• Convention on Apostille, bilateral treaties for mutual legal assistance and the Community law
  • December 10, 2010 | Author: Rossitsa Voutcheva
  • Law Firm: Ilieva, Voutcheva & Co. Law Firm - Sofia Office
  • Under Article 2 of the Convention each Contracting Party shall exempt from legalisation these documents, which the Convention applies to and have to present in its territory. Under the Convention “legalisation” means the formal procedures by which the diplomatic or consular agents of the State, in whose territory a document must be presented, certify the authenticity of the signature, the capacity in which the signatory has acted or the authenticity of the seal or stamp on the document. With the placement of an Apostille stamp the requirement for legalisation is considered satisfied.

    This Convention applies only to public acts, which according to the text of the Convention are:

    • Documents issued by an authority or an official of the judicial system of Contracting party, incl. documents issued by the Office of the Prosecutor, Court Secretariat etc.; 
    • Administrative documents;
    • Notary Acts;
    • Official certifications such as registry entries or certifications of dates or signatures on private documents.

    The Bulgarian authorities authorised to put an Apostille are the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The former certifies by Apostille the following documents: 

    • acts of the Courts;
    • Notary acts/deeds. 

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs certifies by Apostille all other public documents such as:

    • Documents on civil status and address registration issued by the municipalities; 
    • Various certificates, licenses and other ministries, state agencies and commissions; 
    • Diplomas for education, acquired professional qualifications;
    • Documents from the National Social Security Institute, National Statistical Institute and others. 

    For example a Diploma for an educational degree issued by the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science and certified by an Apostille is recognised in other Contracting States without any other authentications from consular authorities in the concerned countries.

    Documents from the United States of America and provided with an Apostille do not have to be legalised by the Bulgarian Consulate General in New York or by the Embassy in Washington. They are recognised by the Bulgarian authorities when the original Apostille is attached on them.

    Documents, prepared by diplomatic or consular officials remain outside the scope of this Convention. These are regulated by the European Convention on the abolition of legalization of documents executed by diplomatic agents of consular officer[2] s. The latter presides over all other treaties or agreements, which the Contracting States have entered in. 

    Besides the Convention abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents there are no other treaties or agreements which regulate the legalisation of public documents on a European/Community level. All EU Member states are signatories to the aforementioned convention and therefore these relations between the Member States are governed by it.

    Exceptions to the Convention can be made where there are other treaties or agreements between two or more Contracting States, but only if these treaties meet certain requirements, provided in the Convention. Article 8 of the Convention defines its position to the other treaties, concluded by two or more of the Contracting states. If such treaties or agreements exist, they shall be revoked by the Convention only if the formalities, enshrined in them are stricter than the ones provided in ¿rticles 3[3] and 4[4] of  the Convention. An example of the application of the latter provision can be seen in the comparison between the Treaty[5] for mutual legal assistance between Bulgaria and the Russian Federation( the Treaty) and the Convention on Apostille. Article 12 of the Treaty stipulates that documents, prepared or certified by an official signature of a court or another competent authority, including the certification of private documents, have probative value without the need for Apostille or any other certification[6] . Thus, in the absence of an obligation to put an Apostille the formalities, enshrined in this Treaty are more lenient than those provided in the Convention. Pursuant to Article 8 of the Convention the Mutual legal assistance agreement with the Russian Federation prevails.

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    The newsletter above is intended for information purposes only. It should not be construed as (binding) legal advice.  For a thorough understanding of the subjects covered and prior acting on any issue discussed we kindly recommend Readers consult Ilieva, Voutcheva & Co. Law Firm attorneys at law.

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    [1] Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961 supprimant l’exigence de la légalisation des actes publics etrangers(Convention Apostille)

    [2] European Convention on the abolition of legalization of documents executed by diplomatic agents of consular officers, London, 7.VI.1968

    [3] The only formality, that may be required for verification of signatures, the capacity in which the person acted, and where necessary the authenticity of the seal or stamp on the document, is the attachment by the competent state authority of the certificate described in Art. 4 of the Convention. The formality, described above may not be required where laws, current state practice or arrangements between two or more Contracting States cancel, simplify or exempt the legalization.

    [4] The Certificate, enshrined in Article 3(1) is placed directly on the document or on an extension to the latter and must conform to the example annexed to this Convention. The Certificate may be issued in the official language of the authority, issuing it. The standard phrases, used in it may be in a second language.       

    [5] Treaty between the Republic of Bulgaria and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on Mutual Legal Assistance in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters, Prom. SG issue 12 of 10.02.1976, effective from 18th  January 1975

     [6] 1. Documents, which have been drawn up and/or certified in accordance with the established form by the competent authorities of one Contracting party shall be accepted without legalization in the other Contracting Party. The same shall apply to documents of individuals, when their signatures are certified according to the rules and procedures of the respective countries.

    2. Documents, which are considered official documents on the territory of one Contracting Party shall have the same probative value on the territory of the other Contracting Party.