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Common documents for notarisation & apostille

Common documents found for Notarisation and when necessary for Apostille?

  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates signed by Deputy Registrar of Marriage
  • Death Certificates
  • Certificate of Absence of Marriage Record
  • Certificate of Registered Particulars issued by the Director of Immigration

The above documents may be sent for direct apostille if so authenticated, issued or certified by the Government's competent authority.

Other documents may have to be notarised beforehand:

  • Power of Attorney
  • Copy of Passport
  • Copy of Driver License
  • Transcripts
  • Diplomas
  • Authorization Letter
  • Corporate Power of Attorney

How to obtain authentication of a foreign public document?

The way to obtain authentication of a foreign public document is simple. For country or territory who has participated in Hague Convention abolishing the requirement of legalization for foreign public documents, it require a simple step.

You have to take the public document to the proper authority in that country and obtain a Certificate of Apostille certifying the signatures and/or seal of the issuing authority. In Hong Kong, the place doing such Apostille is The High Court of Hong Kong. You can do this by yourself or by instructing a local notary to do it on your behalf at a fee.  But you have to check out what documents are qualified to do an Apostille: see Documents acceptable for apostille.

Here are the major nations being Hague Convention members: Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Macau, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America. 


What is authentication?

Authentication is the process of proving that a foreign public document is genuine. A foreign document can be authenticated by a local notary public or the public authority or government official issuing it whose authority can further be certified by a more authoritative authority known as Apostille.

The reason that a foreign party asks you to authenticate the foreign public document by a local notary is simple. Each foreign public document serves a particular purpose. For example

  • a marriage certificate proves a valid marriage,
  • a death certificate confirms the death of a person, and
  • a birth certificate shows the identity of one's parents.

The problem is different countries issue different public documents in different forms and languages. It is a common practice that a foreign public document can only be accepted if it is authenticated. 

Notarial Service provided by Notary

Not all legal documents require Apostille. Apostille is required only if the receiving party has made such a request to do so. Therefore, when arranging for Notarisation, enquire with the receiving party of the document: Is Apostille required?

Our two notary public may notarize an oversea document for you in Hong Kong.  If the Notarised documents require an Apostille, you may instruct to do so on your behalf but you may elect to do it yourself (DIY). You may need a Notary Public:-

  • To certify identity of a person or a director of a company
  • To authenticate the originality of a document e.g. a degree diploma or simple an identity document or certificate
  • When dealing with international business transactions such as dealing a real property or acquisitions of assets or shares abroad 
  • To witness the execution of Powers of Attorney 
  • When setting up a business or company abroad 
  • When sending your child overseas appointing a guardian or custodian. This often happens in Canada.

Therefore, a notary witnesses, attests, authenticates and certified a document or a fact or a signature, as the case may be.Other legal services:

When Apostille Required?

"Apostille" means "certification". Our law firm can get an apostille signature and seal on an oversea document notarized by us. You need an apostille seal:

  • When you have a foreign document required by the oversea party or authority that you have to go through this legalization process known as apostille.
  • When you wish to authenticate the genuineness of the signing authority of the Notary Public (his signature, seal and capacity as a duly appointed notary) or the public official signing on the official document e.g. contract, declaration, affidavit etc.

Documents acceptable for apostille

The High Court of Hong Kong provides apostille service. We may act as your agent to get an apostille on your oversea document.

Documents accepted for apostille service in Hong Kong are broadly classified into the following two categories:

  1. Documents signed by a notary public or a Commissioner for Oaths in Hong Kong. For example, (a) Notary Public - Power of Attorney: Certified true copy (b) Commissioner for Oaths: Declaration. Therefore, documents signed and sealed by our Notary Public are acceptable for apostille by the authority in Hong Kong.
  2. Public documents bearing the true signature of an official party such as a Hong Kong SAR Government recognized officer. For example:
    1. Marriage Certificate, ie. certificates signed by Deputy Registrar of Marriage (For certificates signed by civil celebrants or issued by the church/temple, please obtain a certified true copy from the Record Office of the Marriage Registry) 
    2. Certificate of Absence of Marriage Record
    3. Birth and Death Certificate - Certificate of Registered Particulars
    4. Business Registration Certificate
    5. Certificate of Incorporation (With effect from 16 January 2012, applicant shall attach a print-out of the relevant company search made within 3 working days to each of the original copy of the ‘Certificate of Incorporation', 'Certificate of Change of Company Name', 'Certificate of Continuing Registration', or 'Certificate issued under section 305(1) of the Companies Ordinance', etc. issued by the Registrar of Companies to be apostilled. Photocopy of the print-out is acceptable.) 

Apostille is done by the High Court

Apostilles are affixed by Competent Authorities designated by the government of a state which is party to the Hague Convention. The Hague Conference on Private International Law maintain a list of these authorities. Examples of designated authorities are embassies, ministries, courts or (local) governments.

  • United States: the Secretary of State of each state and his or her deputies are usually competent authorities. 
  • United Kingdom: all apostilles are issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes.
  • Hong Kong: the High Court is eligible of placing an apostille on the documents.

Eligibility for an Apostille in Hong Kong

Not all documents are eligible for an Apostille. Please visit other pages of this website.

The Hague Convention or The Apostille Treaty

The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, the Apostille convention is shortly known as the Hague Convention. It is also generally known as the Apostille treaty. Hong Kong is bound by the treaty.

The Apostille treaty is an international treaty drafted by the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

  • It specifies the modalities through which a document issued in one of the signatory countries can be certified for legal purposes in all the other signatory states. 
  • Such a certification is called an apostille (French: certification). 
  • It is an international certification comparable to a notarisation in domestic law.

What is an Apostille Seal?

Apostille is a French word meaning "certification." An Apostille seal does not mean the stamp or seal of a notary public stamp. In USA, apostille seals are administered only from the secretary of state's notary public. In Hong Kong, the apostille seal is affixed by the High Court of Hong Kong.


Apostille seals were introduced to the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. The convention established rules governing the international recognition of legal documents. Not all countries are its treaty members.

Notarial or legalization importance of an apostille seal

An Apostille seal means the document can be used legally in a foreign country. However, only countries that signed Article 12 of the 1961 Hague convention will honour an Apostille. The rest or non-member states or countries may require legalization by the emabssy or consulate-general.

Official requirements

In Hong Kong, not all documents may be submitted for an apostille. A document signed by a notary public is one of the two types of documents qualified to be apostilled. See Documents acceptable for apostille in Hong Kong