The Dutch authorities and the authorities of other countries need to be certain about the status of each other’s documents. It is often difficult to establish that status. It is impossible to know precisely who the authorised officials in a country are, what powers they have, and what a particular document ought to look like.
Legalisation confirms that a document was issued by someone with the authority to issue it, and that the signatures it bears are genuine. Some documents need to be signed by several different authorities in order to be legalised. This is called the legalisation chain.
Some countries have entered into agreements streamlining the legalisation chain. This means that certain documents from one of the contracting states may be used in another contracting state with only a single legalisation or even none at all (mainly within Europe).
The best-known legalisation convention is the convention abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents, also known as the Apostille Convention (5 October 1961). This convention does not completely abolish legalisation but shortens the chain so that only a single action is required, the addition of an apostille. A document bearing an apostille does not require any further legalisation by the embassy or consulate of the country in which it is to be used.
An authorised official issues the apostille once he/she is satisfied that the document and its signature are genuine. In most countries, the apostille is issued by the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The apostille comprises one or more rubber stamps and two or more signatures.
Do I need an apostille?
Whether an apostille is required will depend entirely on the country in which the relevant document was issued. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, and similar documents issued by a country that is a signatory to a legalisation treaty must generally bear an apostille.
At this point around 90 countries are committed to the Apostille Convention. Please check this list of countries to find the country you are looking for.
Is your country of origin not on this list?
If the documents you need to legalise are issued in a country that is not part of the Apostille Convention, the Dutch Missions in that country is responsible for legalising foreign documents for use in The Netherlands. First, however, the documents must have been legalised by the country’s own authorities, usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where the documents were issued. Please contact the Dutch Mission in your home country for further details.
A birth certificate, marriage certificate, or declaration of marital status written in any other language than Dutch, English, French, or German must be translated into one of these four languages by a sworn translator. The translation will then bear the translator's stamp.
Your local Dutch embassy/consulate will be able to put you in touch with an approved translator. If you need a legal document translated and you already live in The Netherlands you can also find a legal translator in The Netherlands.
For more information on legalising foreign documents check the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Passport photos for official identity documents
When you apply for a residence permit or any other legal document, the Dutch authorities often require a passport photo. Since 1 January 2001, new rules (1995 Netherlands Passport Implementation Regulations) apply to passport photographs for identity documents, such as passports, identity cards, and driving licences. The most important change is that, from now on the face of the applicant must be photographed from the front against a light, uniform background. The 1995 Netherlands Passport Implementation Regulations stipulate the following:
- The size of the photo is 4 x 3 cm
- The face of the applicant should be photographed from the front against a light, uniform background and take up about 2 cm of the width of the picture
- Both eyes should be visible, if necessary behind glasses with transparent glass. Dark glasses may not be worn for the photograph unless the applicant has demonstrated that they are necessary for medical reasons
- The head should be uncovered, unless the applicant has demonstrated that a covering may be worn for reasons of religion or health. Should the head be covered, the face should remain visible.
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