Certification of Public Documents by Apostille
On 1 December 2017 the register of e-apostilles and the accompanying self-service portal becomes operational at www.notar.ee/apostill.
Starting from 1 December 2017 public documents can also be certified by using a digital apostille or e-apostille.
WHAT IS AN APOSTILLE?
Apostilles are required for official documents issued in Estonia (e.g. school diploma, extract from a register, notarised authorisation document), which are to be used in another country that has acceded to the Apostille Convention.
An apostille is a certificate that certifies the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted.
An apostille shall be attached inseparably to the document. An apostille can be attached to the
• notarially or officially certified copy,
• printout or extract
of a public document.
Any public document must be apostilled in the country where the document was issued.
Since 1 January 2010 the notaries have been issuing apostilles to public documents in Estonia. The contact data of Estonian notaries can be found at https://www.notar.ee/et/notarid/nimekiri.
Regulation No. 38 of the Minister of Justice of 27 November 2009, establishing the Procedure for Authentication and Annulment of Estonian Public Document by Certificate i.e. Apostille can be found at the following web page https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/13238335?leiaKehtiv.
WHAT IS AN E-APOSTILLE?
On 1 December 2017 the register of e-apostilles and the accompanying self-service portal becomes operational at notar-intra.rik.ee/apostill .
The new service facilitates applying for, issuing and checking apostilles, and the circulation of documents between countries.
So far apostilles have been issued for paper documents only, and to do so, the applicant had to take a document to the notary’s office in person or send it by post. The same procedure had to be followed in order to deliver the document to the recipient in the country of destination. However, several countries have already started using e-apostilles, which are issued in digital form and can be checked for genuineness and validity online by the officials of the country of destination.
From December 2017, applications for apostilles to official documents issued in Estonia can be submitted via the self-service portal.
The choice is between four options:
1) Certifying a paper document with a paper apostille;
2) Certifying a paper document with an e-apostille;
3) Certifying a digital document with a paper apostille;
4) Certifying a digital document with an e-apostille.
The choice depends on the form in which the official document to be apostilled has been issued and also, whether the recipient (official or other person in the country of destination) is ready to accept a document certified with an e-apostille.
After the notary has issued an apostille to a document, the recipient (e.g. an authority of another country) is sent a link to the Estonian register of e-apostilles, for the recipient to check the validity of the apostille and also view the apostilled document*.
The notary signs the e-apostille digitally and there is no need to download any additional programs to be able to open the documents in the register. Therefore, forwarding documents through the register is convenient for both the applicant and the authority receiving the document. It is also possible to send a digitally signed e-apostille to the recipient by e-mail, but in this case the latter must be in a position to open the digitally signed document (i.e. has downloaded the necessary program http://id.ee/ (EE)).
*For data protection and security purposes the applicant can decide whether the contents of the document to be apostilled are visible or not; the choice can be made through the self-service portal of the register of apostilles or by a notary. However, the contents of the document must be visible for the recipient when the e-apostille is issued, so that the recipient can check the validity of the document and the apostille. Otherwise the recipient would not be in a position to review the document that is meant to be submitted to the recipient and check whether an apostille has been issued to the document and is valid.
WHAT IS A PUBLIC DOCUMENT?
The following are public documents:
• administrative document (a diploma, certificate, notice, statement, information note etc.);
• document issued by court or an authority related to court (copy of a judgement, bailiff’s document etc.);
• extract from a register;
• notary’s or sworn translator’s document.
MUST THE APOSTILLE BE ISSUED TO THE ORIGINAL OF A DOCUMENT OR CAN IT BE ISSUED TO A CERTIFIED COPY OF THE DOCUMENT AS WELL?
Before applying for an apostille, the applicant should find out whether the foreign authority accepts only the original of the document to be apostilled or whether a certified copy of the document will do as well.
As a rule, the apostille certifies the original of a document.
In case of documents, which are designed to be used on one occasion only (e.g. certificate of capacity to marry, print-out from the criminal records database etc.), the apostille is attached to the original.
IS IT NECESSARY TO TRANSLATE AN APOSTILLED DOCUMENT?
As a rule, a certified translation into the language accepted in the receiving country is added to the apostilled document. The document must be translated by a sworn translator.
COUNTRIES THAT HAVE ACCEDED TO THE APOSTILLE CONVENTION
A public document has to be apostilled, if the document is to be used in a country that has acceded to The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (except countries with which special agreements have been concluded; see subsections 1) and 2) below). The convention entered into force with respect to Estonia on 30 September 2001. The list of countries that have acceded to the convention: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.authorities&cid=41 (PHP).
The text of the convention https://www.riigiteataja.ee/ert/act.jsp?id=78280&replstring=33 (JSP).
