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Recognition of foreign documents

Recognition of foreign documents in Belarus

The increasing integration of economies and societies around the world leaves a trace on the functioning of legal institutions. Most countries are trying to control and manage globalization processes. Examples of this are treaties on the mutual recognition of documents, as well as the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (1961). The convention simplifies the procedure for the recognition of documents issued abroad. However, a few countries have not entered into such agreements or acceded to the convention, which means that a more complicated process is required to give legal force to foreign documents. Let's consider these mechanisms in more detail.

Why is the legalization of foreign documents necessary?

Not all documents issued by state authorities of one country have full legal force on the territory of all foreign states. Therefore, in many cases, when traveling abroad, as well as opening branches of a company in other countries, a whole package of certified documents is required. International legalization is a form of institutionalization, a way of giving legal force to a foreign document.

Legalization of foreign documents

In order to give legal force to the majority of documents drawn up in Belarus for their submission abroad, as well as to documents of foreign states accepted for execution in Belarus, it is not enough just to certify, sign by an official and affix a seal. There is a special procedure for obtaining legal force by them. All documents can be conditionally divided into three groups:

  • documents requiring consular legalization;
  • documents legalized by affixing an apostille;
  • documents that do not require legalization.

If the country that issued the document has entered into an agreement with Belarus on the mutual recognition of documents (for example, Russia, Ukraine), then to give the document legal force, only a notarized translation into Belarusian (Russian) is required (if it was not originally drawn up in these languages). If there is no such agreement, but the country has joined the Hague Convention on Apostille (for example, the USA, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia), then the document must be apostilled. If a country has not joined this convention (Canada, UAE, Iran, Iraq), then the document is subject to consular legalization.


Apostille (from Latin “post illa”, and then French: note in the margins) is a type of higher recognition of a document, necessary for the international acceptance of foreign state documents. It does not provide information about the quality of the content of the main document, but certifies the signature (and the legitimacy of the one who put it) and the correctness of the seal / stamp on the document that must be certified. Apostille is required when using a document in another country, for example, diplomas, birth certificates, acts, extracts from registers, powers of attorney, marriage certificates, birth certificates, extracts from the commercial register, extracts from the penitentiary register, sentences, certificates and so on. However, documents of a private nature are not apostilled. Such procedure simplifies the entire process of authenticating documents for use abroad, which leads to greater convenience, lower costs and processing time for applicants, but is available only to countries that are parties to the Hague Convention. Nowadays, over 50 countries have joined it.

The convention does not contain a list of bodies authorized for apostillization. The participating countries determine them independently. In Belarus, these are three organizations: the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Archives and Records Management, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Justice apostilles the documents of the institutions of justice and courts, the Department for Archives and Records Management - the documents of the republican archival institutions, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - all other documents.

The cost of affixing an apostille is 0.5 base units. The term for consideration of the appeal depends on the country of preparation of the document: if on the territory of Belarus - 1 day, and if outside the country - 5 days.

Each country that issued an apostille is obliged to keep a register, which records the date and number of each issued apostille, as well as information regarding the person or body who signed or sealed the corresponding public document. Recipients can contact the competent authority and ask if the information on the apostille matches the information in the register. Contact information for competent authorities, including telephone numbers and website information, is available in the apostille section of the Hague Conference website.

Consular legalization

If your document has been issued or will be used in a country where the Hague Apostille Convention does not apply, then the legalization process must be followed. Consular legalization confirms the authenticity of signatures of officials on documents and seals of competent state bodies, as well as the correctness of execution and compliance with national legislation of documents sent from one state and intended for presentation in any other state. International legalization is a form of institutionalization, a way of giving legal force to a foreign document. Requirements for the legalization of a document, as a rule, are in the public domain.

Consular legalization is a complex multi-stage procedure. Its purpose is to solve a practical problem: how can civil and judicial officials reliably verify the authenticity of a document issued abroad. Legalization attempts to solve this dilemma by creating a chain of authenticity verifications, each of which is carried out by an increasingly high government authority, ultimately narrowing the point of contact between countries to a single designated official (usually in the national department in charge of foreign affairs). Thus, by certifying the signature and stamp of this last official, a foreign jurisdiction can confirm the entire chain of checks to the person responsible for issuing the original document, without carefully checking each level separately.

In order to give legal force to the document, you will have to go through the following steps:

  • certify the signature of the notary and the imprint of his seal on the certification inscription on the power of attorney;
  • apply to the appropriate authority for affixing a legalization inscription;
  • confirm in the appropriate authority the authenticity of the seal and signature of the official in the legalization inscription.

Special legalization procedure established by other international agreements

Legalization of documents is not required either in cases where states have concluded bilateral treaties on legal assistance, or if they are parties to international bilateral or multilateral conventions on legal assistance, the text of which explicitly provides for the abolition of legalization of official documents for the participating countries. In this case, to use a foreign document on the territory of a participating country, it is sufficient to translate it into the language of that country and officially notarize the translation of the document by a notary (if he has sufficient knowledge of the relevant language) or the authenticity of the signature of a translator known to the notary from this language.

Translation of foreign documents into Russian or Belarusian

An official translation can be performed by a person with knowledge of the language in which the document is drawn up. The list of people authorized to do this is not limited: you can translate yourself, contact your friends, commercial agencies, the register of translators at notary offices - it is important that the translator has a supporting document. Even if a part of the document is in Russian or Belarusian, it still needs to be translated in its entirety. Under the text of the translation, the translator puts a note that he confirms the accuracy of the translation, indicates from which language and into which the document was translated, and affixes his signature. It is certified by a notary in the presence of a translator with documents confirming his qualifications. This requirement does not apply to translators from the register of notaries. If the text is translated by the notary himself, then he makes a note about the correctness of the translation.