If you have property in Spain there is a chance that at some point you will be asked to provide a legalised version of an official document you have from your home country. In order to do this you will need to obtain the ‘Apostille’ of the Hague Convention.
The Apostille came to be because of the need to have a standardised legalisation procedure between the countries who are part of ‘The Hague Convention of 1961’. It is a crucial method of conveniently demonstrating the legality of a document from a foreign country. The Apostille is, in fact, a stamp that is attached to the original document. It confirms that the signature, seal or stamp on that document is genuine.
The Apostille is normally issued by the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, depending on the country. There is another agreement called the ‘Agreement number 17 of the CIEC’ which has been signed by several European countries but these don’t include the UK, Ireland or Sweden.
Quite recently one of the Ábaco staff found out, to her surprise, that she needed one too. Caroline Clinton explains, ‘I was confirming my husband’s SIP card and, even though we have been married for 29 years and lived in Spain for 27. I was still asked to produce a legalised version of our marriage certificate.’
Caroline knew that this meant she needed to prove the authenticity of her marriage certificate by obtaining an Apostille. ‘I was actually quite surprised at how easy it was to do. I sent my certificate by registered mail to the Legalisation Office and paid online. It cost £ 30 but I also had to pay for return postage. This was special delivery so I knew the certificate would be safe. They sent it back to me within a week and I was able to use it as confirmation that we were married.’
The amount of time it will take for your document to be processed depends upon how straightforward it is for the authorities in your country to check its authenticity. In the UK, the public official whose signature is on the form will need to be confirmed through comparing it with a specimen signature. If no specimen is available this can hold up the application for Apostille.
Documents that can be legalised include:
- Bank statements
- Birth certificates
- Court documents
- Death certificates
- Doctor’s letters
- Degree certificates
- Wills and probate
- Power of attorney
In some cases the process becomes more complicated because an official translation by a sworn translator is needed. A sworn translator is accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm that the translation is a true and accurate translation of the original. You might need a sworn translation of an insurance report or an employment contract. If you plan to marry in Spain you might need a sworn translation of your birth certificate.
Both the Apostille and the sworn translation ensure that there are no misunderstandings when using a document that is legal in one country as part of a legal process in another. In many respects it can make life easier for everyone concerned, including Spanish officials.