Сhina joins the Apostille Convention - no legalization for public documents required

On 8th March 2023, China's ambassador to the Netherlands submitted China's instrument of accession to the Hague Convention of 5th October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (Apostille Convention).

The Apostille Convention will become effective in China on 7th November 2023.

The Apostille Convention, also known as the Convention of 5th October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, is an international treaty that was drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH). If the Convention applies between two countries, an apostille issued by the country of origin is adequate to certify the document, and eliminates the need for further authentication by the destination country. The apostille's primary function is to simplify the process of transnational circulation of public documents, facilitating international trade, economic and personnel exchanges.

China's accession to the Apostille Convention changes the requirement for legalisation of official documents to an apostille issued by the authorized body in the country of origin. This apostille is then recognized in the destination country (China and vice versa).

In theory, the Apostille Convention will make it much simpler for foreign businesses to conduct business in and with China. From setting up a company to litigating in China, all of these require notarized and legalized documents from the home country to China. The Apostille Convention could make this expensive and time-consuming process easier with the apostille as a new form of legalisation.

The primary advantages of the Apostille system are as follows

  • Short processing time

The certification process of public documents will become shorter, which can effectively reduce the time frame for legalisation of public documents.

  • Single procedure for a wide range of countries

Currently, 124 countries are parties to the Hague Convention. Therefore, most world economic and industrial centers currently recognize apostilled documents and do not require any additional legalisation through national procedures or institutions.

  • Validity

Apostilled documents certified under the Hague Convention shall be considered valid and may be used in any country or region that recognizes the Hague Convention. The apostille has an "exterritorial effect" legal effect.

Now that the contracting states of the Hague Convention have been informed of China's accession, there will be a six-month objection period for contracting states. However, if a country objects, it does not mean that China will not be part of the Apostille Convention. It only means that the Convention will not be applicable between the objecting country and China. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that the Apostille Convention will come into effect on 7th November 2023.

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