Legalization of public documents from abroad (legalization or apostille)

Issuance of legalization or apostille on documents from abroad for legal transactions in Germany

Authorities or courts in Germany often only recognize foreign public documents if their authenticity or probative value has been established in a special authentication procedure. There are two authentication procedures for proving the authenticity of foreign documents for international legal transactions:

  • Legalization by a German foreign representation (German embassy or consulate in the state where the document was issued) or
  • Apostille (also called "Hague Apostille") by the respective responsible office of the state in which the document was issued.

Whether legalization or apostille is required depends on the state in which the document was issued. The countries for which the "Hague Apostille" is sufficient because they are contracting states of the Apostille Convention with Germany, are listed in the Länderverzeichnis

TIP:

Certain public documents issued in an EU member state have been recognized as genuine without any apostille since February 16, 2019. This applies, for example, to civil status and registration documents such as birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, certificates of name, nationality, divorce and residence, but also to police clearance certificates (Führungszeugnisse).

In addition, there are bilateral agreements with various countries to waive legalizations and apostilles, particularly for civil status documents.

Apostille

In some cases, the apostille as a simplified certification procedure can replace the legalization. With the apostille (= stamp of the responsible office in the country where the document was issued), the document is recognized directly in Germany. Involvement of a German foreign representation is not necessary.

Legalization

Public documents to which no international convention is applicable can be legalized by the German foreign representation (embassy or consulate in the respective country).

In most countries, the legalization of documents is only possible if a preliminary verification by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other authorities of the issuing country has been carried out first.

Attention! Discontinuation of legalization

Some German foreign representations are currently unable to legalize documents due to the conditions in the respective state, as they are unable to adequately verify the authenticity of the documents. These representations have therefore discontinued legalization with the approval of the German Federal Foreign Office until further notice. A so-called "on-site verification" can remedy this situation:

Verification within the framework of administrative and legal assistance

Within the framework of administrative assistance for German authorities or legal assistance for the courts, the German consular officers of the foreign representation concerned can - depending on the local circumstances – commission a verification of the certified facts.

German authorities or courts that require documents from one of the concerned states (for example, for the registration of marriage or the entry of a marriage concluded abroad into the marriage register) can request such verification.

Note: The verification costs must be borne by you as the document holder.

Legalization

German representation abroad (German embassy or consulate) in the respective country for documents from their area of jurisdiction

Preliminary verification

Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other authorities of the issuing country

Apostille

Each contracting state determines which authorities issue the apostille - please enquire with

  • the office that issued the document or
  • the responsible German foreign representation
Tip: The German foreign representations usually have a leaflet containing the addresses of the apostille offices and additional information on the procedure; further information can be found on the websites of the German foreign representations.

Point of contact

German foreign representation (embassy/consulate)

–>  Foreign representations of the Federal Republic of Germany
  List of the Federal Foreign Office

Onlineantrag und Formulare

Kein Onlineantrag und keine Formulare vorhanden.

Zuständige Stelle

Keine zuständige Stelle vorhanden.

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Service details

Procedure

The authority to which you have to submit the public document determines the formal requirements. Therefore, please contact the respective authority for more detailed information.

Legalization:

At first, please contact the responsible German foreign representation to find out which requirements, if any, must be met for the specific legalization procedure.

  • You have to apply for the legalization of documents at the responsible German foreign representation. If you, as the holder of the document, are unable to visit the German foreign representation yourself, for example because you are staying in Germany, you can also submit the application and the document by mail. The application can also be submitted by relatives or acquaintances on site if they have been duly authorized by you to do so.
  • If preliminary verification of the document is required, you have to contact the responsible office in the country of issue first.

Apostille

  • If you only need an apostille, contact the relevant foreign (apostille) office.

Note that you have to present the original foreign documents. Copies are not sufficient, even if they are certified.

Mail delivery

If the postal service is not reliable enough for you to send the application and the document to the German foreign representation or the responsible office in the country of issue, you can commission one of the international commercial courier services to deliver it.

Support and assistance

If you encounter linguistic or other difficulties in the preliminary verification of documents or the issue of a "Hague Apostille" from abroad, which make direct contact with the responsible office abroad impossible, please contact the local German foreign representation.

In exceptional cases, the German foreign representation can act on your behalf. However, this only applies if you are a German citizen.

Note:
  • Further information on the legalization procedure can be obtained from the German foreign representation in whose area of jurisdiction the document was issued.
  • Please note that in some countries there is no German embassy and the corresponding area of jurisdiction is served by a German embassy in a neighboring country.

Required documents

  • Original document
  • in case of legalization: preliminary verification of the issuing country
  • if necessary: power of attorney for the representative

Deadlines

The waiting periods for obtaining an apostille from the responsible foreign office can sometimes be long.

Costs

Legalization: Fees and expenses according to the Foreign Costs Act (Auslandskostengesetz) and the Foreign Costs Ordinance (Auslandskostenverordnung) between EUR 25.00 and EUR 85.00 per document.

If the legalization cannot be carried out because, for example, the document turned out to be counterfeit, a processing fee of 75% will be charged.

Apostille: Fees and expenses according to the law of the respective foreign country.

Verification within the framework of administrative and legal assistance

The costs incurred for verification within the framework of administrative and legal assistance depend on the individual case. As a rule, verification proceedings will only commence once the document holder has paid an appropriate advance on costs.

Release note

Saxon State Chancellery, Editorial Office Amt24. 09.03.2021