Friday, 12 December 2008

Hungary: Getting Foreign Documents Recognised

Hungarian affair

If we wish to make use of a legal document (for example an authorisation), in the country of its origin there is no problem because this country has clear rules on the form and content of the document. Based on these an expert or even an educated layman can determine whether the document is suitable for producing the intended legal effect.

The situation becomes interesting if we wish to use the given document in a foreign country, in a procedure involving foreign authorities and bodies which implement the law. Since legal systems are very different across the world, and there can be significant differences between individual rules even in cases where the legal systems are similar, those wishing to make use of a foreign document face a difficult task. Multilateral and bilateral agreements offer a solution to this.

Which foreign docs are OKIn Hungary there are essentially four levels at which foreign documents are accepted:

1. If our country has a direct or accredited foreign mission, the competent consular official can legalise the signature and stamp on the document (diplomatic legalisation) for the authority of the host country. Since the foreign mission operates according to domestic law, this creates the link between the foreign document and the legal system at home.The disadvantage is that it is cumbersome (the foreign mission has to have a sample of the signature and stamp in question), time-consuming, and restricted in terms of location (tied to the foreign mission).

2. If the two countries have signed a bilateral legal assistance agreement, they can stipulate in it that documents issued by the other's authorities that comply with certain formalities do not require further legalisation and may be accepted directly in the other country. This allows more flexible application of the law regarding foreign documents.The disadvantage is that Hungary not have bilateral agreements with many countries, and if the text of the treaty is not unambiguous then difficulties of interpretation can arise.

3. If there is no diplomatic connection between the two countries, the relevant authority, having considered the full circumstances of the case, can decide as it sees fit on whether or not to accept the document in question. If doubts arise the authority sends the document to the Department of International Law, which makes lengthy inquiries before reaching a decision on whether or not the document may be accepted.The disadvantage is that the outcome is uncertain, and flexible and prompt administration can become impossible.

4. The desire for a uniform set of rules allowing wide scale and prompt international use of foreign documents led to the Hague convention of 5 October, 1961 abolishing the requirement for diplomatic or consular legalisation of foreign public documents (promulgated in Hungary by Act no. 11 in 1973 ). Based on this, the members of the multilateral agreement and associate countries determined the sphere of authorities which differ from country to country, and are entitled to place an Apostille certificate, whose format and text is uniform, on documents intended for use abroad. This verifies the quality of the body that certified or issued the document in question. Documents authenticated in this way have to be accepted in states party to the convention even without diplomatic legalisation.

This procedure has resulted in a uniform form of authentication which can be easily checked by all parties. The agreement created the possibility for all countries to join, so the list of states adopting the convention is continually growing.

Based on the above we can say that Apostille authentication is suitable if the country where the document will be used and the country of the body which certified or issued the document are party to the Apostille convention, there is no bilateral agreement between the two countries, and we do not wish to request diplomatic legalisation.

In Hungary the apostille is issued for notarial deeds and certifications intended to use out of Hungary by the National Chamber of Civil Law Notaries (Budapest 1st district, Pauler u. 11. 7th floor, +36-1-489-4880.)– Dr Viktor Máté, deputy civil law notaryFor more information about public notaries and their work please see our website or contact us: (06-1) 476-0270.e-mail:

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