Why legalise documents and what does it really mean?
When documents, issued within South Africa, are going to be used outside of South Africa, they usually need to be legalised. Different procedures are followed, depending on the type of document that is being legalised.
Legalising documents means that official (public) documents are affixed, sealed and signed either with an Apostille Certificate (where countries are party to The Hague Convention) or with a Certificate of Authentication (where countries are not party to The Hague Convention).
It is very important to note that only documents drawn up or executed within South Africa can be legalised by apostille or authenticated in South Africa.
Countries that are signatories to The Hague Convention changed the lengthy and costly requirements for the legalisation of documents to a simpler, more streamlined process and documents that qualify get apostilled. This means that documents are weighed against pre-determined criteria and when these criteria are met the documents will be legalised by affixing an apostille to the document. Usually this legalisation is deemed adequate and documents will be accepted by the target country.
When countries are not signatories to The Hague Convention the same process as for Apostille must be followed. Documents are weighed against pre-determined criteria and if these criteria are met the documents will be legalised by affixing a Certificate of Authentication to the document.
It is at this point that the difference between an Apostille and Authentication becomes evident as documents receiving a Authentication Certificate must now be presented to the target country’s embassy for certification.
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