Summary 

  • Public documents that have an apostille certificate issued by a competent authority in the countries that are part of the Apostille Convention will be accepted by Chinese courts without the need for legalization. 
  • Private documents, such as powers of attorney from individuals or companies, still need to be notarized to become public documents. The apostille authority will verify the notary’s credentials, and then the document can be used in the destination country. 
  • Chinese diplomatic missions in the countries that are part of the Apostille Convention will no longer provide legalization services for public documents. 

On 7 November 2023, the Apostille Convention officially came into force on the China Mainland, providing significant changes for foreign entities filing in China.  

Foreign entities have long faced challenges to legalizing documents to be submitted to Chinese administration departments and Courts within the required deadline.  This will significantly simplify the administrative procedures for recognizing official documents, vastly reducing the time and cost of authenticating foreign documents for use in China.  

What is the Apostille Convention? 

On March 8, 2023, China officially submitted documentation to accede to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, commonly known as the Apostille Convention.  

The Apostille Convention is an international treaty that simplifies the process of authenticating public documents for use in foreign countries. Under the Convention, a public document that has been issued in one member country can be recognized for legal use in any other member country by obtaining an “apostille” certificate from a competent authority designated by the issuing country.  

The Apostille Convention has applied in over 120 countries and territories worldwide, including Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR. 

China’s accession to the Apostille Convention will streamline the use of Foreign Public Documents   

In the past, in order to use foreign documents in China for administrative purposes, e.g., to present legal documents as evidence in a Chinese court that originate from another country , they needed to first be notarized and authenticated by local authorities and then be further authenticated by the Chinese embassy or consulate in the country in which the documents are issued. The authentication process was complicated, time-consuming, and costly, presenting roadblocks for foreign individuals and entities carrying out business in China. 

With the accession of China to the Convention, the apostille procedure replaces this traditional and complicated authentication process between China and other contracting parties.  

When foreign public documents within the scope of the Apostille Convention are sent between China and other contracting countries for use, the consular authentication by the contracting states and the Chinese embassies and consulates are no longer required. Instead, they only need to apply for an apostille certificate, allowing business with China to become easier and faster following China’s accession to Apostille Convention. 

Requirements for acceptance of Foreign-Produced Documents authenticated by an apostille? 

In recent practice, we noted that Beijing Intellectual Property Court has been making efforts to adapt to the Apostille Convention becoming effective on 7 November 2023 and has expressed that they would be adopting flexible approaches during the transition period to accept foreign public documents either authenticated by an apostilles or by the Chinese embassies or consulates. We expect detailed official guidance to be published soon. 

It is important to note that not all types of documents are covered by the Apostille Convention – only public documents, as determined by the laws of the issuing country. This means that certain documents may still require additional authentication process to be accepted by China. We recommend checking in advance with the relevant authority in China about specific requirements for format, content, time limit, translation, etc. before going through the relevant procedures.  

We will closely monitor any further updates for apostille in China.  

For more information or if you have any related questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

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