The Hague Apostille is a notarial certification whose purpose is to certify the authenticity of the signature of a document and to enable its use outside the country where the document was drawn up. It is issued in the form of a note or stamp.
It is the result of a convention that was signed by the contracting countries known as the 1961 HCCH Apostille Convention.
The Hague Apostille is, therefore, a simplified procedure whose purpose is the same as legalisation and which eliminates the requirement of the latter. Legalisation certifies that a public document drawn up abroad is authentic by certifying the authenticity of the signature and the quality of the authority signing the document, but does not concern the content of the document.
The apostille procedure consists of stamping on a public document, or an extension thereof, an apostille or annotation certifying the authenticity of the signature of public documents issued in any of the signatory countries. This allows the documents to which it is attached to be recognised in any other Convention country and no further authentication is required.
Documents requiring The Hague Apostille are:
• Judicial documents: documents issued by an authority or official linked to a State jurisdiction, including those issued by the Public Prosecutor’s Office or from a clerk, official or bailiff.
• Administrative documents: official certifications of private acts, such as certification of the registration of a document, certification of the authenticity of a date and official and notarial certifications of signatures in private acts.
Unless a rule provides an exemption, all public documents issued abroad and intended to be presented in Spain and all Spanish public documents intended to be presented abroad must be legalised or apostilled to be valid.
Only authenticated or apostilled original documents (or authentic copies issued by the organisation issuing the original document) are accepted. Legalised or apostilled photocopies do not replace the original document.
The legalisation and apostille do not expire but their validity (limitation in time) is the same as the validity of the original document.
The authorities of the country issuing the document have the exclusive competence to issue The Hague Apostille. When the authorities of the issuing country attach the apostille, no further proceedings are required.
In Spain, different public bodies may include The Hague Apostille in a document, such as the Ministry of Justice’s Central Citizen Services Office.
Lawyer of the Madrid Bar Association