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German public documents for use abroad

I. "International documents" (CIEC Conventions)

German civil status documents and certificates of no impediment (for marriage) issued following the model contained in the International Commission on Civil Status Conventions (CIEC) are exempt from any requirements relating to form in the other States parties.

States parties to the Convention of 8 September 1976 (on the issue of (multilingual) extracts from birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates) are: 
Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

States parties to the Convention of 5 September 1980 (on the issuance of multilingual certificates of matrimonial capacity) are: 
Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

II. Bilateral international treaties

The Federal Republic of Germany has concluded bilateral treaties in the field of civil status and the certification of documents with the following states: 
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

In these treaties it was agreed to do without legalization for certain types of document or to replace it with a provisional legalization procedure.
There are in addition special international treaties which deal with documents used in legal assistance or commerce.

III. The "Hague apostille"

In the States which are party to the Hague Convention abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents of 5 October 1961 public documents no longer need to be legalized. All that is now required for these documents is the so-called "Hague apostille". This Convention applies to all public documents with the exception of documents executed by consular officers and documents issued by administrative authorities which relate directly to commerce or customs.

The "Hague apostille" confirms the authenticity of a public document, the original of which must be submitted to the designated authority. For German documents, the "Hague apostille" is issued by the designated German authorities (see below). It is no longer necessary to contact the consular officers of the state in which the document is to be used.

States parties to this Convention are:
Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, China (only documents to be used in the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions), Colombia, Cook Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark (except Greenland and Faeroe Islands), Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia,  Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand (excluding Tokelau), Niue, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia; Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tomé and Príncipe, South Korea, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom ( additional Anguilla, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, St. Helena, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands), the United States, Vanuatu and Venezuela.

Designated "apostille" agencies

In the Federal Republic of Germany the following agencies are responsible for issuing "Hague apostilles":

1.Federal documents
(a)for documents from all Federal authorities and courts (excluding those named in (b))

Federal Office of Administration, Cologne 
(Division II B 4, 50728 Köln)

0221-7584100

(b)for documents issued by the Federal Patents Court and the German Patent OfficePresident of the German Patent Office

2. Documents issued by the German Länder

Responsibility for issuing "Hague apostilles" is not uniformly regulated in the various Länder. We therefore recommend that you ask the issuer of any particular document which authority is designated to issue a "Hague apostille" for that document.

In general, responsibility lies with

(a)for documents from the judicial administration authorities, the general courts (civil and criminal) and notariesMinistries (or Senate Departments) of Justice; Presidents of the Regional (or Local) Courts
(b)for documents issued by courts other than those of general jurisdictionMinistries (or Senate Departments) for the Interior; Chief Administrative Officer of the district (President of the administrative district/district authority); Ministries (Senate Departments) of Justice; Presidents of the Regional (or Local) Courts
(c)for documents from all administrative authorities
(excluding judicial administration authorities)
the Ministries (or Senate Departments) for the Interior; Chief Administrative Officer of the district (President of the administrative district/district authority); in Berlin (030-902690), Registry Office I, in Rhineland-Palatinate, the Supervisory and Service Directorate in Trier, and in Thuringia, the Land Office of Administration in Weimar.

IV. Legalization of German public documents

German documents to which none of the Conventions referred to under I to III above apply, may be legalized. Legalization is carried out by the diplomatic or consular mission of the country in which the document is to be used. It is up to the foreign mission to choose how it shall decide that a document is authentic. If they themselves do not have an up-to-date sample signature or seal from all potential issuing authorities, or do not look at the register of the issuing authority for each legalization, then they will have to develop special procedures. This is especially the case in states like Germany that have a very large number of issuing authorities which are particularly hard for the consular missions of other states to keep track of. Normally missions will demand prior certification of the document by a German authority, and sometimes further certification, known as validation, is also required. Accurate information on the requirements for legalization and charges can be obtained from the relevant foreign mission in Germany.

V. Prior certification/Validation

For practical reasons, documents are frequently not legalized unless prior certification of the document has been obtained. The agencies empowered to provide prior certification are listed in the table below. Since responsibility for providing prior certification is not uniformly regulated in the various Länder, we recommend that, if in doubt, you ask the issuer of any particular document where to go.

(a)judicial and notarial documentsPresident of the Regional (or Local) Court
(b)administrative documents (e.g. certificates of civil status, registration certificates)Chief Administrative Officer of the district (President of the administrative district/district authority)

In Länder without district authorities, the Land Ministries of the Interior are responsible, in Bremen and Hamburg the Senate Department for the Interior and Department for the Interior respectively. In Land Berlin, Registry Office I has been made responsible, in Rhineland-Palatinate, the Supervisory and Service Directorate in Trier, and in Thuringia, the Land Office of Administration in Weimar.

(c)school and university certificatesas for administrative documents

In the following Länder different offices to those named above are responsible: in Baden-Württemberg, the Ministry for Culture and Sport and the Ministry for Science and Research; in Brandenburg, the Ministry for Science, Research and Culture; in Saarland, the Ministry for Education, Culture and Science.

(d)commercial papers (e.g. certificates of origin, trade accounts)Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Chambers of Crafts and Trades
(e)certificates of good conduct from the policeFederal Public Prosecutor – Federal Central Criminal Register (in Bonn) www.bundesjustizamt.de

The missions of the following states additionally require the validation of the document by the German Foreign Office before they will legalize it:
Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Iraq, Iran (only for university certificates), Jordan,  Lebanon (only for school and training certificates), Mali, Myanmar, Nepal, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Togo.

The Federal Foreign Office has delegated the task of validating German documents to the Bundesverwaltungsamt (Federal Office of Administration) (directive of 21 February 1969). Since transferring this competence to the Federal Office of Administration, the Federal Foreign Office no longer certifies documents. The foreign missions in Germany have been informed to this effect.

The postal address of the Federal Office of Administration is:

Bundesverwaltungsamt
Referat II B4
50728 Köln.
The Office is located in Cologne Braunsfeld, Eupener Strasse 125. It is advisable to telephone before going round in person (tel. 0221 7584100 or 0228 993584100).

The Federal Office of Administration can only validate documents for which prior certification has already been obtained from the relevant agency (see above).

VI. Certification of translations

Translations are classified as an expert service, not public documents. Certification by a sworn or certified translator does not make a translation a public document. The legalization/apostille procedures listed under II to V above therefore cannot be applied to translations.

It is however possible for the President of the competent court to issue a certificate verifying that the translator is a sworn or certified "expert". This official verification is a public document and so a legalization or a "Hague apostille" can be affixed to it.

Whether a translation done in Germany will be recognized by another state is a matter governed by the law of the state in which the translation is to be used.


Last updated 28.02.2011

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