Certain countries have traditionally required the relevant embassy or consulate to verify the validity of all foreign documents, such as birth certificates, marriage and death certificates and certain types of commercial papers, before they can be accepted locally. In 1961, the Hague Convention established the apostille as the official means of validating foreign documents, and in Belgium you’ll find that local officials will often expect you to obtain an apostille when submitting any form of official paperwork originating outside Belgium (in addition to a translation of the document).
An apostille is a numbered and dated certificate, sometimes referred to as a ‘stamp’ owing to its size and shape, which is attached to an official copy of the document by the issuing government. If you need to have a document, e.g. your birth certificate, legalised, you should send it to the appropriate government agency in the country where it was issued, requesting an apostille. You must specify that you require an apostille, as there are other methods of legalising documents but only an apostille meets the requirements of the Hague Convention and is acceptable within Belgium.
Contact your local embassy or consulate for details of fees. Further information about apostilles is available at the FPS Foreign Affairs website.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in in Holland, Belgium & Luxembourg. from Survival Books.