What this is: China has acceded to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization, as of March 8, 2023. The accession will go into effect on November 7, 2023.
What this means: At that time, documents destined for use in China will no longer require consular legalization. An apostille from the appropriate Secretary of State or the U.S. Department of State should be accepted.
The Accession of China to the Hague Apostille Convention will be welcome news to businesses working in China or with Chinese companies. It means they no longer have to rely on the full legalization process to enable documents originating in the US to be authenticated for use in China. This process, required for countries that have not acceded to the Hague Apostille Convention, can be time consuming and difficult, often involving multiple agencies and delays that can last several weeks.
The Hague Apostille Convention, formally known as the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, is an international treaty that simplifies the process of authenticating public documents for use in other countries. The Convention requires member countries to recognize apostilles as sufficient evidence of the authenticity of the public documents to which they relate. After November 7, authenticating a public document for use in China, or authenticating a Chinese public document, will only require that an apostille is attached by a Competent Authority. In the US, the U.S. Secretary of State, the Secretaries of State for each individual state and the federal courts are all competent authorities. So, for example, to authenticate certified copies of the certificate of incorporation for a Delaware corporation, you will only need to request the copies with an attachment of an apostille for the country of China from the Delaware Secretary of State.
Before November 7, you will need to continue to follow the full legalization process to authenticate documents for use in China, which often involves obtaining authentication from the Secretary of State, further authentication from the U.S. State Department, and then consular legalization from the Chinese Embassy. It is not uncommon for this process to take several weeks. As the November 7 date approaches, we recommend keeping these likely delays in mind. There is a chance that a document that has gone through the full process just prior to the 7th will not be accepted when presented after November 7. The simplest and most cost-effective approach in September and October may be to wait for November 7 and obtain an apostille at that time.
Looking for ways to prove that your US document’s certifications and seals are valid? Visit our page on Authentication, Legalization & Apostille Services.
China's accession to the Hague Apostille Convention will make it easier for individuals and businesses to authenticate documents for use in China and to authenticate Chinese public documents for use in other countries. This accession will likely facilitate international trade, investment and cooperation between China and other countries. It should also help to increase transparency, reduce bureaucracy and facilitate international transactions.
For a complete list of countries and territories that are party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization, visit the Authentication/Legalization Resources page of our website. On this page, you will also find our list of useful Authentication/Legalization websites and our list of notary search websites where you can verify the status of notaries.
How can you verify an apostille?
In some jurisdictions it is necessary to contact the Competent Authority by phone to verify the authenticity of the apostille. However, to simplify the process, many Competent Authorities have implemented online electronic registries (e-registries) that enable holders to verify its origin. Typically, it is an easy process requiring the user to enter the apostille number and issue date. In the United States, the Competent Authority is often the Secretary of State of the individual state and at least 11 states have implemented electronic registries. Read more in our article Using Online E-Registries to Verify Apostilles.
What happens when a country is not a member of the Hague Convention?
For documents originating in the US destined for a country that is not a member of this Hague Convention, there are many more steps involved in the document legalization process (as outlined below). The process varies depending on whether you are legalizing public documents, such as certified copies of court documents, or private documents, such as corporate bylaws for a US company or a private contract. We have a handy chart for you to refer to in our article A Step-by-Step Guide to Document Authentication and Legalization.
What are some of the quirks in the legalization process?
By nature of its process, legalizations are slow, cumbersome and often expensive. Depending on the countries involved, there may be additional quirks and complications. A few things to consider as you embark on a legalization process:
- Some consulates will not legalize a public document unless that document has been translated. That translation may also have to go through the appropriate chain authentication.
- Consulates each have their own requirements for supporting documentation, such as passports or officer’s certificates.
- Just because a country’s consulate has certain requirements in a US jurisdiction does not mean that country’s consulate in a different jurisdiction has the same requirements.
- In many civil law countries, a notary’s signature and seal will need to be court certified.
- Current diplomatic relationships (or lack thereof) between the two countries can impact the legalization process.
For even more information, you can read our article Demystifying Non-Us Document Authentication and Legalization.
This content is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.