For various purposes including study / work in a country other than your own, you will be required to furnish certain official documents like your birth certificate, marriage certificate, degree certificate etc. Unfortunately the documents of one country are not automatically recognised by the other country due to lack of validation. So if you have studied in India and are moving to Europe to work there, it would require a work permit which requires your degree certificate to be validated. This process of validation or authentication of documents is called ‘Legalisation’. Legalisation is not only required for yourself, but also your spouse and children if you are moving out together to a different country to work there.
Normally the most common Indian origin documents that require legalisation are Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and the Degree Certificate. And within India, people may be born in any state, may have studied in any University and may have been married anywhere. So the process of uniformly validating the official document is referred to as Legalisation in India.
All of these certificates mostly pass through a 3 stage process of validation before it is accepted by any authority / firm in a different country. Let’s see what these 3 steps are for the Birth Certificate / Marriage Certificate:
The document that you submit needs to be first checked for its authenticity and validity in the state of origin in India. For ex: If you were born in a town in Jharkhand then you need to make an application to the State Home Department (SHD) of Jharkhand with the certificate. You may be asked for more supporting documentation according to the procedures of the different state governments. But once an application is made, the request goes for validation against the records of birth in that town. Some states have already achieved some level of centralisation of such information, but most others need to go to the village / town level for validation and then it comes back to the State Home Department with the status. Due to this cumbersome procedure, this process can take anywhere between 10 days to sometimes 2 months for some states. Once the record has been validated, the SHD will attest the document and give it back to you.
The SHD attested document has to now go for attestation with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in Delhi. This is required because the document needs to be validated by a national authority that is recognised by the foreign nation. That happens to be the MEA Dept. If the documentation is all in order, the MEA takes not more than a day or two for processing and attests the document.
Now the MEA attested document is to be furnished to the foreign embassy / consulate of the destination country in India. The foreign embassy checks the document and then completes the legalisation process by attesting it. This process may take a few days or a couple of weeks depending on the volume of backlogs and other factors. Once legalised, the document is fit for acceptance by any authority / firm in the destination country.
So this is the process for both the Birth and Marriage Certificates where the process starts at the place of origin. For degree certificates the process is again a 3 step one with the only exception being that the first step is handled through the Dept. of HRD or Dept. of Higher Education, instead of the State Home Department. Obviously, education is not a home department subject.
The apostille certificate is a special seal that is used for documents that are for use in countries that are members of the Hague Legalization Convention. Members of this convention have agreed to abolish the requirement of legalization of public documents between members States. Both the source country and the destination country need to be signatories of the Hague Convention. India is a signatory and so is the US. So if an Indian document is required for US purposes, it need not be legalised but can be apostilled.
However as far as Indian documents go, it will still go through the first 2 steps because centralisation of records is not yet implemented. Hence the only step that will be avoided in the process of apostilling Indian documents will be the attestation by the foreign embassy. Instead the MEA will accord the special seal of apostille which will be accepted by the other country that is a member.
Beware – If you produce a fake certificate procured through a tout or happen to unknowingly submit it, then the SHD / or MEA / or foreign embassy will be able to establish that it was a fake document and can confiscate the document and file criminal proceedings against you.
We hope this informative article is useful in explaining the process of legalisation /apostille of official Indian documents for use in another country.