The European Union abolishes legalisation and Apostille for important life certificates

For most people the first time you may ever come across a document legalisation process, or “Apostille Convention of The Hague 1961” for signatory countries, is when you need to register for residence abroad, or apply for a visa of some kind. This is standardised way for countries to formally recognise the authenticity of the document (well actually, it formally recognises who signed the document rather than the contents of the document, but I will explain the technical difference in a later post)

I have lived in The United Kingdom, The Netherlands and now currently Portugal, each with huge differences in the requirements of documents being submitted when registering for residence. From my experience this was especially pronounced when Portugal tried to block our registration when I failed to present a document that did not exist.

The Requirements for Apostille

In general, the requirement for document legalisation and the accompanying Apostille is more prevalent in countries which adopt Civil Law than those which use Common Law (in practical terms, those which the British Empire or Commonwealth has had some influence).

Starting a few days ago European Union Directive 2016/1191, amending Directive 1024/2012, came into full force which means EU countries must mutually recognise documents (both originals and certified copies) issued by other EU Member States where the primary purpose is to establish one or more of the following facts:

  • birth*
  • a person being alive*
  • death*
  • name
  • marriage, including capacity to marry and marital status*
  • divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment
  • registered partnership, including capacity to enter into a registered partnership and registered partnership status*
  • dissolution of a registered partnership, legal separation or annulment of a registered partnership
  • parenthood
  • adoption
  • domicile and/or residence*
  • nationality
  • absence of a criminal record* (only where issued by the EU citizen's country of nationality, which might not be that where he resides)

* For these particular instances you can request a “Multi-lingual Standard Form” which serves to abolish the need to provide certified translations. Do not forget if you are travelling across EU borders with a non-EU family member then you should be carrying your residence card which states “Family Member of Union Citizen”, or if the residence card has not yet been issued then the birth or marriage certificate of the family member involved.

Example Multilingual Standard Form of a birth certificate. Provided by a European Commission press release.


This may be very critical for those Brits wanting to move to another EU country in the remaining 5 weeks before Brexit (no-deal as it currently stands). The UK's General Register Office website has already been updated to issue these multilingual standard forms should you need them.

About Tim

Tim is an engineer and a nerd who analyses every travel deal, travel hack. He has travelled to around 90 countries and also speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin.

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  1. Dear Tim,
    Let me congratulate you on this fantastic article.
    I am in the apostille industry myself and this European abolishment of the legalization and Apostille is changing the international panorama. Especially for foreign students, families, and needles to say prospective adopting parents.

    Luis Massieu

  2. Hi. I am in Greece. I have a sailboat that was registered flagged in the Netherlands and now I am trying to flag and register in Greece where it sits on Kalymnos. I was told last year I would need an APOSTILLE? Has the abolishment been applied to boat registration as well?
    I appreciate any help.
    Manny Tiliakos

      • Good to know. Thanks.
        Another question. I am in Greece and I have a certificate of withdrawal from the Netherlands in Rotterdam for my boat. Can I just mail it to them with my credit card number to get the APOSTILLE certificate?
        Rechtbank Rotterdam
        Office address:
        Wilhelminaplein 100 – 125
        3007 BL ROTTERDAM
        Postal address:
        Postbus 50950
        3007 BL ROTTERDAM
        Tel.: +31 (10) 297 12 34

  3. Thanks for this article Tim. I’m currently gathering the documentation together to apply for Portuguese citizenship and have ordered a multilingual copy of my birth cert from the UK. In theory I shouldn’t need this certified but in practice do you know if the Portuguese authorities will accept it without an apostile?

    • Sorry I don’t. Many Portuguese civil servants won’t know of this change and might as for apostille, so if that happens assert you don’t need it. If they continue to not accept then ask for the Livro de Reclamações. Out of interest what are you using to demonstrate integration into society?

  4. It would seem they may not be as universally accepted as was intended. I have ordered a number (in Italian, including, birth, marriage) and talking to others who have tried submitting them to the Italian authorities, they were not accepted and only full translations with apostille. Anyone else with this experience or have successfully used them with the Italian authorities.

    • Write to Solvit, who are the legal team behind the European Commission. They will help you defend your rights in cross-border issues such as this.

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