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French bureaucracy: How to get a document 'apostillé'

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French bureaucracy: How to get a document 'apostillé'
A couple gets married at the Montpellier town hall in 2011 (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT / AFP)

When doing certain French admin tasks you could be asked to present 'aspostillé' documents - here's what that means and how to do it.


The most common reason for needing a document apostillé is if you're applying for French nationality - when you may be asked for apostillé (or sometimes referred to as legalisé) copies of certificates including birth, marriage or divorce certificates.

An apostille is used to authenticate a seal or signature of an official on public, government issued documents.

Essentially, it functions similarly to a notarisation to certify a document on an international level to any of the countries that recognise the 1961 Hague Convention. It allows governments of different countries to recognise the legal standing of documents issued outside of their borders.

For this reason it's only if you are presenting non-French certificates to French bureaucrats that you would need an apostille - how to get one varies depending on where the certificates were issued. 


Documents issued within the EU are generally recognised by France, so you will not need birth, marriage or divorce certificates apostilled if they were issued in an EU country.


Documents issued in the UK generally do not need to be apostilled (though you will still need forms like your birth certificate to be translated by a court approved translator). This is because France and the United Kingdom have a longstanding bilateral agreement, meaning official documents from the UK are recognised in France. 

READ MORE: Certified translations: What are the rules for translating documents into French?

However, if you find that you do need a UK document apostilled, you can either apply online or submit your documents by post or in person.

This process typically takes up to 20 days. You can learn more HERE.

Other non-EU countries

For Australians, only the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) can legalise documents.

In-person appointments can be made with the Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne passport offices, but there is often high demand. Otherwise, documents can be apostilled by the post. You can find information on how to do so here.


As for Indians, in most cases, you should be able to request that your vital documents be apostilled using the E-Sanad online service. If this does not apply to you, then you can find further information on the Ministry of External Affairs website.


For Americans, the process can be a bit complicated as it varies from state to state.

For a birth certificate you will usually first need to request a new copy of your birth certificate (long-version).

READ MORE: Birth certificate: Why you need it in France and how to request one

Some states' vital records can be requested using the website VitalChek, while others will require you to go through the state's Department of State. While it is not standard, some states may also allow you to add the apostille request on when using the website VitalChek.

In most cases, however, you will have to request your birth certificate first and then send a separate request (along with the birth certificate) back to the state's Department of State to request that it be apostilled - many people save time by having their documents mailed to a US address (eg a parent or sibling's address) and then asking them to send off the apostille request.

This will likely involve filling out a form (here is an example from the State of Texas), in which you will include the name of the country where the document will be recorded, the check or money order reference number (typically card payments are not available, but this will depend on your state), as well as a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope.

Some state offices may also allow walk-ins to get documents apostilled. If you plan to be in the United States after requesting your birth certificate, consider doing this as it may save you time. In this case, some offices may accept payment by cash or card. Most states do not offer an online service for apostilling documents.


Keep in mind also that an apostille can only be done by the relevant government body that first issued the document. As such, if you were born in Maryland but your family now lives in New York, then you will still need the state of Maryland to apostille your birth certificate.

Depending on the state, you check their Department of State website to see the timeline for apostilles - for instance, the State of California updates its page to reflect the date of receipt that they are currently processing.

Are there other situations where one might need a document apostilled?

For those getting married or PACSed in France, they will need an apostilled and translated newly issued birth certificate. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about PACS v marriage in France

If you are hoping to adopt a child outside of the country while living in France, then you will likely also need to get relevant vital records documents for the child apostilled by their respective country of birth.


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