Singapore has acceded to the Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents earlier this year and will implement the obligations under the convention through the Apostille Act 2020, which will come into force on 16 September 2021. The coming into force of the Apostille Act will facilitate the use of public documents amongst contracting parties with the abrogation of the traditional requirement of multiple legalisation steps.
Most countries require foreign public documents to be legalised or authenticated before they can be used and accepted in their own country. Examples of public documents include marriage certificates, educational certificates, birth and death certificates, passports and identity cards. On the other hand, the legalisation process would usually involve a multi-stage process whereby the signature, seal or stamp on a local public document is certified as authentic by a series of public officials along a “chain”, to a point where the ultimate authentication is readily recognised by the foreign country of destination. Such process can be costly and time-consuming.
The Apostille Convention replaces the cumbersome formalities related to the legalisation process with the one-step process of the issuance of a single certificate known as apostille. The apostille which is issued by the designated competent authority of each country serves to certify the origin of official documents produced by such country and all contracting parties are obliged to accept apostilles of official documents as sufficient to verify the origin of the underlying document. In Singapore, the Singapore Academy of Law has been designated to certify any Singapore public documents and issue apostilles. As for outgoing public documents intended to be used in non-contracting countries, individuals still need to follow the usual legalisation process.