The Regulation on Public Documents came into force on February 16th, 2019. It abolishes the apostille requirements for certain documents across EU.

What is an apostille?

The apostille, which has been rather unpopular in practice, came into being as a result of the Hague Convention. The context behind the need of the apostille is that individual states provide nonuniform, complicated and lengthy legalization procedures to submit documents abroad, which requires the involvement of ministries and authorities. The apostille was introduced in the signatory states (worldwide 117 for the time being) as a unitary instrument for the legalization of public documents.

The apostille itself is a square stamp or sticker on the back of a document and confirms the authenticity of the signature (or seal/stamp), as well as the capacity of the signatory. The size and the text of the apostille are rendered so that there are no significant discrepancies between the contractual states.     

Application

In principle, public documents must bear an apostille to be used in another country. Each state establishes to which documents this rule applies and which authorities are competent for the issuance of apostilles. In Romania, these documents are usually notary deeds, commercial register excerpts, school certificates as well as birth, marriage or death certificates or documents regarding civil status. Documents for the establishment of companies which need to be authenticated by the notary public must also be apostilled.     

In Romania, the issuing of an apostille falls to the local association of notaries for notary deeds, or the prefecture for other documents. The procedure in Germany is similar: an apostille is issued either by the authority issuing the document (e.g. the Commercial Register) or by the court president.   

Exemption from the apostille requirements

Public documents exempted from the apostille requirement are those from states that have special bilateral agreements under international law. Romania, for example, has such bilateral agreements e.g. with Austria, France, Bulgaria and Hungary.  

Exempted from any formality are also multilingual excerpts from civil registers (i.e. birth, marriage and death certificates) according to the Convention of The International Commission on Civil Status (ICCS).

News brought by the Regulation on Public Documents

The Regulation on Public Documents introduces (besides other simplifications) unitary, multilingual forms for certain public documents that no longer need translation in the destination country. For documents certifying birth, death, name, marriage, divorce, registered partnership, adoption, or citizenship, the Apostille Regulation abolishes the apostille and introduces unitary templates.   

In addition: according to the Regulation, documents attesting ‘no previous conviction’ can also be used without an apostille. This should also mean that good conduct certificates can be submitted the same way. However, it is unclear whether notarial affidavits by an individual, providing exactly the same evidence of no previous conviction can be used without such apostille. For example, if the manager of a company is replaced, the new manager must submit a specimen signature and an affidavit to affirm meeting all conditions (especially having no previous convictions) to be notarized, before accepting the mandate.

According to an unofficial inquiry with the Commercial Register, such affidavits no longer need to be apostilled.         

Conclusion and Outlook

By means of the Regulation on Public Documents, one should be able to use documents of civil status formlessly within EU member states. Other public documents will still have to bear an apostille within international use, according to the Hague Convention.   

It remains to be seen to what extent these regulations make life easier for companies, as well. Note that we expect it to take more time, in practice, for all the authorities to recognize and apply the regulation.