What is The Hague Apostille, what is it for and how to process it?

By Juan Madridejos Velasco, Notary of Barcelona and partner of JLA Notarios.

One of the main effects of globalization is the increase in international acts and businesses, and the exchange, not only of information, but also of documentation between different States and individuals. For this reason, procedures like the Hague Apostille are necessary to facilitate and speed up this exchange.

In our Notary office in Barcelona, the need to have certain documents apostilled is becoming more common every day. Many clients, when granting a deed, need the document they sign to include an apostille. For this reason, in this article we want to clarify everything related to this topic, which is of great importance but is a great unknown.

What is the Hague Apostille?

The apostille is international and defined as a procedure that allows documents issued by the authorities of a country to be recognized and take effect in another country, other than the country of origin. In this way, the country of origin recognizes that the authority that issues the document is competent to issue it, granting certainty and security to the country in which the apostilled document will be used that the document that was signed in another country is true.

It may be better understood with an example:

Imagine that a client, named José, goes to the Notary office to sign a power of attorney to sell a house that he has in Colombia, and under the formalities provided for in Spanish Law. He grants the power of attorney before a Spanish Notary. José, after signing it, sends it to Colombia to be used to sell his property, but how can the Colombian Notary know that the power of attorney is a public document issued by a real and competent Notary in Spain? This is achieved by adding the Hague Apostille to the power of attorney, which, issued by the competent body, ensures that the Spanish Notary is real and competent. Adding the apostille, the Colombian Notary is certain of its validity and can recognize its full effects.

The apostille process simply consists of adding a stamp to the document where the aforementioned recognition appears, and which must meet the formal requirements provided for in the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961. The international Apostille has the following appearance:

What does the apostille guarantee?

It is important to know that the Apostille only certifies the authenticity of the signature that appears on the document, the capacity in which the signatory of the document has acted, for example, as a Notary, the identity of the seal or stamp used, but does not certify the content of the document.

By not certifying the content, once the document has been apostilled, from the Notarial point of view, what is called judgment of equivalence and sufficiency must be issued. Through this trial, the Notary qualifies if, in view of the document presented, the functions of the foreign authority and its legal system, the content of the foreign document is equivalent to the Spanish one, and therefore valid and sufficient to carry out the act within the Spanish territory.

Is The Hague Apostille valid in any country in the world?

The answer is no. The Hague Apostille will only be valid with respect to the documents issued and that will take effect in the signatory countries of the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961. You can check the complete list of these countries according to the latest update of the Spanish Ministry of Justice.

What happens if a country is not part of the Hague Convention?

In this case, you have to go through the traditional way of diplomatic or consular legalization. The process is more complicated, since it requires verification from two agencies, the country of origin and the country of destination.

In the first place, the authorities of the country of origin of the document must verify the legality of the document through the competent body, generally the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which includes the corresponding stamp. Subsequently, the country of destination, through the Embassy, Consulate or Honorary Consul, will carry out the appropriate control, including the corresponding second stamp.

This system can be simplified if there are bilateral agreements between the different countries.

Documents to be apostilled: When is it necessary?

As we have seen, it will be necessary to apostille the documents when they are going to take effect in a country other than the country of origin, that is:

  1. Documents granted in a foreign country that must take effect in Spain. A typical example would be the powers granted abroad to be used in Spanish territory.
  2. Public documents granted in Spain and that must take effect abroad, as in the case of the example seen above.

What documents must be apostilled?

Public documents issued by an authority must be apostilled. In no case can private documents be apostilled (except, as we will see later, that incorporate a certification from an official). More specifically, the following documents should be apostilled:

  1. Judicial documents issued by the judicial authority of a State, including those from the Public Ministry or a lawyer, secretary, official or judicial agent.
  2. Administrative documents, issued by an official or those incorporated into a private document, for example, those that prove the certainty of a date set on them.
  3. Notarial deeds.

What documents should not be apostilled?

As a general rule, public documents must be apostilled, but there are exceptions. It is not necessary to apostille:

  1. Documents issued by diplomatic or consular officials.
  2. Administrative documents directly related to a commercial or customs operation.
  3. The documents that, in accordance with an International Agreement, are exempt from being legalized or apostilled.

In addition to these documents, according to Regulation 2016/1191 of July 6, 2016, the member countries of the European Union establish simplified systems when issuing and recognizing certain public documents. In this way, member countries must accept some documents issued by another member state without the need for an apostille, directly acknowledging its effectiveness. These documents that do not need an apostille are, mainly, the certificates of:

  1. Birth.
  2. Faith of life.
  3. Death.
  4. Name.
  5. Marriage, including capacity to marry and marital status.
  6. Divorce.
  7. Judicial separation or marriage annulment.
  8. Registered domestic partnership, including the ability to register as a member of a registered domestic partnership and the status of a member of a registered domestic partnership.
  9. Cancellation of the registration of a de facto union, judicial separation or annulment of a registered de facto union.
  10. Affiliation.
  11. Adoption.
  12. Domicile or residence.
  13. Nationality.
  14. Absence of a criminal record and right to active and passive suffrage in municipal elections and in elections to the European Parliament.

Who should request the apostille?

Normally it is requested by the interested party, but it can also be done by anyone who is in possession of the original copy of the document that needs to be apostilled.

How to apostille notarial documents in Spain?

The apostille process for notarial documents is relatively simple. Once the public deed granted before a Notary is signed, you must go to the corresponding Notaries Association to have the document apostilled.

As for the College of Notaries of Catalonia, the apostille is usually fast. The process requires waiting about three days and then picking up the document. If you want more information, you can click here.

From JLA Notarios we can also take care of apostilling any notarial document that you have signed at our Notary office in Diagonal de Barcelona, taking and collecting the document to be apostilled for you. In addition, we usually offer the possibility of processing these apostilles through the urgent procedure, so that you could pick up the notarial document signed at JLA Notarios Barcelona with the apostille incorporated within a period of only one or two days.

How is a foreign deed apostilled so that it takes effect in Spain?

In case you have granted or are going to grant a deed abroad and need it to take effect in Spain, you must get the apostille of a competent public organization of the country of origin, which will depend on each country. Once apostilled, it can take effect in Spain.

What happens if the foreign document is written in a foreign language?

If the document is written in a foreign language, once it has been apostilled, you must provide a sworn translation of the document. The translation may not be necessary if the Notary knows the language in which it is written sufficiently, but even in these cases the translation may be necessary if the document must be presented to another body, such as the Public Registries.

How long is the Hague Apostille valid for?

The apostille does not have a term of validity or expiration, but the term is marked by the apostilled document, for example, when the document has a deadline of effectiveness.

There is also no deadline to apostille the document, the interested party can do so when he considers it appropriate.

With this article we have tried to collect all the information to help you understand what the Hague Apostille is. If you want to know more about the services we offer from our notary in Barcelona, please visit the Notary services page.

You may also want to learn more about Notaries functions in Spain, if so, please read this article on our blog:

Our Notaries will be happy to assist you if you have questions about any of our services. Write us by email at bcn@jlanotarios.com or through the contact form on our website for any queries.

Your privacy is important to us

We use analytical cookies to improve your user experience and collect statistical data about the use of our website by users.

Cookies do not store any type of personal data about the user and are only associated with the browser you are using.

You can configure your browser to notify and/or reject the installation of cookies, without affecting the user's ability to access the different areas of the website.

By browsing our website you will be accepting the use of cookies under the conditions established in this Cookies Policy, which may be updated, so we invite you to review it regularly.

Whatsapp icon of JLA Notarios Whatsapp direct access to the JLA Notaries contact page Mail