Simplified Certification for Documents in China: The Impact of the Apostille Convention

On March 8, 2023, China officially submitted the instrument of accession to the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, also known as the Apostille Convention.

The Apostille Convention will enter into force in China on November 7th, 2023.

Traditionally, to initiate litigation in China, a plaintiff who is not incorporated inside China or has key evidence formed outside of Mainland China needs to have certain documents (e.g., Power of Attorney, Certificate of Incorporation) notarized and legalized before submitting them to file the case pursuant to China’s Civil Proceedings.

The Hague Convention simplifies the process of authenticating public documents for use in foreign countries that are also parties to the convention. With the apostille issued under this treaty, the need for traditional legalization of documents is eliminated, streamlining the acceptance of documents in member countries.

Although it’s called notarization and legalization, it actually involves three procedures. Firstly, these documents have to be certified by a local notary public. Secondly, they have to be certified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, in the UK, is done through an Apostille issued by His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs, while in the US, it is done by the Secretary of State. The third and final procedure is to authenticate the documents at the Chinese embassy/consulate.

With the certification by the Hague Convention Apostille, a commercial document is entitled to recognition in the country of intended use, and consular legalization (the third procedure) is not required. This will ease trade and help foreign businesses and individuals do business in China.

How to Use the Apostille?

The Convention provides for the simplified certification of public documents to be used in countries that have joined the convention. Documents destined for use in participating countries and their territories should be certified by one of the officials in the jurisdiction in which the document has been executed. The said official must have been designated as competent to issue certifications by an “Apostille,” as provided for by the 1961 Hague Convention.

How Many parties Joined the Convention?

The Convention has over 120 Contracting Parties, and has become one of the most widely applied multilateral treaties in the area of legal cooperation, with several million Apostilles issued each year.

What document is applied?

The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents (Apostille Convention) applies to public documents. Public documents are official documents issued by government authorities or officials, and they include a wide range of certificates, licenses, and legal papers.

Examples of documents that can be apostilled under the Hague Convention include:

1. Birth certificates

2. Marriage certificates

3. Educational diplomas and transcripts

4. Adoption documents

5. Power of Attorney documents

6. Notarial acts

7. Court judgments and orders

8. Police clearance certificates

9. Business documents, such as articles of incorporation or company registrations

10. Official declarations or affidavits

These are just some common examples, and the specific types of documents that can be apostilled may vary slightly between different member countries of the Apostille Convention. The Chinese government has not disclosed the types of documents that can be apostilled.

For more information on the 1961 Hague Convention (abolishing the requirement of legalization for foreign public documents) please visit

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