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Legalisation of documents

Legalisation of EU documents no longer required

In this article we give an overview of the different types of legalisation of documents, like a birth- or marriage certificate. In many cases these are required for an immigration procedure. We also explain which authorities issue the legalisation.

Please note: For the legalisation of a signature you need to visit a notary.

What is legalisation – 3 types

Public documents from outside the Netherlands, for instance a birth certificate, often need to be legalised or apostilled before they will be accepted for use in the Netherlands. This means that the document is provided with a specific stamp or sticker to prove that the authorized authority in the country of origin issued the document. This way the Dutch authorities are guaranteed about the legal status of the public document. The stamp or sticker on the public documents only proves the competent authority issued the document. It does not extend to the accuracy of the content of the public documents.

The country that requires legalisation of public documents before use in that country, determines what the specific conditions for legalisation are.
There are 3 kinds of legalisation of public documents to be used in the Netherlands. Each kind will be set out below, using a birth certificate as an example.

1. Double legalisation

In case the public document to be used in the Netherlands does not come from another European Union (EU) member state of from a country that has signed the Apostille Convention, you need to provide the public document with a double legalisation.

For the Dutch authorities to accept a foreign birth certificate, the foreign authority that issues a birth certificate, needs to sign the birth certificate. Next, a Ministry in the issuing country needs to legalise this signature from the issuing authority by stamping and signing the birth certificate (first legalisation). Which Ministry is authorized to do the first legalisation, depends on the issuing country. Last, the Dutch representation in the issuing country needs to legalise the signature from the Ministry of the issuing country (second legalisation). Once this step is completed, the birth certificate is ready for use in the Netherlands.

2. Apostille

Public documents from countries that have signed the Apostille Convention are legalised by Apostille. Double legalisation is not required. This means that a birth certificate still requires a signature from the issuing authority in the country of origin, which signature has to be legalised by a Ministry in the issuing country by providing the birth certificate with an Apostille. The second legalisation by the Dutch representation is not required. The Apostille is sufficient for your birth certificate to be used in the Netherlands.

3. Documents from the EU

The EU-Regulation, which has been in force since 16 February 2019, simplifies the rules for using public documents from another EU member state in the Netherlands. For public documents from another EU member state, double legalisation or an Apostille is no longer required. A birth certificate issued by an EU member state can be used in the Netherlands as long as the issuing authority signs it.

The exemption from legalisation only applies to public documents issued by an EU member state for use in another EU member state. Furthermore, the public documents should be required to vote in elections of the European Parliament or in municipal elections or should have the purpose to establish one of the following personal facts:

  • birth
  • a person being alive
  • death
  • name
  • marriage, including capacity to marry and marital status
  • divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment
  • registered partnership, including capacity to enter into a registered partnership and registered partnership status
  • dissolution of a registered partnership, legal separation or annulment of a registered partnership
  • parenthood
  • adoption
  • domicile and/or residence
  • nationality
  • absence of a criminal record.

To facilitate the translation of public documents from EU countries, multilingual standard forms are available for most public documents. These multilingual standard forms are translation aids for the receiving EU member state. When we take the example of the birth certificate, you can request a multilingual standard birth certificate form with the issuing authority. This form is attached to the birth certificate, which in most countries will make it no longer necessary to have the document translated.

Since 1 February 2020 the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union. However, the exemption from legalisation still applies to documents from the United Kingdom, at least until 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, documents from the United Kingdom will need to have an apostille, unless the European Union and the United Kingdom decide otherwise.

With any questions about legalisation, please contact Nikki Vreede.

Legalisation of documents