On 18 January 2021, Singapore deposited its instrument of accession to the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (“the Apostille Convention”). On 16 September 2021, Singapore’s accession to the Apostille Convention became effective. The Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”) has been designated as Singapore’s designated authority to issue apostilles under the Apostille Convention.
Requirement of Legalization
Where a document is executed in one country but is required for use in another country, the document must be “legalized” in order for the document to be recognised and accepted in that country. For example, if a party resident in Singapore requires a Power of Attorney to appoint someone to manage his property in a foreign country, the Singapore resident must arrange for the Power of Attorney to be legalized before the Power of Attorney will be accepted and recognised in the foreign country.
Prior to the adoption of the Apostille Convention in Singapore, the legalization process often involved visits to several government officials or authorities and embassies, usually in a certain order, before a document is “legalized” and accepted in the foreign country. This process was often complicated and costly.
The Apostille Convention
The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (“Apostille Convention”) is a multilateral treaty with over 120 contracting parties. Its aim is to facilitate the use of public documents abroad.
The Apostille Convention abolishes the previous requirement of legalization where documents are to be used in another contracting party. Pursuant to the Apostille Convention, an authority is appointed in each contracting party which is responsible for issuing certificates that certify the origin of documents produced in that member state. The certificates are known as, “apostilles”. The apostilles are accepted by the contracting parties as proof and verification of the origin of the document. Therefore, once apostilled, the document has the same effect of “legalized” when used in a contracting party. In comparison to the former “legalization” process, the issuance of an apostille is a simple and streamlined process.
The Apostille Process in Singapore
For public documents i.e. documents issued by the government such as marriage certificates, birth certificates and court documents, a party may submit the documents to SAL which will then issue the apostille. Members of the public who require such service may submit an online request with SAL.
For private documents, the document must first be signed and notarized by a Notary-Public before it is submitted to the SAL which will then issue the apostille.
With this new streamlined process, parties intending to use documents executed in Singapore in foreign countries which are contracting parties of the Apostille Convention do not have to take the additional step of attending at the foreign country’s embassy to legalise the documents.
For documents which are to be used in foreign countries which are not contracting parties of the Apostille Convention, parties must still approach the relevant embassy or consulate to legalize the documents.
Benefits of Singapore’s Adoption of the Apostille Convention
The effect of Singapore’s adoption of the Apostille Convention saves time and costs for parties and facilitates cross-border use of documents. There is certainty and assurance to parties that documents, once properly apostilled, can be used in other member states.