UPDATED IN AUGUST 2021
An apostille is a higher form of authentication for a document or person (sworn translator, notary public). It replaces what’s known as superlegalisation – another form of higher authentication for official documents. By affixing an apostille to an official document, it can be used within the territory of any signatory country that has ratified the Apostille Convention (or Hague Treaty Convention). If a document is to be used in a country that’s not part of the Apostille Convention, a higher level of certification is required in the form of superlegalisation, which is done at the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.
What’s an apostille?
An apostille is a certificate issued by a competent authority of a state that’s a signatory party to the Hague Convention. An apostille authentication shortens the process of obtaining higher authentication for foreign public instruments. A public instrument that’s affixed with an apostille may be used without further verification in the territory of another contracting party to the Convention and in dealings with any said party’s authorities. An apostille is issued for use in a particular signatory state to the Convention, therefore an apostille certificate should not be translated in another state.
The foreign authorities can thereby be sure that the document you’re submitting is not forged and has been issued by a body authorised to do so.
What does an apostille look like?
An apostille is generally a stamp or sticker on the back of a certified document. It includes 10 standardised and numbered bullet points that confirm the authenticity of the attached document. A duly completed apostille certificate confirms the authenticity of a signature, the function of the person who signed the document and, where appropriate, the authenticity of the seal or the imprint of the stamp on the document (Article 5 of the Convention).
Who issues an apostille?
In Slovakia, we don’t have one single authority that handles all issuances of apostilles. An apostille is always issued by the authority that’s directly superior to the authority that issued the original, relevant document. Individual documents can be apostilled with the authorities who have jurisdiction.
A list of the most frequently translated documents and the office that apostilles them:
- vital records (birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates) are apostilled by the competent district office,
- criminal background checks are certified for use abroad by the General Prosecutor’s Office and then apostilled by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
- original education documents, such as transcripts, report cards, and diplomas, are apostilled by the Ministry of Education (and in some cases, by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Defence), and only then may a notarised copy of the document be made (followed by an apostille of the notary public at the relevant regional court),
- trade licenses for use abroad issued by the competent district office and apostilled by the Public Administration Section of the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic,
- bank statements cannot be directly authenticated, as banks are private entities,
- extracts from the Commercial Register (obtained from a notary public or competent district office) are apostilled by the regional court that has direct jurisdiction. Extracts from the Commercial Register obtained at the post office cannot be apostilled,
- photocopies of identity documents photocopies of identity documents are verified by a notary public (followed by an apostille of the notary public at the regional court that has direct jurisdiction),
- sworn affidavits, declarations, powers of attorney, and contracts must be signed before a notary public (followed by an apostille in the regional court that has direct jurisdiction),
- an attestation of residence for Slovak citizens is apostilled by the competent district office,
- an attestation of residence for foreigners living in Slovakia is issued by the competent Foreign Police Department and apostilled by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic,
- Slovak citizenship certificates are apostilled by the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic,
- doctor’s notes, medical reports, or findings are certified by the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic.
- extracts from the Cadastre of Real Estate (ownership deeds) for use abroad are certified by the Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Authority of the Slovak Republic and the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.
In what language is the apostille issued?
The apostille is issued in the official language of the state that issued you the relevant document. In Slovakia, bilingual apostilles are issued in Slovak and English, other countries issue apostilles in their official language or in English. If you want to use a document with an apostille abroad, a certified translation of the document and the apostille is required.
When is an apostille needed?
You don’t always need an apostille. It’s only needed if the authorities you’re submitting the translated document(s) to require it. We recommend checking with the foreign office in advance what documents require higher authentication (apostille, superlegalisation).
What should you do if you need to provide a certified translation of a document abroad?
- In order to have a certified translation done, you always need the original document, which is physically bound to the translation by a tricolour string. Assuming you want (or need to) keep the original, you’ll have to make a notarised copy. In this case, the sworn translation will be bound to the certified copy instead of the original.
- Contact the office that requires a sworn/certified translation of the document and find out if they will accept a notarised copy and if they require an apostille, i.e. a higher form of authentication.
- Visit the office that issues an apostille for your document and have the original or a notarised copy of the original authenticated.
- Send the apostilled copy by post or physically bring it to the translation agency that will use it to make the certified translation. When having the document officially translated by a sworn translator, not only will the document itself be translated, but also the notarial certificate and/or the apostille itself.
- The signature and stamp of the sworn translator affixed to the translation can be apostilled by any regional court.
What documents can’t be apostilled?
Electronically issued documents are not public instruments in the Slovak Republic, as they are not stamped with the state coat of arms and are not signed by authorised employees. Therefore, documents in digital format cannot be apostilled. If you need to authenticate an electronic document, we recommend asking the state institution in question to issue a physical document for use abroad.
Be careful also with notarised documents. It’s not possible to apostille a document in Slovakia if it has been certified by a trainee notary (it must be verified by a notary public or a notary candidate). The competent authorities also have the right to refuse to certify a document that has been issued in violation of applicable legislation of the Slovak Republic or that contravenes the principles of international law.
Authenticating documents from private companies
Legal entities, banks, companies, or agencies do not issue official documents (public instruments) in Slovakia. If foreign partners (in a country that has acceded to the Hague Apostille Convention) request their authentication, you can proceed as follows: The original document will be signed by the company statutory seat in the presence of a notary public, and then the notary public will be apostilled by the relevant regional court. The Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry will confirm the existence of the business entity on the original document. A sworn translator will then translate the document. The translator can then be apostilled by any regional court.
Remember that there’s a difference between an ordinary translation and a sworn/certified translation. Sworn translations (also known as “official translations”, “certified translations”, “court translations”, “translations with a stamp or seal”, etc.”) can only be done by professional translators who’ve been appointed by the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic. They’re required for official dealings with state administration or public institutions.
Backside of a certified translation.
Detailed information on authenticating documents and updated list of countries that are members of the Apostille Convention (sometimes insufficiently referred to as the Hague Convention) can be found on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.