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

UPDATED: 9.11.2023.

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 and sometimes legalization) to be used abroad with foreign governments.

So, what are some examples?

  • Perhaps you are applying for residence in Croatia and must 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.
  • You had your name changed in one country and need to prove it in another country. That document would also need to be validated.

Let’s now jump to the theory so that you could understand all the catches better.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to get an apostille and full legalization of government documents

How are government documents validated?

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

HCCH currently has 91 members. You can find the complete list here. A list of 65 countries in the process of becoming a member of the HCCH or have signed, ratified, or acceded to the HCCH Convention is available here.

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

[Read: How to prepare your foreign documents for use in Croatia]

How to get an apostille certification?

What is an apostille?

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

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

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

When submitting a specific application in Croatia, enclosed apostilled/legalized documents must not be older than 6 months from the date of issue of the document – NOT the date of apostille/legalization. This is a 2023 updated policy from MUP.

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 Croatia.

Apostilles on foreign documents for use within Croatia

The apostille is issued by the representative legal 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 other offices also issue them in some states.

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

Some countries are exempt from needing an apostille. Click here to find the list of those countries.

Apostilles on Croatian documents for use outside of Croatia

For use within the EU/EEA

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

This decision applies to the following Croatian documents:

  • Rodni list (birth certificate)
  • Smrtni list (death certificate)
  • Vjenčani list (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/EEA

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

Every Croatian municipality belongs to a particular municipality court nearest its location. Croatia has 34 municipality courts. A list of municipal courts is available here.

What is full legalization of documents?

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).

Countries for which you don’t need to go through the full legalization process because Croatia has signed special agreements with them or they are part of HCCH are on this link.

Foreign documents for use in Croatia

If you plan to use a foreign document within Croatia, you need to have the document fully legalized in the country where it was issued. The procedure varies from country to country, so you’ll need to check with their government to determine precisely 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 legalize the document fully.

#1 Translation of the document

The first step is translating the document you want to fully legalize. The document must be translated by the court translator in Croatia. This person is called sudski tumač.

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 called općinski sud. This is done at the court according to the location of the institution that issued the document.

A list of all Croatian municipality courts is available 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)

[Read: How to get something notarized in Croatia]

At the municipal court, you must pay for:

  • Each original document – 6,64 euros
  • Each translation of the original document – 7,96 euros

#3 Verification with the Ministry of Justice

The next step is to verify the document at the Ministarstvo pravosuđa (Ministry of Justice) in Zagreb.

[Read: All the Croatian ministries and what they do]

They will verify the signature of the municipal judge and the stamp. There is no cost for this procedure.

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

Address: Ministarstvo pravosuđa, Ulica grada Vukovara 49, 10 000 Zagreb – view map

#4 Verification at the Ministry of Foreign and European affairs

The document must also be verified at the Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova (Ministry of Foreign and European affairs) 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 7,30 euros per document. Fees of up to 13,27 euros must be paid in tax stamps. Higher fees must be paid at the bank account of Državni proračun Republike Hrvatske (State Budget of the Republic of Croatia).

View payment information here.

[Read: How to pay bills in Croatia]

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.

[Read: All the foreign embassies and consulates in Croatia]

All of these steps for the full legalization of documents must be done in person. If you cannot be here in person, you can give someone power of attorney to do it on your behalf.

If there is something you need to be 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.

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

View our other documentation posts

Legalization of documents by e-Građani
Legalization of documents by MVEP

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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