Doing business
Last checked: 18/02/2019

Getting your public documents accepted in the EU

You may have to present a public document (a document issued by a public authority) such as your birth certificate if you want to get married, or proof of the absence of a criminal record if you are looking for a job in another EU country.

EU rules on public documents simplify this process and set out the guidelines public authorities must follow when handling your documents issued in another EU country. When you present a document (an original or its certified copy) issued by the authorities in one EU country to the authorities in another EU country, the authorities there must accept your document as authentic without an apostille stamp to prove its authenticity.

Types of documents covered by EU rules

You can present public documents without an apostille stamp in the following areas:

These rules only apply to the authenticity of public documents, not the recognition of their legal effects outside the EU country where they were issued – this aspect is governed by the national law of the EU country where the document is presented.  

For example, if you have a same-sex marriage certificate issued in one EU country, the authorities of another EU country where you may present the certificate cannot require an apostille stamp for your certificate, but will not be obliged to recognise the marriage if same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in that country.

Translation requirements

You do not have to provide an official translation of your document if it is in one of the official languages of the EU country where you are presenting it or if it is in another non-official language accepted by that country.

In other cases, you can ask the authorities of the EU country that issued your document to provide a multilingual standard form. You need to present this form together with the document, instead of presenting a translation of your document.

Check the areas in which you can request a multilingual standard form in your EU country.

When you present a multilingual standard form together with your public document, the authorities of the EU country where you present the form may exceptionally ask you to provide a certified translation of the document if they cannot fully understand its contents.

Sample story

Getting a birth certificate issued in an EU country accepted as an authentic document in another EU country

Tamas, a Polish citizen is getting married in Belgium to Marie a Belgian citizen.  Before they can go ahead with the wedding, Tamas must submit his birth certificate to the Belgian authorities. Tamas does not need to get an apostille stamp to prove that his birth certificate is authentic, nor does he need a certified translation of his birth certificate. Instead, he can simply request a multilingual standard form from the Polish authorities and present it as a translation aid together with his birth certificate.

EU legislation

Need more information on rules in a specific country?

Need support from assistance services?

Get in touch with specialised assistance services

Share this page: