Legalizations for China – It's getting easier!


­published on 22 March 2023 | reading time approx. 2 minutes


On March 8, 2023, China acceded to the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961, Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents ("Hague Convention"). The legal effects of the Hague Convention will enter into force on No­vem­ber 7, 2023. It should be noted here that the legal effects will only apply between China and those signatory states to the Convention that have not objected to China's accession.


With the entry into force of the Hague Convention, the use of foreign public documents of a contracting state in China (and vice versa) will be significantly simplified, as the previously required authentication and legalization procedure will be eliminated and, as of the date of entry into force, the affixing of an apostille to the document will be sufficient.
The authentication and legalization procedure in Germany is a very complex and time-consuming process. In addition to the (initial) authentication of a document by the issuing authority or a notary, further authentication by the locally competent district court or a notary as well as final authentication by the Federal Office of Ad­min­istration (Bundesverwaltungsamt) or, since January 1, 2023, the Federal Agency for Foreign Affairs (Bundes­amt für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten) is necessary. Only then can the final authenticated document be submit­ted to the Chinese consulate or embassy for the purpose of legalization. The entire procedure may very well take several weeks and incur further costs (involvement of a notary public) in addition to the fees for govern­ment bodies.
As of November 7, 2023, the legalization procedure will be replaced by the apostille procedure in accordance with the Hague Convention. The "Hague Apostille" is the confirmation of the authenticity of the signature and the authority of the issuer of a document. However, unlike legalization, it is issued by a designated authority of the state by which the document was issued, according to the established standard of the Hague Convention, i.e. legalization by a consulate or embassy of the state in which the document is to be used is not required.
The apostille procedure in Germany is much simpler and faster. An apostille can usually be obtained in a few days, also depending on the type of document. Only occasionally does the application of an apostille take longer than two weeks. This should significantly reduce the administrative burden for companies that are engaged in China, for example with a subsidiary, and accelerate processes such as the establishment of a subsidiary or restructuring.

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