Guidelines to legalising documents within South Africa | Legal Articles


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Guidelines to legalising documents within South Africa

Legalising documents within South Africa

Signing or legalising documents within South Africa for use abroad or vice a versa can be a frustrating experience. Especially after having the documents signed and executed only then to find out that the documents are not legally valid.

With regards to signing and executing documents within South Africa for use outside of South Africa, the following two steps can assist to inform and reduce the chances of frustration caused by delays in the process.

Where countries are party to the Hague Convention

Where countries are party to the Hague Convention the documents are signed and executed in the presence of a Notary Public. 

The Notary Public will attach his certificate of authentication to the documents which must bear his signature stamp and seal. 

These documents are then forwarded by the Notary Public to the High Court in the area in which the Notary Public practices. 

The court will then attach an Apostille Certificate authenticating the Notary Public's signature.

Where countries are NOT party to the Hague Convention

Where countries are not party to the Hague Convention the same process is followed. However, the documents are then submitted to the Legalisation Section at The Department of International Relations and Cooperation, based in Pretoria, to be legalised. 

Once legalised the documents are then forwarded to the Embassy Consulate of the country in which they are intended to be used for further authentication.

With regards to the executing and signing of documents outside of South Africa for use within the country, there is a specific process which needs to be followed.

In terms of rule 63 of the uniform rules of the High Court, a document is sufficiently authenticated by means of a certificate of authentication which bears the signature and seal of office of:

  • A head of a South African diplomatic consular mission or a person in the administrative or professional division of the public service serving at a South African diplomatic, consular or trade office abroad.
  • A consul general, consul, vice consul or consular agent of the UK or person acting in any of the mentioned capacities or a pro-consul of the UK.
  • Any government authority of such foreign place charge with the authentication of documents under the law of that foreign country.
  • Any person in such foreign place who shall be shown by a certificate of any person referred to in the abovementioned categories or any diplomatic or consular officer of such foreign country in the Republic to be duly authorised to authenticate such document under the law of the foreign country.
  • Notary Public in the UK, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland.
  • And a Commissioned Officer of the South African Defence Force as identified in section 1 of the Defence Act, 1957 in the case of a document executed by any person on active service.

For other legal documents executed in the Antarctica, authentication is not required. And documents executed in namibia cannot be authenticated before a Notary Public. 

However, Namibia is a party to The Hague Convention and the documents can thus be authenticated via these formalities.

Power of Attorney executed in Lesotho, Botswana or Swaziland that gives authority to person to take, defend or intervene in any legal proceedings in a Magistrate’s Court within the RSA do not require authentication. 

However, it needs to be duly signed in the signature needs to have been witnessed by two competent individuals.

All documents must be properly authenticated

In conclusion, all documents must be properly authenticated to ensure that they are legally valid for use either within South Africa or abroad. 

The country in which the documents will be used will determine the authentication process required, and this process is simplified where the country is a party to The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961. 

The documents are authenticated through the form of a Certificate of Authentication and an Apostille Certificate. 

And Rule 63 of the Rules of the High Court of South Africa regulates these requirements for authentication where documents are signed and executed outside South Africa for use within the country.

Van Deventer and Van Deventer Incorporated - Notary Public Sandton

Contact us to authenticate documents for you. 

To view our pricing structures for authenticating documents. click here.

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