When you are planning on going abroad, irrespective of the reason, you would be required to present a set of legal documents to the different government or government-sponsored agencies, both in your country and the one you wish to visit. The purpose of this is to ensure that you have provided all the right information when applying for the visa. Your documents need to be verified so that the government of the country you intend to visit knows who you are, what your purpose for entering their territory is and what kind of activities you are likely to indulge in when there. The stamp of authenticity on the documents is proof that they are legitimate, and the information mentioned, correct. However, based on where you wish to go, you might either need to get your documents attested or Apostilled.
Here are the documents you would need to get attested or Apostilled:-
- Personal certificates: Birth certificate, marriage or divorce certificates, copies of your passport, medical certificate, etc.
- Educational certificates: Degree certificates, diploma certificates, transfer certificate, High School Certificate, Senior Secondary School Leaving certificate etc.
- Commercial certificates: Commercial invoice, Bill of Lading, Certificate of Origin, Export license, Certificate of Incorporation etc.
The Hague Convention and the Apostille
The Hague Convention was a series of international conferences held in the Netherlands between 1899 and 1907 wherein a number of treaties were signed between the member countries. Countries like India, New Zealand, Germany, Peru, The United States etc. are part of the Hague Convention.
The Hague Conference on Private International Law introduced a formulated a treaty called the Apostille Treaty, also known as the Apostille Convention or the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents which states the procedure through which a legal document issued in one of the member countries can be certified as being genuine and can be used for legal purposes in other member countries. The process of getting an Apostille eliminates the need to get the documents verified both in the country of origin and in the one you plan to visit.
An Apostille (the word means ’certification’ in French), is a simpler way of legalizing documents. In order for the documents or certificates to be used for legal purposes in one of the member countries, they must be certified by a recognized official in the country where they were issued. It is a certificate which is issued by the Secretary of State stating that your documents are genuine and are attached to your original documents. There are currently about 117 members of the Apostille Convention.
Getting an Apostille is a much simpler process. The Ministry of External Affairs, an agency of the central government, is responsible for issuing the Apostille. So, it cuts down on the government authorities that need to check and stamp your documents.
Countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Indonesia, etc. are not part of the Hague Convention. So, in order to enter these countries, an Apostille will not be sufficient. You will need to have your documents attested by a series of government or government-sponsored organizations.
What is Attestation and Why Do You Need to Get Your Documents Attested?
As mentioned above, you would need to get your legal documents verified and stamped by government agencies if you wish to use them abroad. However, when it comes to countries that are not part of the Hague Convention, such as Afghanistan, Canada, China, Iraq etc., an Apostille is not sufficient. You need to have your certificates and documents attested.
Attestation, much like an Apostille, is a process to determine the legitimacy of a legal document. When you wish to go out of the country, you must have your documents attested, which will state that they are genuine and can be used for any legal purposes there. Attestation is also done to ensure that the information you provide when applying for the visa is accurate. The process of attestation, unlike that of getting an Apostille, is complicated and lengthy and it is best to hire a certified attestation service to help clear any doubts and to make the process smoother. This is how the procedure unfolds:
- Notary Department Attestation: The first step is to get the Notary Department’s stamp of authenticity. For this, you can go to the Public Notary Office or Collector’s office in your city or state. Without this, you cannot move on to the next agency for attestation.
- Home Department Attestation: It is an agency of the state government. Once the Notary Department attests your documents, you must bring them to the State Home Department, especially your personal documents. In the case of educational documents, it is the Ministry of Human Resource Development that must stamp those certificates. After this, you move on to the Ministry of External Affairs.
- Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Attestation: Following the stamp of authenticity by the Notary and the Home Department, it is the MEA which must stamp your documents. The Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for dealing with the foreign matters of the country, so it must attest to the documents before they are sent to the embassy. This is the last government agency of the home country which needs to perform the attestation.
- Embassy Attestation: After the government organizations of your country have verified that the documents submitted are authentic, the embassy of the country you wish to visit must attest them. You need to go to the concerned embassy in your own state or city. In many cases, embassy attestation is the last step to follow.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Attestation: If you are planning to visit a Gulf country, your documents must carry the stamp of authenticity of the MOFA of the particular country. It is responsible for the foreign matters of its country and must verify your documents so they can be used there. You do not need to be physically present in the country at the time of attestation.
Depending on the country you are looking to visit, make sure to understand whether you need to have the required documents attested or need to get an Apostille.