If you’re planning to use your South African documents in China, for business or personal reasons, the Chinese authorities may require your documents to be legalised with an Apostille before they can accept them. Therefore, South African citizens and companies need to be aware of the South African document legalisation instructions for China. However, navigating the legalisation process can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with the requirements and procedures involved. In this comprehensive guide entitled South African Document Legalisation Instructions for China, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about getting your South African documents legalised for China.
These instructions provide clear guidelines for the authentication and legalisation of South African documents to ensure that they are recognised and accepted by Chinese authorities and organisations. So whether you’re planning to work in China, apply for citizenship or travel for tourism purposes, read on to learn about the South African document legalisation instructions for China.
Overview of South African Document Legalisation Instructions in China
The significance of South African document legalisation instructions for China goes beyond mere administrative procedures, it is a legal requirement. Indeed, when presenting a document originating in one country for use in another, the receiving party often requires proof of the authenticity of the signature and seal of the public official who executed, issued or certified a copy of the document. The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, or the Apostille Convention, has greatly simplified the process through a certificate called an Apostille, which eliminates the need for embassy or consular legalisation. More than 120 countries are now parties to the Convention, including South Africa and as of 7 November 2023, China also joined.
Step 1: Check whether your documents can be legalised
You can get documents legalised if they’ve been issued by :
- Home affairs: certificates such as a birth, marriage or death certificate, Letters of no impediment, Certificate of naturalisation or renunciation.
- SAPS (South African Police Services): Police clearance certificates and certificates confirming expungement of criminal records.
- Court: document signed and sealed by a court registrar or a judge such as a divorce decree.
- Government department and signed by an official, such as a letter of confirmation of tax registration or a company certificate issued by CIPC.
- HPCSA registered doctor, such as a medical certificate signed by a doctor
You can also get other documents legalised, as long as they’ve been certified by a South African ‘public official’, such as a South African notary for example: documents such as a power of attorney, a contract or a qualification certificate, copies of documents such as a passport or a driving licence. This is not an exhaustive list of all the documents you can get legalised.
Step 2: Make sure your personal documents are recent and valid
Applicants are encouraged to check the validity of their documents, as expired documents and certificates submitted for legalisation will be rejected and not accepted by China.
Recent personal documents play a key role in the legalisation process as they are usually the most up-to-date and reliable sources of information. These documents provide the most recent evidence of an individual’s identity, status and qualifications, significantly reducing the chances of inconsistencies or inaccuracies. Certain documents must be issued recently (within 6 months in most cases) because they are subject to an expiry date. Examples of such documents include passports, visas, police clearance certificates (PPC) and driving licences. These documents have a limited period of validity and must be renewed regularly to ensure their continued legal status.
However, it’s worth noting that certain Home Affairs documents, such as birth certificates, identity documents, marriage certificates and divorce decrees, do not usually have an expiry date. They are considered permanent documents and are valid indefinitely. Similarly, academic certificates such as degrees, diplomas, matriculation certificates and higher education certificates do not have an expiry date. They simply serve as permanent proof that you have met the required educational criteria.
Step 3: Check apostille requirements and obtain the right apostille
There are 2 types of apostille in South Africa:
- DIRCO Apostille – Documents issued by a government department such as the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), South African Police Services (SAPS) etc… must be submitted to the Legalisation Section at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) for apostille in Pretoria.
- High Court Apostille – Documents such as copies of travel documents (passports), driving licences or legal documents such as affidavits, powers of attorney, employment contracts and/or translations must be notarized by a Notary Public or translated by a Sworn Translator (if this service is required) and then submitted to the Registrar of any High Court of South Africa for Apostille.
Although both apostilles are equivalent and hold the same legal value, the Chinese embassy in Pretoria has a preference for DIRCO apostilles when it comes to original documents and requires High Court apostilles for photocopies. It is therefore important to obtain the apostille from the correct institution. If you are in any doubt, or if your document can only obtain a High Court Apostille, you should ask the Chinese Embassy where your document is to be sent and whether or not they will accept a High Court Apostille.
General information about apostille:
- The Apostille Certificate is an A4 certificate that is attached to your document.
- Once affixed, it must never be removed or it will lose its validity.
- The Apostille certifies only the origin of the public document to which it relates – it certifies the authenticity of the signature or seal of the person or authority who signed or sealed the public document and the capacity in which this was done. It does not, however, certify the content of the public document(s) to which it relates.
- The Apostille can never be used to recognise a document in the country where it was issued, but only abroad.
- Apostille certificates do not expire.
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