Legalization Service

International tendering, international legal procedure, trademark registration, patent and INPI certification,… to preserve all their legal value abroad.

What is the legalization of documents?

Legalisation is a formality whose objective is to enable French documents (official documents or private deeds) to retain their legal and official value abroad, depending on the country concerned.

Thus, documents relating to a patent application issued in France can be legalized, for example, to preserve all their legal value with the administration concerned and all the authorities in the target country.

Similarly, an official document issued by a foreign country must be legalized in its country of origin in order to be recognized by the authorities in France. Legalization may be necessary, in particular in the context of calls for tenders, trademark registration, commercial litigation, the creation of a subsidiary or even for expatriation.

What are the formalities for legalization?

To carry out legalization procedures, you have several options according to the diplomatic rules in force in the countries concerned.

Classic approach:
The document is first legalized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris (Bureau of Legalizations) and then by the Consulate of the country concerned.

Simplified approach: the Apostille

Faster than the traditional procedure, the apostille is a simplified legalization established by the Hague Convention.

This formality can only be carried out by a Court of Appeal in France. In practice, legalization must be carried out by the Apostille Department of the Court of Appeal to which the notary (as signatory of the deed or documents concerned) belongs.

Consult the list of States Parties to the Hague Convention


Exemption from legalization

Bilateral agreements between some countries allow exemption from legalization while maintaining the official value of the documents in question. Thus, a French act remains valid as it stands in Italy, Senegal or Vietnam, for example.
Consult the official list of bilateral agreements exempting from legalization

Legalization needs differ from one country to another. International agreements between foreign countries and France are not all identical, and procedures may differ depending on the nature of the trade.

For more information, you can consult this summary sheet of conventional law on legalization, as well as the different data according to the countries and documents transmitted.


Documents to be legalized

All public documents (civil status deeds, judgments, etc.) and documents drawn up under private signature (property deeds, INPI certificates, etc.) may be the subject of an application for legalization in order to preserve their official status abroad.

These documents include:


  • civil status records ;
  • judicial records (e. g. judgments) ;
  • administrative records (certificates of nationality and extracts from criminal records) ;
  • commercial or industrial records (must first be approved by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI)):
    iNPI certificates, powers, Kbis, patents, commercial contracts, etc..;
  • documents drawn up or certified by consular or diplomatic agents ;
  • the certification of private deeds with official mention:
    certificates of honour, acknowledgement of debts, contracts, invoices, letters of recommendation, certificates of accommodation, powers
    affidavits, documents and handwritten statements recorded or filed in courts of law;
  • notarial deeds and any documents prepared by an auxiliary of justice and public officer, such as a notary, lawyer, bailiff, etc.
  • Medical certificates (must be approved in advance by the National Council of the Medical Association), etc.”


Added value of sworn translation


Your commercial contract has just been legalized. It is perfectly recognized by the authorities in Taiwan. Problem: no one there understands it!

For your commercial operations in particular, it is highly recommended to carry out a sworn translation of your French document. And sometimes, it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that requires it to facilitate the understanding and use of the document abroad.

The process then consists in having your document translated by an expert translator, sworn in by the Court of Appeal. Also called “translator under oath”. As a judicial expert, he is the only person authorised to translate an official document and to
certify authenticity.
On this document translated into French should appear:


  • the stamp of the sworn translator ;
  • the signature of the translator under oath;
  • a translation number.

The second step is to have this translated document legalized in order to preserve its legal value abroad.
You now have a French document and its version translated, both legalized for the country’s foreign authorities concerned.

Legalization, whether in its classic form or apostille, remains subject to diplomatic exchanges between countries. It is therefore advisable to be well informed about the steps and formalities to be carried out, in order to be able to send a document in accordance with the expectations of the country of destination.

Apostille, legalization or exemption, ask your legal translation agency for advice.

In addition, some rare legal translation agencies offer their clients a legalization service. A definite time saver and the assurance not to get lost in the requests of international administrations!

The BILIS Traduction team will be able to advise you.
We have been working for many years with teams from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Courts of Appeal throughout France, consulates and chambers of commerce.