The Hague Apostille and document legalisation

guest bookToday I have the pleasure of welcoming Pedro Satué. He holds a postgraduate degree in Legal Translation from the University of Alicante and a 5-year degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Seville. Pedro is also a sworn (i.e. official) translator appointed by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs – and says “My appointment is so old that the arms on the letterhead still bear the old imperial eagle watching from behind the shield. 🙂 Some other minor diplomas and certificates give evidence of my commitment to the so called Continuing Professional Development – there is no age limit on learning“.

So, over to Pedro for a very educational post…

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netherladns_Despite the time that has passed since the adoption in 1961 of the Hague Convention abolishing the requirement to legalise foreign public documents, new participating countries are being added all the time.¹ There are many translators – and, unfortunately, public officials – who still do not have a clear idea of ​​what the apostille is, what it is used for, and what to do with it.

To dispel any doubts, the best thing would be to go straight to the actual text of the Convention. I therefore offer readers a short walk through this important instrument. We will use the official French and English versions and the Spanish version published in the Official State Gazette (Boletín Oficial del Estado – BOE).

¿Convenio or Convención?

In Spain, Convenio. The BOE of 25 September 1978, announcing ratification for Spain on 10 April of the same year, refers to the instrument as “Convenio suprimiendo la exigencia de la legalización de los documentos públicos extranjeros, hecho en La Haya el 5 de octubre de 1961“.²

Purpose

A brief preamble states that the Convention is to abolish the requirement of diplomatic or consular legalisation for foreign public documents (supprimer l’exigence of légalisation consulaire diplomatique des actes publics ou étrangers). This is stipulated in Article 3, and a model (apostilla or apostille) is described in Article 4 and the Annex to the Convention, signatories of which may only be one of the authorities duly notified to that effect to the other signatory countries. To avoid confusion, Article 1 clarifies what is meant by public document for the purposes of the Convention.

Apostille format

The apostille has a common format in all signatory countries and all languages. The order in which information appears is invariably the same and each segment has a corresponding number. The version issued by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads as follows:

APOSTILLE
(Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961)
1. País …………………………………………………………..
El presente documento público
2. ha sido firmado por …………………………………….
3. quien actúa en calidad de ……………………………..
4. y está revestido del sello/timbre de ………………..
Certificado
5. en ……………………….. 6. el día ………………………
7. por ……………………………………………………………
8. bajo el número ……………………………………………
9. Sello/timbre:…………… 10. Firma ……………………

Should the apostille be translated?

Significantly, none of the signatory countries are required to draft the apostille in a particular language.

The English version of the Convention states in this regard:

The certificate referred to in the first paragraph of Article 3 shall be […] in the form of the model annexed to the present Convention. It may, however, be drawn up in the official language of the authority which issues it. The standard terms appearing therein may be in a second language also. The title “Apostille (Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961)” shall be in the French language.

The Spanish states:

La apostilla prevista en el artículo 3, párrafo primero, […] deberá acomodarse al modelo anexo al presente Convenio. Sin embargo, la apostilla podrá redactarse en la lengua oficial de la autoridad que la expida. Las menciones que figuren en ella podrán también ser escritas en una segunda lengua. El título «Apostille (Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961)» deberá mencionarse en lengua francesa.

The French states:

L’apostille prévue à l’article 3, alinéa premier, […] doit être conforme au modèle annexé à la présente Convention. Toutefois elle peut être rédigée dans la langue officielle de l’autorité qui la délivre. Les mentions qui y figurent peuvent également être données dans une deuxième langue. Le titre « Apostille (Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961) » devra être mentionné en langue française.

The fact that is the power of the issuing authority to choose the language of the apostille gives an implicit answer to the recurring doubts of many translators and public officials as to whether the apostille should be translated into the language of the receiving country. And the answer is, obviously, negative.

Otherwise, in the countries where public or sworn translation is an official profession, we would regularly encounter absurd situations when translating documents from bilingual countries such as Belgium, where the document could be written in French and translated into Spanish by a sworn translator of that language and the Apostille (the model itself or the terms) could be in Dutch, which would require the involvement of a second sworn translator.

.

¹ e.g. Bahrain in 2013.

² Jefatura del Estado (BOE nº 229 de 25/9/1978). Instrumento de ratificación de España del Convenio suprimiendo la exigencia de la legalización de los documentos públicos extranjeros, hecho en La Haya el 5 de octubre de 1961. Rango: Instrumento de ratificación. Páginas: 22329-22333.

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This article was first published in Transnotes and in The Transletter, the digital newsletter of the Colegio de Traductores de la Provincia de Santa Fe, Argentina, and was translated into English by WordstoDeeds in consultation with the author. Do check out Pedro’s blog espacio singular.

4 thoughts on “The Hague Apostille and document legalisation

  1. Pingback: (TOOL) – The Hague Apostille and document legalisation | wordstodeeds.com | Glossarissimo!

  2. Pingback: The Hague Apostille and document legalisation | Rosana Mondino

  3. Pingback: Most read posts 2013 | From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

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