Apostille versus full legalization of government documents

Apostille issued by state of Texas for use in Croatia
Apostille issued by state of Texas for use in Croatia

For a document issued by a government to be used in a different country, that document needs to be validated. You might think “It was issued by the government. It’s already valid.” Unfortunately, this is not the case. Based on international conventions, any government-issued document requires additional validation (usually an “apostille”) to be used abroad with foreign governments.

So, what are some examples?

  • Perhaps you are applying for residence in Croatia and need to provide a copy of your birth certificate from your home country. That needs to be validated.
  • Maybe you’re applying for citizenship and need to provide your marriage certificate from a foreign country. That needs to be validated.
  • Or let’s say you had your name changed in one country and need to prove it in another country. That document would also need to be validated.

How are government documents validated?

Most government documents are validated with an apostille. The apostille is a specific type of validation that was agreed upon and outlined by The Apostille Convention. This convention is also referred to as the Apostille Treaty, or the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (HCCH). This international convention allows documents issued in one member country to be used for legal purposes in other member countries.

There are 86 members of the HCCH. You can find the full list here. The countries that are in the process of becoming a member of the HCCH, or have signed, ratified or acceded to HCCH Convention can be found here.

If your country is not a party to these conventions, then your document must go through a process referred to as full legalization.

In this post, we will cover:

How to get an apostille certification

What is an apostille?

The apostille confirmation confirms the validity of the stamp and signature of the legal person that has signed the document. The apostille confirmation doesn’t confirm the content of the document. It merely validates that it is a legal government-issued document.

This apostille confirmation is usually a certificate that is attached to the original document by the competent government authority.

Croatia is a member of the HCCH, which means that Croatia can issue apostilles for their own documents and Croatia’s government accepts apostilles issued by other governments of the convention.

We’ll now outline how to get an apostille for a foreign document for use within Croatia, and also for a Croatian document for use outside of Croatia.

Apostilles on foreign documents for use within Croatia

The apostille is issued by the legal representative authority where the document was originally issued.

For example, if your document is issued in Finland, you need to get an apostille confirmation from the local Register office in Finland. If your document was issued in Australia, you can get an apostille from an Australian embassy, high commission or consulate abroad or at a passport office within Australia.

The United States is a weird one, so we’ll also give this example as well. Government documents in the US are issued by an individual state. For most states, you must go to the Secretary of State of the state where the document was issued although in some states, there are other offices that issue them as well.

To find out where to go in your country to get an apostille, click here.

Apostilles on Croatian documents for use outside of Croatia

For use within the EU

From February 16, 2019, there is no need for an apostille confirmation for certain legal documents issued on the territory of the EU for use within the EU.

This decision applies to the following Croatian documents:

  • Rodni list (a birth certificate)
  • Smrtni list (a death certificate)
  • Vjenčani list (a wedding certificate)
  • Potvrda o slobodnom bračnom stanju (Confirmation on the free marital status)
  • Potvrda o životnom partnerstvu (Certification on life partnership)
  • Uvjerenje o prebivalištu/boravištu (Confirmation on prebivalište/boravište)
  • Potvrda o nepostojanju kaznene evidencije (Confirmation of the absence of criminal acts)
  • Potvrda za kandidiranje ili glasanje na izborima za Europski parlament ili na lokalnim izborima u drugoj državi članici (Confirmation of candidacy or voting in European Parliament or local elections in another Member State)

For use outside of the EU

If you need to verify a document issued in Croatia for use outside of Croatia and the EU, you can request an apostille confirmation from the competent municipality court. Go to the nadležni općinski sud (competent municipality court) closest to the institution that issued the document.

Every Croatian municipality belongs to a certain municipality court that is nearest to its location. There are 34 municipality courts in Croatia. The list of all municipality courts can be found here.

Full legalization

If there is no agreement between Croatia and another country either through the HCCH or another treaty, documents must pass through the process called puna legalizacija (full legalization).

