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China Implements the Apostille Convention

Starting from November 7, 2023, the Apostille Convention officially comes into effect in China. China, as a member state of the 1989 Hague Conference on Private International Law, signed the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961, commonly known as the Apostille Convention, on March 8, 2023.


This convention eliminates the requirement for the legalization of foreign public documents. It is a significant development that greatly simplifies the authentication of public documents for use abroad, replacing the steps needed for legalization with a single formality: an authentication certificate issued by the issuing authority.


As a result of this implementation, the Consulates of China abroad, in the countries that joined the Apostille Convention, have suspended their legalization service.


The Apostille is an adhesive stamp with a standardized form affixed to the document, containing a certification of the authenticity of the signature of the public official identified by the Convention. The affixed stamp is valid in countries that have signed the Convention. The Convention abolishes the legalization of the following foreign public documents:

  • Documents issued by an authority or official of a state administration.

  • Administrative documents, such as birth and death certificates.

  • Notarial acts.

  • Official statements containing registration dates, a certified date, authentication of a signature affixed to a private document (such as commercial registers).

It does not apply to administrative documents related to commercial or customs operations.


The key advantage of this development is that various essential documents required for business registration, such as articles of incorporation, bank statements, and certificates of status, are now subject to a streamlined Apostille authentication process. This implies that foreign businesses are no longer encumbered by the lengthy and complex process of document legalization.


The impact of these changes is twofold. Firstly, it facilitates foreign companies seeking to establish a presence in China, making it a more enticing destination for international business endeavors. Secondly, it enhances the efficiency of cross-border operations for domestic companies, allowing for easier integration of foreign employees and more streamlined import-export activities.


The Civil Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China establishes that the provisions of international treaties take precedence over those of domestic law. Consequently, the immediate application of the Convention is expected. However, it is worth noting that actual delays could occur in the adoption of the Convention's provisions by courts and government authorities. This is because certain government regulations currently require the submission of legalized documents instead of apostilled ones.


In the near future, it is crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the forthcoming amendments to the aforementioned regulations in support of the Convention's complete implementation.


In conclusion, the move towards simplifying and standardizing the authentication process through the Apostille Convention demonstrates China's commitment to fostering a more business-friendly atmosphere. This transformation paves the way for a smoother and more efficient experience for both domestic and foreign businesses operating in the country, ultimately contributing to the growth and development of the Chinese business landscape.


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