What is document legalisation?

Legalisation makes documents suitable for use in another country. To legalise a document, the competent authorities sign and stamp it. Several different steps may be needed to complete the process. Most countries have agreements for this.

What is legalisation?

Legalisation makes documents from foreign countries suitable for use in the Netherlands. Documents that can be legalised include civil status documents, court orders and diplomas. Legalisation shows that:

  • the document was issued by a competent and expert authority
  • the signature, seal and/or stamp on the document are genuine
  • the document’s format is correct

How does legalisation work?

The steps you must take to have a document legalised vary by country. It depends on the agreements made between the Netherlands and the country the document comes from. Select the country your document comes from.

What steps need to be taken when legalising documents?

Legalising a document involves taking certain steps in a certain order. ‘Country A’ is the country the document comes from:

Step 1

A competent authority in Country A checks that the document has been signed by the correct authority or authorities in Country A. This is usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Country A. After approval, a stamp or sticker is placed on the document. This shows the Dutch authorities that the document has been issued by a competent authority in Country A.

Step 2

The Dutch authorities check the document and place another stamp or sticker on it. This is usually done by the Dutch embassy, consulate-general or honorary consul in Country A.

A number of countries have made agreements saying that not all these steps are required. Or that they are not required for certain types of documents. The Apostille Convention is one of these agreements.

Legalisation under the Apostille Convention

Several countries, including the Netherlands, are members of the Apostille Convention. This means that documents are legalised using 1 stamp or sticker only. This is called an ‘apostille’. In cases like this, Country A legalises the document with an apostille. After this, no more steps are necessary. Documents with an apostille can be used in all the countries that are members of the Apostille Convention.

All the countries that are members of the Apostille Convention are listed on the website of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH).

Sometimes legalisation is not necessary

Legalisation is not required for certain types of documents from Country A. You can use these documents in the Netherlands immediately.

Sometimes legalisation is not possible

Sometimes, for various reasons, legalisation is not possible. In this case the Dutch authorities – such as the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) or a municipality – will check and assess your document.