How to get an Apostille on documents issued in France

Created: Jan 5, 2021 | Updated: Feb 12, 2024

If you intend to get married, set up residence, take up employment, study, or establish a business anywhere outside France, you may be asked to provide documents so that your marriage, residence, job, or business can be registered legally in the new country. Each document needed outside France may also need to be legalised. 

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Legalising French Documents

If you are looking to obtain an Apostilles on a document issued in France, then you should know that there are different legalisation procedures used in France which depend on which country you are going to use the documents for. 


Use in another EU Member State

France has an agreement with the other member states of the European Union which absolves the need for the legalisation of most multilingual documents issued in any one member state. This means, for example, that if you need your birth certificate (certificat de naissance) or marriage certificate (certificat de mariage) in Germany or Spain, you don’t need to legalise it. The original certificate is good enough. Note that as of 1st January 2021, the U.K. is no longer in the E.U. However, it is a signatory to the Hague Convention (see below)


Use outside of the EU

France is one of many countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention on the mutual recognition of documents. A simplified legalisation procedure is in place between any two countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention. This involves the use of an apostille. This article provides you with a useful guide on how to obtain a French Apostilles for use in a non-EU country.


Use in a non-Hague country

For any non E.U. country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, a separate legalisation procedure may be necessary. This depends on the requirements of the foreign country, and may often require embassy legalisation. This is often the case for countries such  as China & United Arab Emirates. Legalisation of French documents is a standard procedure which can be used where necessary. This procedure is separate to and administered by a different administrative authority than those that issue apostilles.


French Apostille

So, what is an apostille?

An apostille issued in France is a simplified legalisation method that affirms that the signature or seal on a document issued in France and to be used in any foreign country which is a signatory to the Hague Convention is genuine. Note that the French apostille is only a confirmation of the genuineness of the signature or seal on the document, not the content of the document itself.

As documents issued in France will be in French it is standard procedure to have these translated by a sworn translator in France registered at a local court of appeal (in French, traducteur assermenté) if they are to be used in another country where the official language isn’t French. For the apostille to be issued, both the translation and the original document must be presented. The signature of the sworn translator must also be authenticated at a town hall (mairie) for free or by a notary (notaire) usually for a payment.


When do you need an apostille?

An apostille is needed whenever a government agency or employer has to examine a foreign official or legal document. It is important that the document can be verified easily so most governments and official bodies now insist on an apostille being attached to each official or legal document that is requested and issued in a foreign country. 

Apostilles cannot be forged because whoever is entrusted to issue an apostille is entrusted to check each official document, signatures, seals and watermarks very carefully to make sure it is genuine. This eliminates the problem that most foreign governments and government agencies might have in trying to decide what is genuine and what is not. In France, an apostille may take the form of a certificate, a seal or stamp attached to the original document or the authenticated sworn translation of it.


How to get an apostille in France

Just to make this clear, you do not need an apostille if you have been asked to provide a French issued official or legal document for someone or an agency already within France or (for most documents) in any other member state of the E.U.

Officially, apostilles are only recognised by countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention. The number of countries belonging to the Hague Convention is currently over 110 with the number increasing on a regular basis. Even countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention may ask for an apostille, but then follow this up with further legalisation by their own embassies. Legalisation can be carried out by the appropriate authority in France of French documents which is the Bureau des légalisations - Ministère des affaires étrangères. The French consulate or embassy in the country for which you need a French document legalised may also be able to legalise it for you. 

Because there are now so many people wanting to travel, marry, get jobs, study or just go and live as a retiree in other countries, there has been a surge in requests for apostilles. Fortunately, this has been matched by an increase in services that can be trusted to get an apostille for you when you need it quickly. Note that when apostilles are needed for a country where French is not the official language, they also need to be translated into the language of the country that has requested it. 

If you need to have a French document translated into another language using a sworn translator registered in France in order to obtain an Apostille on the original and translation from the French court, then contact us at Translayte. We work with sworn translators registered across local Court of Appeals in France and can assist you in obtaining a sworn translation necessary for you to obtain an Apostille.


Who actually provides the apostille?

In France, apostilles are provided, at no cost, by the French Court of Appeal. 

Apostilles for documents that are related to a criminal matter or charge should be requested from the Rennes Court of Appeal (cour d’appel de Rennes). Apostilles for all other documents should be requested from the Paris Court of Appeal (cour d’appel de Paris).


Requirements for getting an apostille in France

The request for an apostille can be made using a specific form downloaded from the French government website or by written request together with the original document(s) and sworn translations. A stamped, addressed return envelope should also be included with the apostille request.

Note that this does take considerable time and you should prepare well in advance if you need to legalise documents with an apostille needed in a foreign country.


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