The (limited) effect of an Apostille Certificate

A             An Apostille only authenticates the origin of the underlying public document

The effect of an Apostille is limited. It only authenticates the origin of the underlying public document. It does so by certifying the authenticity of the signature on the document, the capacity in which the person signing the document acted and, where appropriate, the identity of the seal or stamp which the document bears (Art. 5(2)). The limited effect of an Apostille has been confirmed by the Special Commission

B             An Apostille does not certify the content of the underlying public document

An Apostille does not relate in any way to the content of the underlying public document. While the public nature of the document itself may imply that its content is true and correct, an Apostille does not enhance, or add any legal significance to, the legal effect that the signature and/or seal would produce without an Apostille. In this regard, the Special Commission recommends that Competent Authorities include a notice about the limited effect of the Apostille

C              An Apostille does not certify that all requirements of domestic law for proper execution of the underlying public document are met.

 An Apostille does not certify that a public document was executed in accordance with all requirements of domestic law. It is for domestic law to determine whether defects invalidate the public nature of a document and to what degree a Competent Authority is responsible for scrutinising documents for such defects.

For example, domestic law may or may not require a Competent Authority to scrutinise whether a notary is authorised under domestic law to execute the particular notarial act or notarial certificate in question. The Convention certainly imposes no obligation upon a Competent Authority to do so. Because an Apostille does not have any legal effect beyond certifying the origin of the underlying public document, its issuance for a document does not cure any such defects.

 D             An Apostille does not affect the acceptance, admissibility or probative value of the underlying public document

The Apostille Convention does not affect the right of the State of destination to determine the acceptance, admissibility and probative value of foreign public. In particular, the authorities in the State of destination may determine whether a document has been forged or altered, or whether it has been validly executed. They may also establish time limits on the acceptance of foreign public documents (e.g. the document must be produced within a certain period of time after its execution), even though such limits cannot be imposed on the acceptance of the Apostille itself. Furthermore, it remains for the laws of evidence of the State of destination to determine the extent to which a foreign public document may be used to establish a certain fact.

 E              The effect of an Apostille does not expire

The Convention does not place any time limitation on the effect of an Apostille. A validly issued Apostille therefore has effect for as long as it is identifiable and remains attached to the underlying public document. Accordingly, an Apostille may not be rejected solely on the basis of its age. However, this does not prevent authorities in the State of destination, on the basis  of their domestic law, from establishing time limits on the acceptance of the underlying public document (e.g., requesting that a criminal record be executed within a certain maximum time

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