What is a public document?
Only public documents are apostilled. A public or official document is a document issued by a public authority or an official, for example:
- an administrative document (diploma, certificate, attestation, statement, notification, etc.);
- a document issued by a court or a public authority related to a court (copy of a court ruling, extract from a register, document of a bailiff, etc.);
- a document of a notary or a sworn translator.
All other documents are private documents. However, it is possible for a private document and a public document to be used in conjunction, for instance if a notary certifies the private document as a copy, or makes a notation to confirm the authenticity of the signature, or a sworn translator makes a translation.
In addition, there may be special agreements between countries on the recognition of certain types of documents (such as driving licences) without the requirements for a public document being applied.
How is certification with an apostille performed?
The first thing to check is whether an apostille is actually required in order for the document to be recognised abroad. Apostilled documents can be used in the countries that have joined the Convention on Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (the Hague Convention). A list of these countries can be found here. Once a document has been apostilled, its authenticity is recognised in all of the other countries party to the convention without any additional formalities.
In many cases, however, an apostille is not necessary:
- In Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Ukraine, Estonian public documents are recognised without formalities.
- In Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland and Italy, no apostille has been required for Estonian public documents since 19 September 2013. Documents issued in these countries are also recognised in Estonia without any additional formalities. This also applies to public documents issued in the past.
- Documents issued by diplomatic representatives and consular officials of Austria, Cyprus, Czechia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom are recognised without any formalities.
- According to Regulation (EU) 2016/1191 of the European Parliament and of the Council, when submitting a document to another EU Member State, it is not necessary to apostille documents proving the following:
2) being alive;
5) marriage, including capacity to marry and civil status;
6) divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment;
9) permanent address and/or residence;
11) absence of a criminal record entry.
Nor is an apostille required for extracts of civil status documents in the countries that have joined the Convention on the Issue of Multilingual Extracts from Civil Status Records. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey are also parties to this convention in addition to EU Member States.
Also recognised in Estonia without any additional formalities are extracts from the Finnish population register and certificates of capacity to marry.
Should the original or a copy of the document be apostilled?
Before applying for an apostille, it is advisable to find out whether the foreign authority will only accept the original document to be apostilled or whether a copy will suffice. Generally, the apostille is affixed to the original of the document. In the case of single-use documents in particular (such as certificates of no impediment to marriage and criminal record reports) only the original document is apostilled.
What is the apostille procedure?
In order to have a document apostilled, a written application and the document to be apostilled must be submitted to a notary in person or by post. The notary will issue the apostilled document within five working days of the application’s acceptance. The application will be accepted if it is accompanied by the document requiring the apostille. If the applicant wishes to receive the apostilled document by post, it will be sent by registered mail with the annexes to the address provided in the application.
If you approach Luisa for a sworn translation, we can offer you an all-in-one service. Since we cooperate with a number of notary bureaus, we can arrange for notarially certified printouts of commercial register documents, copies of original documents and the apostilisation of documents. By ordering this service from us you will save yourself time by not having to go to different bureaus, as we can usually complete your order within 2-3 working days.
What documents are unable to be certified with an apostille?
In addition to those already mentioned, documents that are to be used in a country which is not a party to the Convention on Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (the Hague Convention), and which are therefore not ‘apostille countries’, cannot be apostilled. In this case, the document will need to be legalised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Further information can be found here: https://www.vm.ee/konsulaar-viisa-ja-reisiinfo/konsulaarinfo-ja-teenused/dokumendi-legaliseerimine.
Also not apostilled are:
1) administrative documents relating directly to commercial or customs procedures;
2) damaged documents (worn, wrinkled, mended or water-damaged documents, documents with loose covers, etc.);
3) original documents without the signatory’s name, surname and official title (for example, certificates of civil status issued in Estonia between 1941 and 1992). The holder of such a document can apply for a new document from the authority which issued it, or can prove the corresponding circumstance with a certified printout from the population register.
Note: A notary cannot apostille a document which they themselves authenticated or certified. Only another notary (including one working in the same bureau) can do this.
This information is taken from the website juristaitab.ee.