An apostille is a certificate which authenticates the origin of a public document and acts as a guarantee for the international acceptance of documents. For an official document to be used in a foreign country, the validity and origin of the document must be certified. Public documents subject to apostille certification may relate to family relations, in the case of marriage, birth and/or death certificates. However, they may also be commercial documents, such as extracts from the commercial register, corporate contracts, and insurance policies, not to mention patents, diplomas, and verdicts. The public nature of the act is decided by the law of the document’s country of issue It is important to note that this procedure only authenticates the signature and does not certify the contents.
Since documents issued by foreign authorities are not automatically valid in the country of destination, they must also be legalised as well as translated Depending on the destination country where the apostille is requested, the authentication of official documents follows different procedures. In fact, apostilles are only issued by countries that are signatories of the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, which abolished the legalisation of public documents through embassies and consulates. For these countries, including Switzerland, which has been a signatory since 1973, the authenticity of public documents can be certified by means of a standardised stamp – the apostille. For countries who are not signatories of the Convention, proof of a document’s originality must be attained through a procedure of legal seals and official signatures, requiring notarisation or consular authentication, as appropriate.
The authorities responsible for issuing apostilles in Switzerland are the cantonal legislation chancelleries, one for each canton, and the Federal Chancellery of Bern. Foreign Swiss representations are not authorised to issue apostilles, although they may manage the procedure for non-signatory countries.
Apostille authentication is not always necessary, but it is expressly required in many cases. Think of the numerous intergovernmental organisations based in Geneva: different official languages and various legal standards make certification of international documents compulsory. Even foreign companies, who intend to open an office in Switzerland use apostilles for registration reports, statutes, and commercial contracts.
Countries only accept official documents if the apostille’s translation is correct. In Switzerland, the large number of multilingual public documents, which require an apostille-authenticated translation, make expert translation companies like Global Voices essential. Our professional translators have years of experience and specific skills in apostille translation, no matter the destination country. We ensure the right apostille by working with local notary offices, public offices, and consulates. Whether it’s translations of extracts from the commercial register, or international contracts, we offer apostille translation services structured according to your business’ needs.