Facilitating Cross-Border Use of Public Documents through the Apostille Bill
5 Oct 2020 Posted in Press releases
- The Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) submitted the Apostille Bill (the “Bill”) for First Reading in Parliament today.
- When the Bill is passed, it will allow for Singapore’s obligations under the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (“Apostille Convention”) to take domestic effect. It will also transfer the legalisation function from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (“MFA”) to the Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”). These reforms will not only streamline and modernise the process for authentication of public documents for recognition across jurisdictions, but will also save time and lower costs for users.
- The Apostille Convention facilitates the use of public documents abroad through the use of a simplified one-step process. Many States require that foreign public documents be “legalised” before they are recognised and accepted in those States. Legalisation describes the multi-stage process whereby the signature, seal or stamp on a local public document is certified as authentic by a series of public officials along a “chain”, to a point where the ultimate authentication is readily recognised by the foreign State of destination.
- The Apostille Convention abolishes the requirement of legalisation. Instead, each Contracting Party designates a Competent Authority, responsible for issuing certificates that certify the origin of official documents produced by the Contracting Party. These certificates are known as apostilles. All Contracting Parties1 are obliged to accept apostilles as sufficient to verify the origin of the underlying document. This replaces the cumbersome and often costly formalities related to the legalisation process with the “one-step process” of the issuance of an apostille.
- The Bill gives effect to the obligations under the Apostille Convention domestically. When Singapore becomes a Contracting Party to the Apostille Convention next year, all other Contracting Parties are obliged to waive the legalisation requirement for public documents issued by Singapore authorities, and must accept the apostilles issued by Singapore’s designated Competent Authority.
- This will save cost and time for persons who seek to use Singapore-issued public documents in other Contracting Parties. Examples of such documents include marriage certificates, educational certificates, birth and death certificates, passports and identity cards. Likewise, the Singapore authorities will be obliged to accept apostilles in place of legalisation for incoming foreign public documents from Contracting Parties, where applicable.
Apostillisation and legalisation functions to be centralised
- The SAL will be designated as Singapore’s Competent Authority under the Apostille Convention, and will be responsible for issuing apostilles to certify the origin of public documents issued by Singapore authorities. When the Apostille Convention enters into force for Singapore, bearers of Singapore-issued public documents who require apostilles to be affixed to their documents can approach the SAL.
- In addition, for users’ convenience, the legalisation function of outgoing public documents issued in Singapore and intended for use in States with legalisation requirements will be transferred from MFA to SAL by January 2021. The transfer of this function to SAL ties in with SAL’s current authentication services, making it more convenient for the legal industry and the public.
- Further details in respect of the transfer of the legalisation function from MFA to SAL will be announced in due course.
MINISTRY OF LAW
5 OCTOBER 2020
1. As of the last official update on 24 October 2019, there were 118 Contracting Parties to the Apostille Convention, including the USA, the UK, Australia, Hong Kong and India. For the list of Contracting Parties, see this link. ↩
Last updated on 5 Oct 2020