What does Legalisation mean?
Legalisation of documents means that we authenticate official (public) documents within the Republic of South Africa. These documents are affixed, sealed, and signed either with an Apostille Certificate (where countries are signatory to the Apostille Convention). Or with a Certificate of Authentication (where countries are not signatory to the Apostille Convention). Legalisation therefore basically means the process we follow to verify the signature and seal on an official (public) document.
Note: The full description of the Apostille Convention is The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961. Please visit The Hague Conference on Private International Law for further information on signatory countries.
South African documents present for use abroad in a country that does not form part of the Hague Convention have to undergo legalization in terms of an embassy authentication and legalization process. Once The High Court attests to your documents. Next, The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) legalises it.
Because all embassies have different procedures regarding authentications, it can be a complex process. When you legalize a document, it means it receives a signature, and seal, and receives a Certificate of Authentication (where the destination country is not a member of the Hague Convention).
As a result, documents qualify for this process if they meet the requirements that are set forth in the criteria. And if those criteria are met, the document will be legalized with a Certificate of Authentication.
Here is the process in an image that will help to explain it.
Which South African Documents require Embassy Authentication?
Police Clearance Certificate issued by the South African Police Services
University degrees, diplomas, school certificates, and transcripts.
Unabridged birth, death, and marriage certificates
Letter or Certificate of No Impediment to Overseas Marriage (sometimes referred to abroad as a Single Status Certificate)
Divorce Decree / Certificate of Divorce
Powers of Attorney (POA).
Statutory Declarations, Affidavits, and Sworn Statements
Certificate of Incorporation of South African Company issued by CIPC
Official documents pertaining to patents and trademarks
Documents that do not qualify for Legalisation
• Abridged, vault copies of birth-, marriage-, and death certificates
• Any copy certified by any commissioner of oaths including abridged certificates of marriage, birth, death, or police clearance certificates, certified copies of letters of no impediment (marital status) or proof of citizenship, certified copies of travel documents or identity documents, and documents legalized by a Commissioner of Oaths to be true copies of the original, as these documents must follow the route of the Notary Public / Registrar of the High Court.
In conclusion, the final step of authentication requires authentication from the relevant embassy. Some countries refer to this process as Apostille while others call it Attestation. Most embassies charge a fee for this service and might also have a few additional requirements and processing times, depending on the country. In short, countries that require this often for South Africans are China, Thailand, Vietnam, UAE/Dubai, Taiwan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.