As of 7th November 2023, China has officially become the latest major country to be a party to the Apostille Convention. This development should streamline the authentication process for foreign documents intended for use in China and bring about significant time and cost savings for both businesses and individuals.


What is the Apostille Convention?

The Apostille Convention is an international treaty designed to simplify the legal authentication of public documents for use in foreign countries. The system started in 1961, and the Convention has been ratified by over 120 countries and territories worldwide. The apostille is an official method of accrediting a document as official and genuine, usually by fixing a seal or stamp to the document to prove that the government of the issuing country has guaranteed it as genuine. By getting an apostille certificate from the issuing country, the document becomes legally valid in any other member country and should be accepted without question. Getting an apostille in the UK is a simple and straightforward process and apostille might be required for both individuals and businesses who need to deal with overseas governments or other official bodies. Documents which have been granted an apostille stamp are commonly required when applying for jobs overseas, when a business is importing or exporting goods from the UK, or when applying to emigrate permanently.


The Importance of China Signing Up for the Convention

China joining the Apostille Convention is expected to bring two major benefits. Firstly, it will significantly reduce the time costs associated with cross-border trade and having documents accredited overseas. Secondly, it will make life a lot easier for any company trading with partners in China, such import-export businesses, and multinational corporations.

For both foreign and Chinese citizens, the news that China will join the Apostille Convention will greatly reduce time and money spent in administration. The current turnaround time for processing Chinese documents for use overseas, or vice versa is currently around 20 days, and it is estimated that this will reduce to under a week. Getting a work permit for a job in Chona will also be simplified, as will the process for employing Chinese national workers in other countries which are part of the Convention. Around 70% of commercial documents needed for import and export with China are expected to be covered by the Apostille Convention, so separate certification by a Consulate will no longer be necessary.


Limitations of Apostille

It is important to note that the Apostille Convention only applies to public documents, as defined by the laws of the issuing country. It specifically excludes categories such as diplomatic or consular documents. Some customs documents for import or export China may still require additional authentication. There is also a six-month period which allows other countries which have signed up as members of the Apostille Convention to object to China being added. It is perhaps unlikely that this will happen, but China will not become a full member until this period has passed.