In South Africa, document authentication also known as document legalisation or apostille is an administrative procedure that proves the authenticity of an official document, in other words, it helps prove that a document is genuine. The official Document authentication/legalisation makes documents from foreign countries suitable for use abroad. This procedure shows that the document was issued by a competent and expert authority, that the signature, seal, and/or stamp on the document are genuine and the document’s format is correct. Because of existing international agreements signed by different countries (in particular the Hague Convention of 1961), document authentication/legalisation may vary depending on which country you intend to use a document.
Two document authentication/legalisation procedures can be distinguished depending on whether the country for which the legalised document is intended has signed the Hague Convention or not. This article provides a general overview of the process for authenticating documents under the Hague Apostille Convention and under traditional embassy legalisation methods
Document Authentication/Legalisation under the Apostille Convention
There are a large number of Hague Conventions but in the area of document authentication/legalisation, this term refers to the 1961 “Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents”.
With the goal of facilitating matters when someone needs to use documents executed in one country in a different country, the Hague Convention creates reciprocal relationships between countries and greatly simplifies the document authentication/legalisation process by only requiring the issuance of an apostille, for example, a marriage certificate with an apostille stamp is valid in all countries that are a party to the Apostille Convention. When an apostille is issued, no further legalisation steps are necessary, however, both countries must be a party to the Hague Convention to use this simplified process.
The document authentication/legalisation takes the form of an official stamp or printed form affixed to the original document. Apostilles are affixed to public documents by “competent authorities” designated by the government of a country that is a party to the Hague Apostille Convention. For example, in South Africa, DIRCO and the High Courts are the designated competent authorities who hold the power to issue an apostille.
Several countries, just like South Africa, are members of the Apostille Convention. All the members of the Apostille Convention are listed on the website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH).
Document Authentication/Legalisation for a country not a signatory of the
Apostille Convention (embassy legalisation)
Embassy legalisation is an alternative method of authenticating a document, used for countries that are not members of the Hague Convention such as UAE or Angola. Such countries do not accept or recognize an apostille as a certificate of authenticity for public documents. Instead, the embassy, consular or diplomatic representative of the country i.e., UAE, Angola in these countries normally deals with the legalisation and attestation of documents.
In most cases, embassy legalisation will require the document to be translated then notarised/ (Depending upon the country of issuance), followed by authentication from the foreign affairs office i.e. Dirco, and finally the Embassy of the UAE or Angola in the country of origin to which the document will be sent.
Since document authentication/legalisation is still required for countries that are not parties to the Convention, the parties to a transaction must undergo the legalisation process if either the country issuing the public document or the country where the document will be used is not a signatory or both. Before proceeding, you should consult the local authorities about the rules and requirements of undergoing the legalisation process.
Frenchside your Document Authentication/
Legalisation Service Provider
At Frenchside, we undertake the document authentication/legalisation process on behalf of our clients, removing the need for the client to undergo all these complicated and cumbersome procedures. We offer our clients professional advice on the steps required to legalize their documents. Our expertise allows us to expedite the document authentication/legalisation procedure, offering our clients both speed of service and peace of mind.
The position of Frenchside, located in the center of Pretoria, near the Courts,
the Department on international relation and cooperation (Dirco), the Embassies,
Public bodies as well as many lawyers and notary public offices, means that it is perfect placed to carry out this type of service.
For further information about our document authentication/legalisation services please phone us at
+27 (0) 12-348- 3134 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be more than happy to talk with you or
to answer any questions you may have