Here’s everything you need to know about the Apostille! In the olden days, when you showed up at an international authority with a certificate issued in another country, the first thing on your case officer’s mind was: “Is this thing real?“ It’s hard to tell, especially if the certificate is issued in a foreign language, or handwritten, or otherwise looks a bit suss. Also, who are they supposed to call to find out? And what if it’s the middle of the night there, anyway?
You could get a document “legalized”, but that took forever and cost a bomb. So in 1961, the Hague Convention introduced the Apostille to get around this. It doesn’t matter whether Sydney, San Francisco or Sevilla issued your certificate. If the issuing country participates in the Hague Convention of 1961, you get an Apostille and boom – any other Hague Convention country recognizes your certificate immediately as authentic. And yes, Germany participates. So does Australia, the USA, New Zealand, and The United Kindom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, just to name a few.
An Apostille is a large box with a big stamp in it and a numbered list (1 through 9 plus a signature). The list includes information about where your document was certified, when, and by whom. The Apostille is attached to your original document (stamped on the rear side or attached on a new page) and sent back to you.
Where do I get it?
The Apostille comes from the authority that issued your certificate in the first place. So if you got married in California, the California Secretary of State is responsible for delivering it. You can either go straight to the source, or you can use one of many internet-based Apostille services that act as agents. They usually hand-deliver your documents to the Secretary of State and get the Apostille on the same day. Then they post it to the address of your choice. Just google “Apostille California” and choose your favourite service.
The country of issue does not participate in the Hague Convention
Then you can’t get an Apostille. If a public authority in another country demands some sort of proof of authenticity, you can go to your local embassy and ask to have the document legalised instead.
Unfortunately, Red Tape Translation can’t help you get the Apostille, and we can’t legalise documents or check them for authenticity in any other way. But once you’ve got it, we can send you a certified translation of your certificate together with a certified translation of the Apostille.
Is it really necessary to get the Apostille translated?
Since Apostilles are usually issued in three languages, one of which might be the language of the country in which you’re trying to use it, it might seem odd to get it translated. But have a closer look. The categories of information themselves are listed in three different languages, yes, but not the corresponding information – that’s only written in the language of issuance. For example, if your Apostille was issued in the US, yes, you’ll see “Country/Pays/Pais”, but the country will be listed as “The United States of America” with no corresponding translation. For this reason (we’d forgive you if you rolled your eyes), it’s very common to get the Apostille translated along with the actual certificate itself.
The Apostille and the Foreigners Office
If you are going for a residence permit at the Ausländeramt that somehow hinges upon your marriage or civil partnership (e.g. a residence permit for spouses of German citizens), you’ll need to show your marriage certificate. If it wasn’t issued in Germany but was issued in a country that participates in the Hague Convention, you’ll probably need an Apostille. Even if you got married within the EU and your marriage certificate is written in multiple languages including German, you should get an Apostille. Pro tip – get it done before you leave the country in which you got married. If you’re in the US, it might only take a day or two to arrive and usually costs less than 100 USD per certificate. Apostilles in Denmark take around 2 weeks to arrive by post.
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