China formally accedes to the Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, which will greatly simplify the process of authenticating public documents.
On March 8, the Chinese Ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr. Tan Jian, officially handed over the deed of accession to the Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (the Hague Convention) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, marking China’s formal accession to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention will enter into force in China in the first half of November 2023. This is undoubtedly a great benefit for those who need to send official documents for use in China.
Prior to the entry into force of the Hague Convention in China, if you wanted to send a public document for use in China, in addition to obtaining a valid domestic notarisation or certificate, you would need to undergo consular certification, i.e. consular certification at the Department of Consular Affairs, followed by consular certification by the Chinese embassy in your country (in practice, this procedure is called “Double Certification”). This process takes about several weeks and can cost up to several hundred Euros.
The significance of the entry into force of the Hague Convention in China
On March 10, the spokesperson of Foreign Ministry of China, Mao Ning, pointed out at a regular press conference that China’s accession to the Hague Convention will greatly simplify the procedures for the cross-border circulation of public documents and facilitate international economy and trade and the movement of people. China’s accession to the Hague Convention is an important step in expanding China’s opening in the field of foreign-related document flow and will bring two major benefits.
Firstly, the time and financial cost of transnational circulation of documents is significantly reduced. For ordinary citizens, this means that it will be easier and quicker to obtain documents such as health certificates, driver’s licence certificates, household registration certificates and degree certificates that may be required overseas. After accession to the Hague Convention, the time to complete an official document for use abroad can be reduced from approximately 20 working days to a few working days, and costs are significantly reduced. Each year, more than 300 million RMB can be saved for Chinese and foreign personnel and enterprises. On average, the time taken to process the flow of documents between the contracting states has been reduced by approximately 90%.
Secondly, the business environment will be optimised. After accession to the Hague Convention, foreign enterprises intending to invest in or export to China will not be required to obtain consular certification for documentation. Over 70% of the commercial documents that are used in China’s export trade will benefit from this.
Scope of public documents for which the certification process can be simplified
According to Article 1 of the Hague Convention, the public documents referred to in the Hague Convention include:
a) documents emanating from an authority or an official connected with the courts or tribunals of the State, including those emanating from a public prosecutor, a clerk of a court or a process-server;
(b) administrative documents;
(c) notarial acts;
(d) official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity.
The Hague Convention excludes the following instruments:
(a) documents executed by diplomatic or consular agents;
(b) administrative documents dealing directly with commercial or customs operations.
Therefore, public documents for which the certification process can be simplified include but do not limit to: business license, production license, company registration information, test reports of products, trademark registration certificate, power of attorney, tax certificate, tax clearance certificate, exporters’ registration form; birth certificate, kinship certificate, passport, marriage certificate, power of attorney; certificate of no criminal record, academic certificate, professional qualification certificate, property certificate, medical certificate, judgment, will, etc.
A simplified process for the authentication of public documents
The Hague Convention consists of two main core elements:
Firstly, the abolition of diplomatic or consular legalisations. Under Article 9 of the Hague Convention, the contracting states will no longer have to carry out diplomatic or consular certification of documents that are exempt from certification under the Convention.
Secondly, the processing of additional certificates. Article 3 of the Hague Convention clarifies that for the purpose of certifying the authenticity of a signature, the identity of the signatory of a document, and the proper authentication of the document’s seal, only an additional certificate issued by the competent authority of the country in which the document was issued is required. If the law of the receiving State or an agreement between the contracting states abolishes or simplifies the above-mentioned additional certification, or exempts the legalisation of the document itself, then the holder of the document no longer needs to obtain an additional certificate.
The “additional certificate” mentioned above is the Hague certification (APOSTILLE certification), which for the issuer refers to the second level of certification issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Supreme Court, the State Government or other governmental bodies of the members of the Hague Convention. Different countries have different departments that issue the Hague certification, China will also announce such departments in the near future.
Hague certification is a much simpler process than the previous consular certification. It is only necessary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the High Court of Justice or another government body to issue the certificate, rather than the subsequent certification by a consulate; in addition, Hague-certified documents are more widely available. In contrast to consular certification, which can only be used in one targeted country, Hague certification can be used in all Hague Convention members.
In summary, the simplified certification process consists of only two parts: firstly, obtaining a valid domestic notary or certificate; and secondly, obtaining Hague certification from the competent authorities.
For more information on the Hague certification, , please feel free to contact our China Practice Job Bezemer (email@example.com), Victor Zheng (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Peiying Li (email@example.com).