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Apostille Stamp — Verification of Foreign Documents in Israel and Israeli Documents Abroad

Michael Decker

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How can you receive an Apostille stamp in Israel or abroad? Which documents require this stamp? What is the difference between an Apostille from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and one from the Magistrate Court? How can you receive legalization (verification) for foreign documents in Israel? Do the documents that were translated by a notary need additional verification with an Apostille?

Our law office specializes in the area of immigration and relocation to Israel, and to other countries. We help our clients receive the passport and citizenship of first world countries such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Portugal, and others. We are often required to present foreign documents before Israeli state authorities. Even more often, we need to prepare documents issued in Hebrew for presentation abroad.

For this reason, we started to specialize in the subject of notarized translations and in all the steps required to verify documents in order to present them outside of the country in which they were issued. In this article, attorney and notary Michael Decker will explain why the Apostille stamp is used, and which types of documents require this type of authentication.

Why Do Documents Need to be Authenticated for Use Abroad?

The majority of documents that need translation and verification are official documents from state institutions. The document in question was issued by the state for a particular purpose; therefore it is written in a formal and specific manner, sometimes with the seal of the pertinent official. Is that sufficient to present the document in a foreign country “as is”? If not, can the presenter of the document personally translate it into the language of the destination country? If not, then why?

When a person in Israel (or in Russia, the United States, India, Micronesia) turns to the authorities or private entities within the domains of that country and presents a marriage certificate, will and testament, diploma, etc. in Hebrew (Russian, Hindi, English), the recipients of the document have no problem ensuring that everything written in the document is correct.

The officials speak the language used in the document, thus there is no need to translate it. In addition, they know how the documents of that country look, and if something in the document does not appear correct – whether it looks suspicious or even forged – they can easily contact the authority that issued the document to confirm whether or not the information therein is correct.

Verification (Consular Legalization) of Foreign Documents

ApostilleBut what about a clerk in Israel who is required to deal with a university diploma from Japan? What about officials in the United States who are presented with a marriage certificate in Hebrew? Should they rely on the translation of the person submitting the document, or of a private translator on their behalf?

Local authorities do not necessarily have the resources and time to check the veracity and translation quality of foreign documents. Therefore, there must be an official entity connected with the country of origin that can confirm that the original document is indeed official and that the translation is accurate.

For many years, the only institutions that were authorized to perform this translation and verification were the embassy or consulate of the country of origin. However, as the globalization process has advanced, the amount of official documents that needed to be submitted increased, and the authorities could not meet the demand. Therefore, many countries signed on the Hague Convention (1961), also known as the Apostille Convention.

In this convention, the signatory member states reached an agreement to recognize foreign documents as valid if properly endorsed by an Apostille stamp, which contains a fixed legal wording and is granted by the authorized entities of each country. In effect, the Apostille Convention authorized a method of verifying international documents for those countries that signed the treaty.

Today, the legalization of foreign documents in the consulate of countries that are members of the Hague Convention is unusual. Moreover, since the consulate provides a consular approval of the document, and not an Apostille stamp, those representatives of local authorities who lack legal knowledge (or who want to make things more difficult for the applicant) can refuse to accept documents that were legalized at a consulate or an embassy.

Notarized Translation — Notary’s Verification of Translated Documents

As mentioned above, there are two processes involved in approving a foreign document. There is the confirmation that the original document is official and intact (Apostille stamp). Then, there’s confirmation that the document’s translation into the language of the receiving state is accurate. In certain countries, a “certified translator” may suffice; someone who received certification from an officially recognized translation authority that reviewed the translator’s professional qualifications.

No such entity exists in Israel; thus most of the translations of foreign documents going to and from Israel are validated through a certificate of notarized translation. A notary public is an experienced and reputable lawyer whom the state trusts to not misuse their position by authorizing incorrect translations.

There are two types of notarized translation:

A) The notary’s (who speaks both the language of the original document and the language it is translated into) confirmation that the translation is correct.

B) A notarized translator statement regarding the document, which was presented before the notary; complete with confirmation of the translator’s professional qualifications, wherein the translator pledges that the document was translated accurately.

Most of the countries in the world do not differentiate between the two types of notarized translation, and even in Israel both types are acceptable for most purposes — except for in submitting documents to the Ministry of Interior. Officials there are usually, in accordance with the Ministry of Interior’s procedures, unwilling to accept a certified translator’s statement. Rather, they require a translation confirmation by a notary who speaks both languages.

Does a Notarized Translation Need an Apostille Stamp from the Magistrate Court?

Only for the purposes of submitting the document abroad. Let’s reiterate what was written above concerning the difficulties and complications associated with validating documents outside of the originating country; if a notary in Israel approves the translation of the document to Hebrew, any Israeli authority could easily check to find out if this notary exists, is authorized to approve translations, and speaks the relevant languages.

But for an official in far away Indonesia, there is no way to know if the notary in Israel actually exists or has any authorization whatsoever. Therefore, a notarized translation certificate that is sent abroad must receive an Apostille stamp from the Magistrate Court, which confirms that the notary is authorized to approve it. In other countries, a notarized translation will usually receive an Apostille stamp from the Department of Justice, and not necessarily from a court. 

Does the Apostille Stamp Require a Notarized Translation?

