In the olden days, when you showed up at an international authority with a certificate issued in another country, the first thing on your case officer’s mind was: “is this thing real?“ It’s hard to tell, especially if the certificate is issued in a foreign language, or handwritten, or otherwise looks a bit suss. Also, who are they supposed to call to find out? And what if it’s the middle of the night there, anyway?
You could get a document legalised, but that took forever and cost a bomb. So in 1961, the Hague Convention introduced the Apostille to get around this. It doesn’t matter whether your certificate is issued in Sydney, San Francisco or Sevilla, if that country participates in the Hague Convention of 1961, you can get an Apostille and boom, your certificate will be immediately recognised as authentic in any other Hague Convention country. And yes, Germany participates. So does Australia, the USA, New Zealand, and Great Britain, just to name a few.
An Apostille is a large box with a big stamp in it and a numbered list (1 through 9 plus a signature). The list includes information about where your document was certified, when, and by whom. The Apostille is attached to your original document (stamped on the rear side or attached on a new page) and sent back to you.
Where Do I Get an Apostille?
The Apostille comes from the authority that issued your certificate in the first place. So if you got married in California, the California Secretary of State is responsible for delivering the Apostille. You can either go straight to the source, or you can use one of many internet-based Apostille services that act as agents. They usually hand-deliver your documents to the Secretary of State and get the Apostille on the same day. Then they post the Apostille to the address of your choice. Just google “Apostille California” and choose your favourite service.
Unfortunately, Red Tape Translation can’t help you get the Apostille. But once you’ve got it, we can send you a certified translation of your certificate together with the Apostille, if you’ve been asked to provide that by any authority in Germany.
The German Ausländerbehörde and the Apostille
If you are going for a residence permit at the Ausländeramt that somehow hinges upon your marriage or civil partnership (e.g. a German residence permit for spouses), you’ll need to show your marriage certificate. If it wasn’t issued in Germany, you will also need an Apostille. Even if you got married within the EU and your marriage certificate is written in multiple languages, one of which is German, get an Apostille. If you get this done before you leave your home country, it’ll only take a day or two to arrive and will mostly cost less than 100 USD per certificate.