The Apostille Convention: Should Ethiopia Join?

By Hami Bogale and Dagnachew Tesfaye

The Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents also known as the Apostille Convention. The Apostille convention brought about a basic simplification of the series of formalities which complicated the utilization of public documents outside of the countries from which they emanated. Where it applies, the treaty reduces the authentication process to a single formality: the issuance of an authentication certificate by an authority designated by the country where the public document was issued. This certificate is called an Apostille.

The public documents covered under the convention include birth, marriage and death certificates; documents emanating from an authority or an official connected with a court, tribunal or commission; extracts from commercial registers and other registers; patents; notarial acts and notarial attestations (acknowledgments) of signatures; school, university and other academic diplomas issued by public institutions. However, the Apostille Convention does not apply to documents executed by diplomatic or consular agents. The Convention also excludes from its scope certain administrative documents related to commercial or customs operations.

The traditional method for authenticating public documents to be used abroad is called legalization and consists of a chain of individual authentications of the document. This process involves officials of the country where the document was issued as well as the foreign Embassy or Consulate of the country where the document is to be used. Because of the number of authorities involved, the legalization process is frequently slow, cumbersome and costly.

The Apostille Convention reduces the need for double-certification by originating state and that of the receiving state. The convention is applied millions of times each year throughout the world. It greatly facilitates the circulation of public documents issued by a country party to the Convention and that are to be used in another country also party to the Convention.

As of Ferbruary 2021, 120 countries are contracting states to the Apostille convention.

Since the convention greatly simplifies the authentication of public documents to be used abroad, Ethiopians will benefit by joining the convention.