The apostille in Hong Kong is a document that has been issued by the official authorities according to the Hague Convention. This is done in order to certify that a document of interest has been signed by a notary public.
The Hague Convention is an international treaty according to which a document issued in a signatory country can be certified for legal purposes in all the other states that have signed the Convention. The certification, according to the Convention, is called an apostille and it is comparable to a notarization in domestic law. It serves as a supplement to the locally notarized document.
A document that bears an apostille Hong Kong can be requested by authorities in certain countries and it can be performed in case of several types of documents that are clearly established. In this article, our team of lawyers in Hong Kong highlights the main issues regarding this procedure. For more information, interested individuals can reach out to us.
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What documents can be subject to apostille in Hong Kong?
Not all documents are accepted for apostille services. However, their classification is a relatively simple one as they fall into two broad categories:
- Public documents with an official signature: these have been issued by the Hong Kong Government and include marriage certificates, birth and death certificates, business registration certificates or certificates of incorporation for a company in Hong Kong;
- Documents signed by a notary public: these include a power of attorney, a certified true copy or a legalized authorized document translation; documents signed by a commissioner for oaths are also accepted for an apostille in Hong Kong (such as a declaration).
For those who are interested in obtaining the apostille for a certificate of incorporation, it is worth noting that the applicant is to attach to the file the print-out of the company name search performed with the Registrar of Companies. Our attorneys in Hong Kong can provide complete details and assistance during this process.
What is the general process to obtain apostille in Hong Kong?
The application procedure is not a complicated one, however, direct submission of the document to the authorities in Hong Kong is required. The steps are briefly outlined below:
- Present the document: the process to obtain an apostille in Hong Kong starts with the presentation of the document to the Apostille Service Office, at the High Court Registry in Hong Kong;
- Document assessment: the Apostille Service will decide if the document can be accepted and this will depend on whether or not is it one of the types of documents presented above;
- Fee payment: applicants should keep in mind that the apostille in Hong Kong is subject to a clear fee and the process cannot continue without this step;
- Proof of payment: the applicant is expected to pay the fee after the submission of the documents and then return with the proof of payment to be added to the apostille application;
- Collection of the documents: once the payment is made and the applicant has received notice that the apostille has been applied to the submitted document, he can collect in person or through an authorized person.
Overseas applications are accepted for an apostille in Hong Kong. This means that either the applicant empowers another individual to travel to Hong Kong with the original document and the payment fee and handle the process altogether or that he chooses to mail the document to the Apostille Service Office together with a bank draft for the processing fee.
Those who are interested in this service should duly note the requirement to provide the original document in good form. This means that the document presented for apostille needs to be clearly readable, with readable text, stamps and signatures and integral. The document must not contain additional writings apart from its original form (it will be rejected if it has been written upon).
The costs and the processing time to keep in mind for this service are the following:
- 125 HK$: this is the usual fee for the apostille service that is required per each apostille placed on a document; it also applies when the applicant sends the documents by mail; cash sent directly to the Apostille Service is not accepted for this procedure;
- 15.5 HK$: this is the fee for sending the document by registered air-mail, when the applicant cannot be present in Hong Kong in person (the additional cost in included in the bank draft that is sent with the original document);
- 2 days: this is the normal processing time for the apostille applications (excluding Saturdays).
Please note that these fees may be subject to change.
The Apostille format
The apostille is a stamp placed on the authenticated document. It includes a fixed number of fields, ten fields in total, which are numbered accordingly. These fields are: the country, the individual that signed, his capacity (notary public), the seal or stamp that is included, where and when the signature took place, the authority that issues it, the number, the seal or stamp of the authority issuing the apostille as well as the signature.
In practice, this seal can be placed on the back of the document or attached to it (it can also be placed on the document itself, however, special consideration is taken in this case to preserve the integrity and readability of the document).
It should be noted that the apostille does not provide any certification on the content of the document (it’s quality and/or the information included therein). It serves as a certification of the signature of the one that signs it (the capacity of that individual/institution) as well as the seal/stamp on the document that is to be certified. Examples of documents that may be of questionable value include diplomas issued by higher education institutions that provide illegitimate degrees for a certain fee. Therefore, the text of the apostille makes it clear that this certification is issued only for the seal and signature. It expressly states that “the Apostille only confirms the authenticity of the signature, seal or stamp on the attached public document. It does not confirm the authenticity of the underlying document.”
An apostille does not have an expiration date, however, should the document become invalid, so does the apostille. In other cases, the country that receives the document may ask that the apostille be placed no later than six months (or another period, as indicated). Therefore, the applicant may need to have the document re-apostilled to meet the specific criteria as the apostille clearly includes the date on which it was placed. It is recommended to check any specific requirements before commencing the process.
The Apostille Convention
The Apostille Convention or Treaty is an international treaty put in place by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. It defines the ways in which a document issued in one of the signatory states may be certified in another of the signatory state, a certification that may be required for legal purposes. The apostille is sufficient between two signatory states and it means that the individual will not need to handle a double certification of the said document (which would otherwise be needed both in the country that issued the document and in the country that receives the document).
The Apostille Convention was signed on October 5th 1961 in the Netherlands and it entered into force on January 14th 1965.
In February 2021, 120 states had signed the Apostille Convention. Examples include the following: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela and others.
How can our lawyers in Hong Kong help you?
Our team of lawyers can assist you throughout the apostille process and/or the notarization of the document, as needed. We can help by collecting the original documents and handling the application in person with the Apostille Service Office, acting as a representative.
Many foreign investors and foreign nationals who need to handle document submissions in Hong Kong find that it is beneficial to work with a local team of lawyers who can act as their representative when making these mandatory submissions with the authorities. English and Chinese are both official languages in Hong Kong and foreign nationals do not encounter a language barrier because of this (as may be the case in other countries), nonetheless, even with a wide use of English, a local team can help those interested submit the documents and follow with the mandatory procedures much more efficiently compared to when working for the first time and needing information on how to proceed and what is required.
Working with our team for apostille purposes is easy, and it can save you needed time to handle other mandatory submissions. We can also provide quality services related to the translation of the documents, should this be a needed process.
Contact us for more information on the apostille in Hong Kong, the notarization and legalization of documents in Hong Kong and how these processed should be performed.