostille certificate.