If the foreign document is received from abroad with an Apostille stamp and a notarized translation of the document is required, most of the time the stamp will need to be translated as well. With an official document from Israel, it is better to stamp it with an Apostille prior to it being translated and include the stamp in the translation of the document.

An Apostille stamp of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is issued in both Hebrew and English. If English is an official language of the destination country, there is no need to translate the stamp. If the foreign document is in English, sometimes there is no need to translate it; but if you are required to translate the document, the stamp is part of that translation.

Apostille from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

As mentioned, the notary confirms the translation as correct or that he received a pledge of its quality. However, he is not obligated (and sometimes cannot) confirm that the document itself is official, original, “complete”, and accurate. This is done at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Jerusalem, where the document receives an Apostille stamp that confirms that it is an official document issued by Israeli authorities.

It is important to stress that while the notarized translation can be based on a copy of the document, an Apostille from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can only be placed on an original document; one which was properly prepared and signed with no errors by an official of the authorities issuing the document.

What is the Cost of an Apostille?

The cost of an Apostille (as of April 2020) is 35 NIS, including VAT. It is possible to pay in advance online and then come to Ministry or Magistrate branch to receive it.  Alternately, you can pay on the spot, with a credit card or verified cheque.

In addition to the cost of the Apostille, one must also take into account the costs of traveling to Jerusalem (for approvals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, or the Ministry of Religious Services) or to the nearest Magistrate Court, as well as the waiting time.

What About Documents Such as Passports and ID Cards?

Generally, an Apostille must be placed on every original official document, not a photocopy. For documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc., it is always possible to obtain additional copies from Israeli authorities. This copy should be stamped with an Apostille and attached with a notarized translation. But what about documents such as drivers licenses, identification cards, and passports?

In this case, an additional copy of the document obviously cannot be obtained merely for the purposes of submission abroad. Therefore, a notary’s signature can be put on the copy of the identification, which confirms that it is a true copy of the original. Then an Apostille stamp from the Magistrate Court in Israel can be affixed to the notary’s approval.

Signature Verification at the Ministry of Religious Services or the Ministry of Education

In order to place an Apostille stamp on a diploma, professional certification, or a teaching certificate that was issued by the Ministry of Education, the document must be authenticated at the Ministry of Education office in Jerusalem.

To receive an Apostille on marriage certificates and similar documents, a special ratification must be obtained from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Verification of Documents from Foreign Countries Without Leaving Israel

If you received a foreign document without an Apostille stamp and the Israeli authorities require one, the easiest and simplest way is often to request a reissue of the document in the country of origin. But if you can’t contact the authorities of the country in which it was issued, there are two additional options.

A) You can contact the consulate of the issuing country for a consular verification of the documents. You may be forced to wait a few months for your turn.

B) Our office is able to receive documents stamped with an Apostille — which will be sent to Israel by registered mail — from many countries in the Western hemisphere and the former Soviet Union. Contact us to find out prices and timeframes.

What About Countries That are not Signatories to the Apostille Convention?

If these countries recognize the State of Israel and its laws, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will usually issue a document verification seal that is not an Apostille. The question of whether this approval will be accepted or required, must be checked with the government entity that will be receiving the document.

An updated list of signatory countries can be found on the official website.

What about documents for use in the United States?

Clients often inquire about finding a US notary practicing in Israel, having been given the impression that only a US notary or a US embassy consulate can notarize documents for use in the States. Furthermore, as US notaries are only qualified to notarize documents in a single US state, some clients believe they are required to find an Israeli notary with a notary license in Montana, Alaska, etc.

That is not the case. You are not required to find a notary licensed in the US (much less a specific state) to notarize US documents. The US department of state expressly recommends the notarization of US documents with a local notary, followed by authentication with an apostille seal.

What About Unofficial Documents?

Documents between two parties, be they individuals or companies, generally do not require notarization or authentication with an Apostille. A contract or will can be translated without any certification. On the other hand; if there is a dispute about what is written in these documents, related to the wording of the translation, certifications may be needed to confirm the accuracy of the translation.

In Conclusion – Which Documents Need What Certification?

Documents from abroad that are presented before Israeli authorities, have to be stamped with an Apostille stamp when issued abroad and receive notarized translation in Israel. If you are able to find a Hebrew speaking translator, or if the Israeli authorities agree to accept an English translation, a notarized translation can be done while abroad.

Documents from Israel that require submission to foreign state authorities must have an Apostille from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that authenticates the document (on the original document, with all the signatures or signature authentications required in order to receive the Apostille), a notarized translation, and an Apostille from the Magistrate Court authenticating the translation.

We generally ask our clients to bring the original document to our Jerusalem office. At that point we can send the document to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, translate it and notarize it, and send the translated document to the Magistrate Court. After the document is translated and received the required stamps and seals, we deliver the document to the client. Alternately, we can post the notarized document directly to the recipient abroad.

Contact Us for a Price Quote for a Notarized Translation and Apostille

Our offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem specialize in notarized translation. Call us to receive a price quote for document translation and notarization, complete with apostille. We should note that the costs for notarized translation are fixed by law, per the word count of the document. If you attach the scanned document and the estimated word count, we can give you a quote even faster.

And of course, if you encounter any other problem during your immigration to or from Israel, we are happy to help.                        

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