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Legalisation of documents
When a public authority requests a foreign official document, it is often necessary to have it legalised in the country of origin. The legalisation process involves checking the origin of the relevant document. Legalisation is official confirmation that the signature of the civil servant that has signed a document, or the seal or stamp on the document, is legitimate. Apostille is a form of legalisation.
What comes to legalisation the following principles apply between the countries that concern us:
- Since February 2019 a large number of official documents issued by the public authorities of an EU member state to be used in another EU member state no longer need to be legalised (or have an apostille). Thus, legalisation is often not necessary for Finnish or Estonian documents to be used in Belgium or vice versa. This concerns for instance civil status certificates (birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates) as well as extracts from the criminal records. For more details, see the Regulation (EU) 2016/1191 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 on promoting the free movement of citizens by simplifying the requirements for presenting certain public documents in the European Union.
- However, if you need to legalise a Finnish document that does not fall into the above-mentioned category, you can contact the notary public of your local DVV office (Digital and Population Data Services Agency). It concerns here an apostille stamp, since both Finland and Belgium have signed the Apostille Convention of the Hague of 5 October 1961. If you need to legalise a Belgian document, then it is the Belgian authorities (FPS Foreign Affairs), that can attach the apostille on it.
- Estonia and Belgium have signed a bilateral convention (Brussels Convention of 25/05/1987) providing for the abolition of the requirement of legalisation for public documents between the two countries.
Legalisation of a signature
It is important to note that the legalisation of a document and the legalisation or authentication of a signature are not the same thing. Thus, if you need to have your signature legalised on a document, you can contact either the embassy or the competent authority in your country of residence (In Finland: Digital and Population Data Services Agency. In Estonia: notary office). At the embassy this service is subject to a consular fee of 20€.