What is meant by the term document legalisation. Why and when do you need to do it?

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.

Popular South-African public documents which often require legalisation:

• Consent letter for children to travel or visit overseas

• Powers of Attorney

• Certified translations

• University, degrees, diplomas, course certificates, school certificates and transcripts

• Doctor and Dentist applications for overseas appointments

• Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates

• Change of Name documents

• Single Status Certificates

• Certificate of No Impediment to Overseas Marriage

• Statutory Declaration signed before a Notary Public

• Probate, Letters of Administration

• Land Transfer documents

Affidavits, sworn Statements, and depositions sworn before a South-African Notary Public

• Certificate of Incorporation of South-African Company issued by CIPC and miscellaneous original company documents

• Official documents pertaining to patents and trademarks

Notarised copy of Passport, Drivers Licence and other identity documents

• Certificate of Divorce issued by the Court of South-Africa

Police Clearance Certificate (“no criminal record”) issued by SAPS

• Miscellaneous notarised documents for use overseas

Documents that cannot be legalised by Apostille or Authentication on the original.

• Abridged, vault copies and handwritten copies of birth-, marriage- and death certificates.

• Any copy certified by any commissioner of oaths i.e. abridged certificates or marriage, birth, death or police clearance certificates; certified copies of letters of no impediment (marital status) or proof of citizenship; certified copies of travel documents or identity documents; and documents legalised by a Commissioner of Oaths to be true copies of the original, as these documents must follow the route of the Notary Public / Registrar of the High Court.

* A Notary Public can authenticate the documents and provide a certificate and seal to evidence that the service was performed.

• “Old” documentation: Please take note that although the original document may be an original and valid document, the signature of the official (or employee) who originally issued and signed the document may not be available on the DIRCO – Legalisation Section signature database, or unobtainable from the specific government department, as the official (or employee) who originally issued and signed the document may no longer be employed at the specific department, which makes it impossible for the Legalisation Section to legalise the “old” document at such a late stage.

For further information, please contact us:

Louwrens Koen Attorneys

Loftus Versveld Northern Pavillion (Gate12), 2nd Floor Office 4, 416 Kirkness Street, Arcadia, Pretoria

Tel: 087 0010 733

Cell: 084 316 3765

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