How to get an Apostille?

Apostilles may only be issued by a Competent Authority designated by the State on whose territory the public document has been executed. The Permanent Bureau (Secretariat) of the Hague Conference does not issue Apostilles. The following link provides the list of Competent Authorities designated by each Contracting State, the contact details of Competent Authorities and other practical information (see also the "Outline of the Convention"):

For further information, please consult the "ABC of Apostilles".

Other related questions:

The Apostille Convention only applies if both the State in whose territory the public document was executed (the "State of execution") and the State in whose territory the public document is to be produced (the "State of destination") are State Parties (i.e., Contracting States for which the Convention is actually in force). To find out which States are Contracting States, check the "Updated list of Contracting States" (status table).

What is the difference between Member, State Party and Contracting State?

It is important to make a distinction between a State’s or Regional Economic Integration Organisation's decision to join the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), i.e., the Organisation as such, and a State’s or Regional Economic Integration Organisation's decision to join one of the 38 Conventions adopted so far under the auspices of the HCCH (such as the Apostille Convention). This important distinction is reflected by using the expressions "Member" on the one hand and "State party" or "Contracting State" on the other hand:

The first expression - "Member" - relates to a State or Regional Economic Integration Organisation which is a Member of the HCCH. There are currently over 70 Members of the HCCH (see the tab "HCCH Members" on the left-hand side; see also Question 5[e] of the FAQ: "How does a State become a Member of the Hague Conference?").

The expression "State party" refers to a State that has consented to be bound by a Convention and for which that Convention is in force (see Art. 2(1)(g) of the Vienna Convention of 23 May 1969 on the Law of Treaties). It is important to note that a State may become a Party to any Hague Convention whether or not that State is (also) a Member of the HCCH. As a result, while there are (so far) 72 Members of the HCCH, there are currently over 100 States Party to the Apostille Convention; approximately 140 States around the world are Party to at least one of the Hague Conventions. Conversely, a State may be a Member of the HCCH without being Party to the Apostille Convention or any other specific Convention.

The expression "Contracting State" refers to a State which has consented to be bound by a Convention, whether or not that Convention has entered into force for that State (see Art. 2(1)(f) of the Vienna Convention referred to above; this is in contrast to the term "party", which refers to a State that has consented to be bound by a Convention and for which that Convention is in force). All the "Status tables" (i.e., charts indicating the current status of a Convention) available on the HCCH website use the expression "Contracting States", and not "States party". In other words, a "Status table" not only lists States where the relevant Convention is actually in force, it also lists States which have consented to be bound by the Convention but where the latter is not yet in force. For the Apostille Convention, this is particularly important in light of its Article 12, which refers to a six-month objection period plus an additional sixty days before the Convention enters into force between a newly acceding State and non-objecting Contracting States. Thus, from the day a State deposits its instrument of accession with the Depositary until the day of entry into force of the Convention for that State, that State is a Contracting State; from the day the Convention enters into force for that State, that State also is a "State party".

Which documents may be apostillised?

The Convention applies only to public documents. These are documents emanating from an authority or official connected with a court or tribunal of the State (including documents issued by an administrative, constitutional or ecclesiastical court or tribunal, a public prosecutor, a clerk or a process-server); administrative documents; notarial acts; and official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as official certificates recording the registration of a document or the fact that it was in existence on a certain date and official and notarial authentications of signatures. The main examples of public documents for which Apostilles are issued in practice include birth, marriage and death certificates; extracts from commercial registers and other registers; patents; court rulings; notarial acts and notarial attestations of signatures; academic diplomas issued by public institutions. Diplomas issued by private institutions may not be apostillised directly; a "private" diploma may, however, bear an official certificate issued by a notary, Solicitor, Agency or any other person or authority competent under the law of the State of origin of the diploma to authenticate the signature on the diploma. This official certificate is a public document under the Convention and thus may be apostillised. In such a case the Apostille does not relate to the diploma itself; instead it certifies the authenticity of the certificate on or accompanying the diploma. Finally, the Convention neither applies to documents executed by diplomatic or consular agents nor to administrative documents dealing directly with commercial or customs operations (e.g., certificates of origin or import or export licenses).

The provisions of the Convention do not specify whether Apostilles should only be issued for original public documents or whether they may also be affixed to certified copies of public documents. However, in light of its practical importance, this question was expressly addressed by the 2003 Special Commission (SC). The Conclusion / Recommendation N° 11 of the meeting reads as follows: "Regarding the application of an Apostille to a certified copy of a public document, the SC concluded that Article 1 of the Convention applies. Individual States, however, may decline to issue an Apostille to the certified copy of a document on the grounds of public policy." (The full text of the Conclusions and Recommendations of the 2003 SC is available under "Documents related to 2003 Special Commission"). The last part of the Conclusion as regards a possible refusal to issue Apostilles on certified copies was mainly intended to address the specific issue of passports copies.