A public document that has once been certified with an apostille can be used in all countries that have acceded to the convention.
The following public documents are not apostilled:
1) Documents to be used in a country with which Estonia has concluded a legal assistance treaty.
The texts of the legal assistance treaties in Estonian:
Lithuania, Latvia - https://www.riigiteataja.ee/ert/act.jsp?id=13099214&replstring=3 (JSP)
Russia - https://www.riigiteataja.ee/ert/act.jsp?id=13141764&replstring=33 (JSP)
Ukraine - https://www.riigiteataja.ee/ert/act.jsp?id=13119066&replstring=33 (JSP)
Poland - https://www.riigiteataja.ee/ert/act.jsp?id=79090&replstring=33 (JSP)
The texts of the legal assistance treaties in the relevant foreign languages:
The legal assistance treaty with Latvia and Lithuania in Latvian and Lithuanian respectively (PDF)
The legal assistance treaty with Poland in Polish (PDF)
The legal assistance treaty with Russia in Russian (PDF)
The legal assistance treaty with Ukraine in Ukrainian (PDF)
2) Documents issued in a country which applies the Convention Abolishing the Legalization of Documents in the Member States of the European Communities. In addition to Estonia, countries that are currently applying the convention are France, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Italy and Latvia. Public documents to be submitted to or received from the above countries are not apostilled.
The text of the convention in Estonian: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/206082013002
The text of the convention in English: The Brussels Convention Abolishing the Legalization of Documents in English.pdf
3) Documents to be used in a country that has not acceded to The Hague Convention. In this case the document has to be legalised. For more information, please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs web page: https://vm.ee/en/legalisation-public-document .
4) Extracts of vital statistics data. In July 2012 the agreement between Estonia and Finland abolishing the legalisation of documents of the population registers entered into force; as a result, apostilles are no longer needed for extracts of vital statistics data. Such extracts, issued in English, include the birth certificate, death certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, certificate of capacity to marry, change of name certificate and extracts from the population register. In Estonia all the county governments issue such extracts. From 1 January 2018, the above extracts shall be issued by all local government units of the county centres.
APOSTILLES ARE NOT ISSUED FOR THE FOLLOWING PUBLIC DOCUMENTS:
• Documents issued on the basis of the Vienna Convention on the Issue of Multilingual Extracts from Civil Status Records; such multilingual extracts from civil status records are accepted without apostilles;
In addition to Estonia, the following countries have acceded to the convention: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, The Netherlands (European territory), Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.
The text of the convention: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/202052012001
• Documents executed by diplomatic or consular agents;
• Documents issued on the basis of the regulations of the Council of the European Union, incl. Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters.
The texts of the regulations:
Council Regulation No 2201/2003
Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council
• In addition, the following documents are not apostilled:
1) Administrative documents dealing directly with commercial or customs operations;
2) Spoiled documents (worn, creased, repaired documents, documents damaged by water, documents with covers torn etc.);
3) Original documents lacking the given name and surname and official title of the person who signed the document (e.g. vital statistics certificates issued in Estonia from 1941 to 1992); the owners of such documents can request a new document from the issuing authority or use a certified printout from the population register to prove the relevant circumstances.
NB! A notary may not attach an apostille to a document authenticated or certified by himself or herself; however, another notary can perform the act (incl. another notary of the same notary’s office).
HOW TO APPLY FOR AN APOSTILLE TO A PUBLIC DOCUMENT?
The person who wishes to have a document certified by an apostille shall submit to a notary:
• an application Application form for certification of a document by apostille.pdf
• the document for which the apostille is requested.
The application and the document can be delivered in person, by post, by e-mail or via the self-service portal.
NB! A notary can only process the application if the document to be certified by apostille accompanies the application.
HOW DOES THE NOTARY ISSUE THE DOCUMENT CERTIFIED BY APOSTILLE?
The apostille shall be issued within five working days from the date of accepting the application. The application can be processed only if the document to be certified by apostille is appended to the application. If the applicant has requested that the apostilled document is returned by post, the document and its annexes are sent by registered mail to the address stated in the application.
SPECIAL RULE FOR CERTIFYING STATE EXAMINATION CERTIFICATES BY APOSTILLE
Upper secondary school leaving certificates issued in 1997 or later must be accompanied by a state examination certificate. As of 15 June 2009, state examination certificates are executed solely in electronic form and are certified by a digital seal of the National Examination and Qualification Centre. Notaries can obtain printouts of state examination certificates via the State Portal.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HAVE A PUBLIC DOCUMENT CERTIFIED BY APOSTILLE?
• The notary fee is 26,82 euros, incl. VAT.
• If apostilled documents are to be returned by post, the cost does not include the charge for the postal service.