German public documents for use abroad


A foreign state may require proof of authenticity for a German public document. International treaties between Germany and certain countries regulate this matter. Accordingly, different procedures to confirm authenticity may apply.

I. Legalisation

German documents to which none of the Conventions referred to under II to IV below apply may be legalised. Legalisation 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.

Detailed information on the requirements for legalisation and fees charged can be obtained from the relevant foreign mission in Germany (only available in German) .

For practical reasons, documents are frequently not legalised unless prior certification of the document has been obtained from the competent German authority. The German authority which issued the public document will be able to advise you on the competent authority for this certification.

II. The “Hague apostille”

In states which are party to the Hague Convention abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents of 5 October 1961 public documents no longer need to be legalised. All that is 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 not necessary to contact the consular officers of the state in which the document is to be used.
For up-to-date information on States parties to this convention, please refer to the Hague conference website.

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): until 31 December 2022: Federal Office of Administration, Cologne (Bundesverwaltungsamt); as of 01 January 2023 Federal Agency for Foreign Affairs, Brandenburg an der Havel (Bundesamt für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten)
(b) for documents issued by the Federal Patents Court and the German Patent Office: President of the German Patent Office

2. Documents issued by the German federal states (Länder)
Responsibility for issuing “Hague apostilles” is not uniformly regulated in the various federal states (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.

III. “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 form requirements 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, Bulgaria, Cape Verde Islands, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

States parties to the Convention of 5 September 1980 (on the issuance of multilingual certificates of no impediment to marriage) are:
Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

IV. 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 abolish legalisation for certain types of documents or to replace it with a provisional legalisation procedure.
There are, in addition, special international treaties which deal with documents used in legal assistance or commerce.

V. Certification of translations

Translations are not considered to be public documents. Certification by a sworn or certified translator does not make a translation a public document. That is why translations cannot receive the “apostille” or be legalised.

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 therefore legalisation or a “Hague apostille” can be affixed to it.
Whether a translation done in Germany will be recognised by another state is a matter governed by the law of the state in which the translation is to be used.

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