09 May 2023

China joins Apostille Convention | What does this mean for you?

China has recently decided to join the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961, also known as the Apostille Convention. The Chinese ambassador to the Netherlands submitted the accession on March 8, 2023. The Convention will come into force in China on November 7, 2023.

What does this mean for you?

In the past, if you wanted to have an official document issued in the Netherlands that you needed to use/be acknowledged in China, you typically needed to go through a lengthy process of notarization and legalization. For instance, to set up a company in China, among others you needed to provide a notarized and legalized extract of the Chamber of Commerce to verify the investor’s identity. The following steps had to be taken.

First, you will need to have the document notarized by a public notary in the Netherlands. This ensures that the document is authentic and can be relied upon in legal proceedings. Secondly, the notarization should be verified by the district court before sending it to be authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands. Once you have obtained the authentication from the Ministry, you will then need to have the document authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands for double authentication. Finally, it will be recognized as valid in China and can be used for the purpose it was intended. The whole process is rather costly and time-consuming.

Once China joins the Apostille Convention, this traditional legalization process of official documents will be replaced by a single formality: an authentication certificate issued by the appointed authority where the public document was executed. For instance, if a Dutch company wants to use its company extract in China, it will need to obtain an apostille on the document. This means that the extract needs to be certified by the designated authority in the Netherlands and issued with an apostille certificate. The apostille certificate will verify the authenticity of the extract and makes it recognized as a legal document in China without the need for additional legalization.

However, the applicability of the Convention in China depends on the definition of “public documents” under China’s domestic law. Only those documents falling under this definition will be recognized under the Convention. Therefore, it remains to be seen how China will interpret and apply the definition of “public documents” under its law.

In terms of setting up a company or litigation, it is essential for documents such as a power of attorney, legal representative statements, and company incorporation certificates to be considered as public documents under China’s domestic law. This would greatly benefit foreign businesses operating in China. We will keep you updated for further clarification in terms of application in China.


If you need further information, please do not hesitate to contact Ye Yu.


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