Documents executed inside or outside of South Africa

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Documents that are signed in South Africa but need to be used internationally, and vice versa, need to be signed and executed correctly, and you have to make sure they are legalised.  These documents could include certified copies, academic certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates, police clearance certificates, power of attorney, etc.

Signing/executing documents in South Africa for use outside of South Africa

In situations where countries are a part of The Hague Convention[i]

  1. These documents first need to be notarized, i.e., signed and/or executed in the presence of a Notary Public. The Notary Public will attach a Certificate of Authentication with his signature, stamp and seal.
  2. The Notary Public will then send these documents to the High Court in the area where he/she practices. There, the Registrar will add an Apostille Certificate which authenticates the Notary Public’s signature

Your documents are now legal in all the countries that are part of The Hague Convention

In situations where countries are not a part of The Hague Convention

When a country is not part of The Hague Convention, two more steps are required.

  • The documents are submitted to DIRCO’s Legalisation Section to be legalised. The Department of International Relations and Co-operation is based in Pretoria.
  • The documents are sent to the Embassy/Consulate where they are to be used and authenticated.

Your documents can now be used in countries that are not part of The Hague Convention

Signing/executing documents outside of South Africa for use in South Africa

In South Africa, Rule 63 of the Uniform Rules of the High Court stipulates how documents signed outside of South Africa can be authenticated. These documents need a Certificate of Authentication from:

  1. The head of the South African diplomatic/consular mission.
  2. Consul-general, Consul, Vice-consul, or consular agent for the United Kingdom in that country.
  3. Any government authority of a foreign place permitted to authenticate documents under the law of that country.
  4. Any Notary Public in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana, or Swaziland.
  5. In the case of a document being executed by a person on active service, a commissioned officer of the South African Defence Force.

If the prescribed certificate is attached, you can use the document in South Africa.

AED Attorneys understands that every situation is unique, and although they strive to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate at the time of publishing, it cannot be guaranteed to be without errors or omissions. As a result, AED Attorneys, its employees, independent contractors, associates or third parties will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable for any innocent or negligent actions or omissions in this article, which may result in any harm or liability flowing from the use of or the inability to use the information provided.


[i] The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH). It replaced the cumbersome legislation that was required for cross-border mobility with a single formality – the issuance of an Apostille. Currently 120 are a part. 

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