If you have started your application procedure for your visa or citizenship in Spain or are about to, you may have heard about the need to legalize documents emitted by your country of origin. Besides, the term Hague Apostille may have also entered your way. And you may be wondering: what is the difference? Should I legalize my foreign documents or apostille them?
In most immigration and citizenship procedures it is necessary to provide documents that come from abroad. In other words, you need to submit documents that have been issued by an organ, administration or registry outside Spain to the Ministry of Justice.
In this case, for those document to be valid and recognized in Spain, it is necessary to resort to the process of legalization or obtaining the Hague Apostille. Otherwise, the specific document that does not undergo such a procedure will not be recognized or valid in our country.
Both procedures have the main goal: to legalize foreign documents in Spain.
As you know, when you apply for your visa or residence permit, you need to submit several documents.
For example, if you want to request the arraigo social or the family reunification, you must present, among other documents, the criminal records of your country of origin.
Therefore, in order for these documents to be recognized by the corresponding Office, it is necessary that these documents be legalized/apostilled in their country of origin.
Otherwise, they will not be able to be valued for the purpose of receiving their residence or nationality and, therefore, they can be denied.
In that sense, doing one thing or the other will depend on your country of origin. Let’s see each of them individually.
What is the legalization and how can you legalize your documents?
If the issuing country of the document we want to legalize is not part of the Hague Convention, then we must go through two different stages to achieve valid legalization:
- First, we must obtain a stamp from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Country of origin. That stamp goes directly to the document.
- Once we obtain it, we must present the document at the Spanish Embassy in that country in order to obtain another stamp.
Once both seals have been obtained, the document will be duly legalized so that it can be presented in Spain.
Here’s an example of a legalized document:
How to legalize your documents in Spain
As we have just seen, legalizing documents means giving them legal validity so they can be accepted outside the country in which they were emitted.
That is something you want to do whenever you submit to any Public Administration Office in Spain documents obtained abroad.
When are you required to legalize your foreign documents?
The answer is simple: always.
In any immigration procedure (application to start living in Spain and other related issues), you are required to legalize the documents you submit.
Unless… your country is inside the Hague Apostille Convention list.
We will explore them in a minute, but by now bear in mind that no matter what you do, you will be required to legalize.
Nevertheless, if you are to present documents from Spain to the Spanish consulate of your country of origin, you don’t need to legalize those specific documents.
Which documents can you legalize?
You can (and must) legalize any document emitted by the Public Administration.
That includes both copies and originals.
Do legalizations expire?
That is something many of our clients ask us.
What happens if I legalized this document several months ago, but then discontinued my application procedure till now?
Has the legalization expired?
No. As long as the document you are legalizing doesn’t have a limited duration, the legalization does not expire.
What is the Hague Apostille and when should you use it?
In order for your documents to possess legal validity in Spain, you need to legalize them.
Nevertheless, there are many cases in which the legalization is not required at all.
You just need to get a specific stamp that will indicate that the document is legalized, which makes it much easier for you.
That stamp is what is called the Hague Apostille.
As the movement of paperwork between countries started to rise dramatically during the past century, something had to be made in order to speed up and facilitate the lives of the public administration of each of them.
That is when the Hague Convention took place in 1961.
Here’s an example of an apostilled document (in the US):
If you are from any of these countries... you don't need to legalize, just Apostille them
Let’s review which are the countries that are part of the Hague Convention.
Remember, if you are from any of the following places, you just need to apostille your documents in order for them to gain legal validity.
How to Apostille your documents
If you are from any of the countries inside the Hague Convention list, here’s how you can apostille your documents.
Basically, anyone who is in possession of a document can realize this procedure.
You have two options: do it in person or online.
The best alternative is to do it online, so you can download it on the Electronic Headquarters of the Ministry of Justice in Spain.
Do you need help legalizing your documents in Spain?
If you are applying for your residence permit in Spain and need help from our international immigration lawyer team in Spain, do not hesitate to contact us.
We will manage and fill out all your documents in order to guarantee a successful application, legalizing them for you.