Legalization of Documents and Diplomas
Last updated: 15 April 2020 / by Jack Harper
A note about COVID-19: This guide is based on the general rules, but there may be some temporary restrictions in place due to the presence of the COVID-19 virus. We are keeping the situation under close review and will update our guidance as necessary.
In an ideal world, relocating to another country would be as simple as buying a plane ticket. The move to Germany is quite straightforward, and there are not too many hurdles to stall your journey. There are, however, a few small matters of legality which must be addressed.
Foreign public documents may require proof of authenticity by German authorities for use in Germany. In this article, we will give an overview of how this can be done, as well as highlighting instances in which legalization is not necessary.
Attaining legalization for documents and diplomas
Thanks to the international treaties that exist between Germany and other countries, procedures are in place to confirm the authenticity of foreign public documents.
Public documents such as civil status documents, judicial and notarial documents, and certificates from administrative authorities can be legalized for use in Germany by consular officers of German embassies.
This includes University diplomas and school certificates. A consular officer can process the authenticity and validity of a degree certificate outside of Germany.
However, authenticity makes no promises about equivalence. The academic worth of your degree in Germany will be determined by German educational authorities.
Legalization does not apply to private documents. Handwritten wills, contracts of sale, or powers of attorney are examples of documents that do not require authentication by a German authority.
You can find information on your specific country’s legal relationship with Germany, as well as where to find your local embassy using the official German embassy website.
The circumstances under which legalization is not necessary are as follows.
- Apostille – Under the ‘Hague Apostille’ convention of 1961, partied states do not require the legalization of public documents. Instead, documents can be sent off for an apostille. In countries such as the UK, apostille services are readily available and should be used before you travel to Germany. You send your document off and provided it is authentic, it will be returned with an apostille certificate attached, validating it for use in Germany
- International documents – The International Commission on Civil Status Conventions (CIEC) allows certain documents to be exempt from German legalization. This includes civil status documents and certificates of no impediment. Since these documents are international by nature, there is no need to have them verified by another state within the CIEC Convention. For more information about which states are included, visit the CIEC website.
- Bilateral international treaties – Germany has formed bilateral agreements with select countries, abolishing the need to legalize certain types of documents. Legalization is either entirely not required, or replaced with a provisional procedure. The countries with whom Germany has formed these treaties are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Certification of translations
German authorities and courts may require the translation of certain foreign documents.
These translations should always be done by a translator that is officially certified in Germany. Note that a translated document is not eligible for legalization or an apostille – it must always be the original.
Having your documents verified by German authorities should be a simple process.
In most cases, you can get an apostille, or you may be exempt from document legalization altogether, depending on your nationality.
Check with official government websites to gain clarity on your specific legalization requirements.