Legalization of educational documents is a procedure for giving a diploma or certificate to a legal force in the territory of another state. It exists so that further actions can be taken with the document not only in the country where it was received but also abroad. Often, legalization is mandatory, although not the only, requirement for a document on education when entering a foreign country.

Legalization (apostille or consular) should not be confused with an officially certified translation of documents, which does not legalize the document, but only helps foreign organizations in its consideration. The recognition procedure also differs from legalization. It is needed to establish the equivalence of a diploma / certificate in the territory of the country of destination.

Diploma translation

When is legalization required

As a rule, legalization is needed if it is necessary to use a document on the territory of another country. At the same time, in addition to the diploma / certificate, the documents requiring legalization include:

  • Marriage / divorce certificate
  • Birth certificate
  • Court documents
  • Certificate of conduct
  • Power of attorney
  • Translations made by sworn translators
  • Other forms, references, certificates

The type of legalization depends on the country's participation in the Hague Convention: participating countries accept apostille, and the rest require consular legalization.

In what cases is legalization not required

Legalization of an educational document is not required in the following cases:

  • The presence of bilateral and multilateral agreements that abolish legalization.
  • The absence of a corresponding requirement in certain educational institutions (legalization may still be needed at the next stages of education or in other universities).

It is worth noting that agreements can apply both to all documents and certain types of certificates.

Types of legalization of documents

There are two types of document legalization:

  • Consular legalization is a complex bilateral procedure involving the certification of a document by government agencies of various levels. As a rule, this is a notary, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country that issued the document, and the consulate in the planned country of study.
  • Apostille is a simplified legalization procedure adopted by the countries-participants of the Hague Convention of 1961 (total of 118 states). Provides for affixing a special sign / stamp, an apostille, on originals or copies of documents.

The main difference between the two types is that consular legalization is valid only in the country whose consulate legalized the document (for example, a Russian university diploma legalized by the Russian consulate in Canada is valid only in Canada), while an apostille affixed in Russia is recognized by all States that have ratified the Convention.

Another difference is in timing. Due to the complexity of the procedure, consular legalization takes longer than apostille.

The need and required type of legalization should be clarified in each specific case. Some countries, even in the presence of special agreements, require a document with an apostille (for example, Greece). At the same time, others, not participating in the Hague Convention, may recognise apostille (for example, Canada).

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Who is involved in the legalization of education documents

Legalization is always carried out on the territory of the country where the document was issued, with the help of competent authorities. So, for the implementation of the consular legalization of the certificate / diploma, it is necessary to apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country and then to the consulate of the country where the applicant is entering.

What is an apostille

Apostille is a special sign that is affixed to originals or copies of documents and means the legality of their use in other countries.

According to the Hague Convention, an apostille must be rectangular or square with a side of at least 9 centimetres and contain several pieces of information according to the model. The title is always in French: Apostille (Hague Convention of October 5, 1961), the rest may be given in French / English and / or the national language.

The method of affixing depends on the country: stamp, glue, seal, or sticker. Apostille can be placed on the document itself or attached. For example, In Russia, an apostille is in the form of a stamp directly on the document.

Example of an apostille in Russian language
Example of an apostille in Russian language

How to affix an apostille on documents

First of all, it is worth remembering that an apostille can only be affixed in the country where the document was received. Consulates or embassies of other countries are not suitable for these purposes. Apostilling is carried out by special authorities, which are determined by the document type. So, documents can be apostilled by:

  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Registry office
  • Department of Education
  • Other authorized bodies

Conditions for affixed apostille:

  • The country where the document was issued and the country of destination (where the document will be used) have ratified the Hague Convention.
  • The document is issued according to the state model.
  • The document has a distinguishable seal and signature.
  • There is no lamination on the document.

The need for an apostille should be clarified in each specific case. So, there are documents that, in principle, do not require legalization in many countries, for example, a passport.

What is consular legalization

Consular legalization is a more complex procedure, which is carried out in stages on the territory of two states. This type of legalization is relevant for those countries that have not ratified the Hague Convention.

As in the case of an apostille, only documents drawn up by the state model and having a distinguishable seal and signature can participate in the procedure. The result of consular legalization is a document that can only be used in the country whose consulate will certify it at the last stage.

Example of a consular legalized document
Example of a consular legalized document

How to pass the procedure of consular legalization

To pass consular legalization, you must:

  • Translate a document in the language of the country where it is planned to be used (if necessary).
  • If the translation is not required, you need to certify the translation or document with a notary.
  • Certify the signature of a notary in the Ministry of Justice.
  • Legalize the document in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Certify the document at the consulate or embassy of the country of destination.

It is worth checking for additional requirements depending on the country. The whole procedure of consular legalization takes approximately 2-3 months.

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Peculiarities of legalization and recognition of a diploma upon admission

The complexity of legalization and recognition lies in the fact that in some cases it is necessary to go through both procedures. In some — only through the first. In others — only through the second. However, there is another procedure — translation of a document into the language of the country of study, which also has its nuances in each country. For example, in the Czech Republic, only translations made by their notary or consular translators are accepted.

Below is a summary table of the procedures by their order of completion.

CountryTranslation of a certificate / diplomaRecognition in the country of study
Czech RepublicConsularNostrification
Great BritainNotarialConducted by the university
The NetherlandsNotarialConducted by the university
AustriaConsular / NotaryConducted by the university
GermanyConsular / NotaryConducted by the university
ItalyConsularConducted by the university
BulgariaConsularRecognition at the Ministry of Education
PolandConsularRecognition at the Ministry of Education
USANotary / ProfessionalEvaluation / Not required
CanadaNotary / ProfessionalEvaluation / Conducted by the university
AustraliaNotarialConducted by the university
NorwayNotarialConducted by the university
SwitzerlandNotarialConducted by the university
SpainProfessionalHomologation / Not required
FranceConsularConducted by the university
BelgiumConsularEquivalence / Conducted by the university

Types of document translations

After legalization, the diploma or certificate must be translated into the language of the country of study

  • Consular is carried out by court interpreters or interpreters at the consulate in the country of study. This is the most expensive, but the most reliable way to translate your documents with high quality.
  • Notarial is performed with the help of a notary office. Despite the notary's certification, such translations often require additional verification of the spelling of subjects and the correct transliteration of the student's name.
  • Professional is a translation of documents in a professional translation agency with the seal of the agency and the signature of the translator. Such translations require careful checking by the student due to a large number of unscrupulous translation agencies.
Translation of documents doesn't equal legalization.
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