Foreign documents for use in Croatia

If you’re planning to use a foreign document within Croatia, then you need to have the document fully legalized in the country where it was issued. This procedure varies from country to country, so you’ll need to check with that government to find out exactly what is required.

Croatian documents for use abroad

For those who wish to use a Croatian document abroad, you must follow the below steps to fully legalize the document.

#1 Translation of the document

The first step is translation of the document you want to fully legalize. You must do this at the notary public in Croatia, called “javni bilježnik”.

The document must be translated into the national language of the country where you are going to use it. If you’d like to be connected with a vetted translator and notary, please contact me.

#2 Certification by the competent municipal court

After the translation, you must verify the document at the competent municipal court. Go to the court according to the location of the institution that issued the document. The list of all municipality courts can be found here.

Your document may originally be issued by one of these institutions:

  • Matični ured (registrar’s office)
  • Javni bilježnik (notary public)
  • Sudski tumač (court interpreter)
  • Sveučilište (university).

At the municipal court, you will pay the following fees:

  • Potpis (signature) or rukoznak (handwriting) – 30 kuna
  • Potpis (signature) or pečat and štambilj (stamps) on documents of Croatian state Authorities and local and regional state institutions, companies or other legal entities – 50 kuna
  • Manuscripts – 50 kuna for each half-sheet of manuscript
  • Transcript – 50 kuna for each half-sheet of transcript
  • Potpis (signature) and pečat (sign) of a permanent court interpreter, permanent court translation expert, or an expert finding or opinion – 60 kuna

#3 Verification with the Ministry of Justice (Ministarstvo pravosuđa)

The next step is to verify the document at the Ministarstvo pravosuđa in Zagreb. They will verify the signature of the municipal judge and the stamp. The cost for this procedure is 30 kuna per document.

Verification can be done during these working hours:

  • Monday to Thursday – 9:00 to 11:00, 13:00 to 15:00
  • Friday – 9:00 to 12:00

Ministry address:
Ministarstvo pravosuđa
Ulica grada Vukovara 49
10 000 Zagreb – View map

#4 Verification at the Ministry of Foreign and European affairs (Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova)

The document must also be verified at the Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova in Zagreb. They verify the signature of the official persons and the stamp of Ministarstvo pravosuđa.

In addition to the original documents, you must bring copies and your identification document (an ID card or a passport).

The cost for this procedure is 55 kuna per document. Fees of up to 100 kuna must be paid in tax stamps. Fees that are higher than 100 kuna must be paid at the bank account of Državni proračun Republike Hrvatske (State Budget of the Republic of Croatia).

Payment information:
IBAN: 121001005186300016
Model number 64
5002-721-OIB

Here is a guide on how to pay bills like this in Croatia.

Ministry address:
Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova
Petretićev trg 2
10 000 Zagreb – View map

Once you arrive at the ministry, you need to locate this department:
Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova Republike Hrvatske
Uprava za konzularne poslove
Sektor za međunarodnu pravnu pomoć, državljanstvo i putne isprave
Služba za međunarodnu pravnu pomoć

#5 Verification at the diplomatic mission

The final step is to verify the document with the foreign diplomatic mission in Croatia for the country where you wish to use the document. If that country doesn’t have a diplomatic mission within Croatia, you must visit the closest one to Croatia.

The list of all foreign embassies and consulates in Croatia can be found here.

All of these steps for full legalization of documents must be done in person. If you are unable to be here in person, you can give someone power of attorney to do it on your behalf. If there is something you need legalized and you don’t know or trust anyone in Croatia to do it for you, contact me and I can put you in touch with a vetted lawyer.

Here is the list of countries for which you need to go through the full legalization process.

Here is the list of countries for which you don’t need to go through the full legalization process. These countries are exempt from both apostille and full legalization because Croatia has signed special agreements with them.

If you are reading this post because you seek to use a document in Croatia, here are some other resources depending on your situation:

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