Certification and Authentication of documents

Seal of notary public

Seal of notary public, © colourbox.com


Sometimes, even when abroad, Germans and foreigners may need to have documents certified or signatures or manual signs, transcripts or copies authenticated. Local notaries and authorities are not always able to be of assistance if the document in question is required in Germany.

Legal Basis

German consular officers are empowered by statute to undertake such legal acts for the purposes of German law (section 2 of the Konsulargesetz (Consular Act)). Documents executed before a consular officer rank equally with those executed before a notary in Germany (section 10 (2) Konsulargesetz). Please note that not every mission has a consular officer empowered to undertake all certifications. If you want to have a document certified abroad by a German consular officer, you should ask, when making an appointment, whether the local staff can in fact help you.

The addresses of the appropriate German missions can be found here.

The fees are levied in accordance with the Auslandskostenverordnung (Foreign Costs Ordinance) and are roughly equivalent to those charged by German notaries.

Authentication of signatures / copies

A signature or manual sign is authenticated by being acknowledged or executed in the presence of a consular officer. Signatures on documents to be kept on file at a court may only be authenticated by being executed in the presence of a consular officer. In both cases, the person whose signature or manual sign is to be authenticated must appear in person.

When certifying that transcripts or copies are true copies of originals or certified transcripts/copies, the original or certified transcript/copy must be presented to the consular officer. A transcript or copy of a non-authenticated transcript cannot be authenticated.

Certification of Documents

Consular officers only certify documents where this is necessary, i.e. where German law requires that a document be certified. They do not compete with German notaries. They merely offer a supplementary service which would not otherwise be available. Consular officers have a discretionary duty; unlike notaries in Germany who may not refuse their services without sufficient reason, they are not obliged to execute certifications.

Typical documents requiring certification are applications for certificates of inheritance , acknowledgements of paternity and declarations in lieu of an oath.

Authentication of translations

If German authorities require translations of foreign-language documents, these translations should if possible be done by a translator sworn or certified in Germany. Whether a translation completed abroad may be used in Germany is a question which the authority requesting it decides at its own discretion.

Addresses of translators in Germany can be obtained here.

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