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A Guide to Apostille Services

An Apostille certificate simply means that your document that originates in South Africa has been authenticated or legalised by The Legalisation Section at the Department of International relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), or the Registrar of the High Court of South Africa, thereby authenticating the origin of a public document.

Who requires Apostille services?
South Africans travelling abroad are often required to legalise their documents for official use abroad.

If you plan on using legal documents outside of South Africa, you’ll have to get these documents apostilled at DIRCO in Pretoria, in order to ensure their validity. Before obtaining an Apostille Certificate for South African documents, you’ll need to verify that the country that will be receiving the document is a signatory to the Apostille Convention (Convention de La Haye du 5 Octobre 1961).

What is an apostille from DIRCO?
DIRCO Apostilles are official certificates attached by the Department of Foreign Affairs in South Africa to original documents and authenticate that the document and signatory on the document are verified and accurate.

What is DIRCO?
The DIRCO Apostille is a South African government service that legalises documents for use in other countries. It certifies the authenticity of signatures, stamps, and seals on public documents issued in South Africa. The service applies to documents issued by government departments, academic institutions, and public entities.

What documents get Apostilled?
Basically, any document that you need for travel or work may need to be Apostilled.

Although there are a wide variety of documents that can be Apostilled, the most common documents include the following:

  1. marriage certificates;
  2. birth certificates;
  3. death certificates;
  4. letters of no impediment / single status certificates;
  5. divorce certificates and decrees of divorce;
  6. police clearance certificates;
  7. educational qualification documents;
  8. powers of attorney (when signed in person in front of the Notary);
  9. copies of Identity Documents including passports and driver’s licenses;
  10. TEFL and TESOL certificates (once a photocopy has been notarised as a true copy of the original by a notary public);
  11. Travel consent letters for minors (when signed in person in front of the Notary);
  12. Company incorporation documents and resolutions (copies can be notarised as true copies of the original):
  13. Commercial contracts (copies can be notarised as true copies of the original or can be signed in person in front of the Notary);
  14. Affidavits for use in foreign courts (when signed in person in front of the Notary);
  15. Foreign property transfer documentation (when signed in person in front of the Notary);
  16. Statutory declarations (when signed in person in front of the Notary);
  17. Last Will and Testament and Letters of Executorship (Probate) (copies can be notarised as true copies of the original or officially certified copies can be uplifted from the Master of the High Court); and
  18. in addition, any document that needs to be copied and the copy thereof notarised as a true copy of the original can then be Apostilled.

What is the process for Apostilling documents?
The process for apostilling documents involves three steps. First, you need to ensure that your document is an original or a certified copy issued by the relevant authority. Second, you need to have the document notarized by a South African notary public. Finally, you can submit the notarised document to the DIRCO Apostille Service for legalisation.

Can Apostilled documents be used in any country?
Yes, apostilled documents can be used in any country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention. Currently, there are over 100 countries that are signatories to the convention, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and most European countries.

How long does it take to get documents Apostilled?
Once we have received your documents that need to be Apostilled it will take approximately 6 – 8 weeks. We can also offer an expedited DIRCO service.

Important facts to remember about Apostille:
Keep in mind that an Apostille only certifies the origin of the public document to which it relates – it certifies the authenticity of the signature or seal of the person or authority that signed or sealed the public document and the capacity in which this was done (usually a Notary Public). It does not however certify the content of the public document(s) to which it relates. Apostilles are not grants of authority and do not give any additional weight to the content of underlying documents. An Apostille may never be used for the recognition of a document in the country where that document was issued, it is only to be used abroad.

An Apostille Certificate is an official government Certificate that authenticates the seal and or signature of the public official or authority such as a notary or registrar issuing the document.

An issued Apostille Certificate confirms that the person signing, sealing or stamping a public document has lawful authority to do so, and the Apostilled document automatically becomes a legal document in countries which are members of the Hague Convention. It does not authenticate or confirm the contents of a document.

Note – it is up to the country where the Apostille is to be used to decide how much weight is to be given to the underlying public document. If you have any doubts, you should ask the intended recipient of your document whether an Apostille is necessary in your particular case.

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