How to validate documents in Spain for recognition in foreign countries

Whether a foreign country recognizes a Spanish public document is an international legal issue. The international community addressed the issue of recognition of public documents in foreign countries with the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents (Hague Convention of 1961).  A party interested in temporary or long-term immigration or foreign business development will likely encounter situations where he or she may need to present a Spanish public document in a foreign country.  This article provides a brief overview of the fastest process to legalize a Spanish public document for recognition in a foreign country.

Process

The legal issue that the Hague Convention of 1961 addressed was the constant dispute about whether a foreign public document was valid in another country not the origin of the document.  Public documents may include public university degrees, birth certificates, police records, marriage certificates, etc.  The Hague Convention of 1961 presents a simple process for legalizing a public document for recognition in a foreign country.  To do this, the Apostille Seal (Apostilla de la Haya) is affixed to a public document in the country of origin of the document.  The process of affixing the Apostille Seal to such a document, however, is only a viable option for interested parties from those countries that have accepted the Hague Convention of 1961.  Spain has accepted the Hague Convention of 1961.  Therefore, whether this process is an option for an interested party in Spain dealing with Spanish public documents depends on whether the foreign country (in which the Spanish public document is to be presented) has accepted the Hague Convention of 1961.

To obtain the Apostille Seal on a Spanish public document to be presented in a foreign country, the interested party should check local resources to determine the appropriate governmental authority for affixing the Apostille Seal.  At the time of the writing of this article, the appropriate governmental authorities in Spain are branches of the Ministry of Justice throughout the various autonomous communities in Spain.  Check here for current information on where to obtain the Apostille Seal, or refer to the Royal Decree 2433/1978, of 2 October, determining the competent civil servants to carry out the universal legalization or Apostille provided for in Agreement XII of the Hague Conference of 5 October 1961 and any updates on this Decree.

Effect and example

The affixing of the Apostille Seal to a Spanish public document where both countries have accepted the HagueConvention of 1961 means that a foreign country will recognize the authenticity of the Spanish public document without further governmental legalization.  The Apostille Seal does not verify the contents of the Spanish public document; it only verifies its authenticity as a public document from the country of origin.  If the country of origin of the public document has not accepted the Hague Convention of 1961, then further governmental legalization and official translation may be necessary.

For example:  An interested party in Spain plans to immigrate to the U.S. to reside and work.  As a requirement to obtain permanent residence in Spain, the interested party must show a current police record from the Spanish Ministry of Justice.  She obtains a police record showing any convictions in Spain.  She takes that police record to the proper authority in Spain to obtain the Apostille Seal on that Spanish public document.  The affixing of the Apostille Seal on the police record authenticates that document as valid police record in Spain.  She then submits the police record with Apostille Seal to the U.S. Federal Government as part of her immigration process.  Because the U.S. has accepted the Hague Convention of 1961, the U.S. Federal Government would recognize her police record with Apostille Seal as a valid Spanish public record.

Foreign nationals wishing to present documents from their home countries for recognition in Spain

The process is the same for foreign nationals (from countries that have accepted the Hague Convention of 1961) wishing to authenticate public documents from their home countries to present in Spain:  the Apostille Seal is affixed to the document before the public document is presented for recognition in Spain.  To determine the appropriate governmental authority, check local resources; the proper authority will depend on the country’s governmental structure.  In the U.S., the appropriate governmental authority that affixes the Apostille Seal is usually an office of the Secretary of State.

Other considerations and conclusion

While the legalization of foreign public documents where both countries have accepted the Hague Convention of 1961 is a relatively simple process, the underlying reasons for why an interested party may desire to legalize a public document may involve more complicated immigration or international law issues.  For example, an interested party may desire to legalize a Spanish public document and demonstrate its authenticity in a foreign country for the purpose of establishing a business presence in the foreign country.  In this case, the interested party should be aware that there may be an underlying visa or residence application process.  This article is not intended to simplify the more complicated immigration and international legal issues regarding whyan interested party may desire to legalize a public document.  Likewise, interested parties should note that translation issues may arise.  This article does aim, however, to explain the process of legalization to interested parties seeking to present Spanish public documents for recognition in a foreign country.  Where both countries in question have signed the Hague Convention of 1961, the legalization process involving the Apostille Seal is an international benefit that interested parties have and of which they should be aware.

Melanie Glover

This article is not considered as legal advice

Mariscal Abogados

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