When we need to use an official Spanish document in a foreign country (judgments, certificates of the Civil Registry, notarial documents, academic records, etc.), it is customary, before ordering a sworn translation, to obtain an Apostille of The Hague, a certification that attests to the authenticity of our document, and which will be recognised -without the need for any additional formalities- in the 82 signatory countries of the Hague Convention.
The Apostille was devised at the Private International Law Convention of The Hague, held on October 5, 1961. Its objective is to expedite the procedures for international legalisation, replacing the cumbersome system of diplomatic legalisation.
But what does the Apostille of The Hague look like? It is a small seal or certification that is affixed to the beginning or end of a document. It includes data such as the country and date of issue of the document, as well as the Apostille identification number.
Thanks to the Hague Apostille, all the countries that signed the agreement recognise the authenticity and legal value of public documents issued by the other signatory countries. The following link opens a list of the countries subscribing to the Hague Convention:
To check if we need to include the Apostille on our document before translating it, we should always consult the recipient, that is, the institution requesting the sworn translation. On many occasions, we must obtain other legalisations before adding the Apostille, as shown on the following page of the Ministry of Justice:
In the case of administrative and legal documents, the usual thing is that we should go to the Central Information Office of the Ministry of Justice – if we are going to carry out the procedure in Madrid – or to the offices of the Local Offices of the Ministry of Justice in the other provinces. Another option is to go to the Government Secretariats of the Superior Courts of Justice and of the cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
However, if our document has been notarised or has a signature legitimised before a public notary, we must consult the Notarial Association of the autonomous community that issued the document.
Finally, public legal documents issued by the National High Court or the Supreme Court will be legalised by the Court Secretaries of the respective courts or by their delegates.
Once the Apostille of The Hague has been obtained and the document has been translated by a sworn translator before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, some countries may require legalisation of the translator’s signature. Usually, this procedure is carried out at the Legalisation Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (c / Juan de Mena 4, Madrid).
However, certain countries may require legalisation by their own consulate or embassy, although many others accept the sworn translation without legalisation of the signature, so it is essential always to check the requirements of the receiving country.
Conversely, foreign documents for use in Spain will need to obtain the apostille in the originating country and subsequently translated. The fact that the translation is performed by a sworn translator accredited by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will generally allow the use of the document in Spain without further formalities.
We hope that this brief summary serves to shine some light on the procedures for the legalisation of documents for international use. Follow these steps, and with a little patience, it is much easier than it seems!