- Migrating or making investments abroad invariably involves transfer of various documents. Notarization and legalization of documents is an important but cumbersome step in cross border exchange of public documents.
- Notarization is the act of a notary public, authenticated by his or her signature and seal, certifying the execution of a document in his or her presence.
- Ordinarily in cross border exchanges of public documents, a notarized document must have an apostille attached. An Apostille is a certificate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where the document originates and was notarized certifying the seal of the notary public.
- Legalization is the authentication of an apostilled or notarized document by the foreign embassy or consulate, located in the country of the notary public, in order to allow the document to be used in that foreign country.
- Notarization and legalization of documents involves bureaucratic procedures, increased costs and, most importantly, delays. In order to use foreign public documents in Pakistan or Pakistani public documents in another country, the documents required both notarization and legalization. Once a document has been notarized and apostilled it must then be legalized before it may be used in Pakistan or the other country. This involves taking the document to the Consulate or the relevant diplomatic mission of Pakistan in the country where the earlier steps had taken place.
The Apostille Treaty
The 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirements of Legalization of Foreign Public Documents (the “Apostille Treaty”) relaxes the notarization and legalization requirements between contracting states. The Apostille Treaty allows a document duly notarized and apostilled in one contracting state to be used in another contracting state without the need for legalization of the document. In the region, most notably India, Oman and Bahrain have both contracted and ratified the Apostille Treaty. There are 108 contracting states to the Apostille Convention notably including USA, EU countries and Australia.
Pakistan’s entry into the Apostille Treaty will greatly ease the cross border use of public documents, especially in case of migration matters and investment related matters. A public documents duly apostilled by a foreign State, which is a member of the Apostille Treaty, may be used in Pakistan or vice-versa without the need for legalization from the Consulate or diplomatic mission of Pakistan in that foreign country.
It is not clear whether the Government is considering Pakistan’s accession to the Apostille Treaty, though there exists a strong case for that. It will definitely ease the bureaucratic procedures, time and costs involved in using documents of Pakistani origin in other foreign contracting states and vice versa.
The writer is an Executive Partner at a leading law firm in the Sultanate of Oman.