About the Apostille Convention


The purpose of the Convention is to abolish the requirement of legalisation and to facilitate the use of public documents abroad by introducing a simplified authentication process, the Convention facilitates the use of public documents abroad thus promoting international trade and investment. An international treaty developed and adopted by the Hague Conference. The full title of the Convention is the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. The final text of the Convention was adopted by the Hague Conference at its Ninth Session on 26 October 1960 and was first signed on 5 October 1961 (hence the date in its full title). In accordance with its Article 11(1), the Convention entered into force on 21 January 1965, 60 days after the deposit of the third instrument of ratification. The Hague Conference has adopted many other international treaties (known as the Hague Conventions).


The Apostille Convention is the most widely ratified and acceded to of all the Conventions adopted under the auspices of the Hague Conference (known as the “Hague Conventions”). It is in force in over 100 States from all major regions representing all major legal systems of the world, making it one of the most successful international treaties in the area of international legal and administrative co-operation.


Legal Definition of and history of the word Apostille
Origin of the Word Apostille - Hague Apostille Convention

The word “Apostille” (pronounced a-pos-TEE, not a-pos-TEAL or a-pos-TILL-ee) is of French origin. It comes from the French verb “apostiller”, which derives from the old French wordpostille meaning“annotation”, and before it the Latin wordpostilla, a variation of the word postea, which means “thereafter, afterwards, next” (Le Nouveau Petit Robert: Dictionnaire alphabétique et analogique de la langue française, Paris, 2004). Usage of the words “Apostille” and “apostiller” dates back to the end of the 16th century in France.
Thus, an Apostille consisted of an annotation in the margin of a document or at the end of a letter.


During the negotiations on the Hague Apostille Convention, the term “Apostille” was preferred because of its novelty. According to the reporter: “Following a discussion on terminology [in the French language], the word Apostille have been preferred because of its appealing novelty.” The meanings of the word Apostille described above are still valid today.

  Dictionary Meaning     
1 archaic : a marginal note
2 : a document used in international law that is issued by a government in accordance with the Hague Convention and that certifies that another document has been signed by a notary public.
History and Etymology for apostille. Middle French, from apostiller to add notes, ultimately from Medieval Latin postilla note, probably from post illa (verba textus) after those (words of the text)

 What does a South-African Issued Apostille look like?    
While an Apostille should conform as closely as possible to the Model Certificate, in practice Apostilles issued by different Competent Authorities vary. These variations may be in design, size and colour as well as in any additional elements mentioned outside the box that holds the 10 numbered standard informational items. Such variations in appearance are not a basis for refusal of an Apostille by the intended recipient! Hereunder a sample of an South-African Apostille.