Legalisations and apostilles

Legal validity of Dutch documents abroad
A Dutch public document is not valid outside the Netherlands until a legalisation or an apostille has been placed on this document. In both cases, this is a confirmation that the signature of the sworn translator is registered with the relevant District Court. A legalisation or apostille can only be placed by the District Court where the signature of the sworn translator has been filed. It is in fact a sticker with details filled in by the court registry, which is then signed and stamped by the court registrar.

Legalisation or apostille?
On 5 October 1961, the Apostille Convention was ratified by many countries worldwide. These signatory countries accept translations certified for legal purposes in another signatory country, which is done by placing an apostille on the translation.

Translations required in countries outside the Netherlands which have not ratified the Apostille Convention, however, have to take a different route. In that case, the Netherlands District Court has to legalise the translation, which then needs to be confirmed by the Consular Service Centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and finally by the embassy or consulate of the country to which the translation needs to be sent. Only then does the translation have legal validity in the country where it is required. As most of the above-mentioned organisations are located in The Hague, the legalisation route is often referred to as the ‘round of The Hague’.

The Apostille Convention provides an official ‘short-cut’ to this procedure and an apostille is consequently sufficient proof of legal validity.

For more information and a list of the countries which have ratified the Apostille Convention, please check the site of the Dutch government at Apostille Convention.

Legal validity of foreign documents in the Netherlands
Let us take the example of someone who was born in Columbia or Spain and now needs to register at the city hall or the Immigration and Naturalisation Service in the Netherlands. In that case, an original of the person’s birth certificate has to be certified by a signature of the civil servant who issued the document. It is then sufficient to have the document translated into Dutch and certified by a sworn translator. No Dutch apostille is required.