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Legalization of documents of foreign origin (authentication)

Verified 01 January 2023 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

What is the purpose of legalizing a foreigner document? What documents need to be legalized? Does the document have to be translated first? How do I apply? We tell you what to know about the legalization of a foreigner document to make a approach in France.

The legalization of a foreign document may be required to make a approach in France. For example, to apply for French nationality.

Legalization attest the following information:

  • Veracity of the signature
  • Function and authority of the signatory
  • Identity of the seal or stamp

An official legalization stamp is added to the document.

Only one foreigner document intended for French administration must be legalized.

A French document intended for a French administration must not be legalized.

Public act

One public foreigner act intended to be produced in France must be legalized.

Private Act

One act private established abroad may have to be legalized.

That depends on gait for which it is to be provided.

Examples of such documents are: attestation on honor, acknowledgement of debt, letter of recommendation, certificate of accommodation.


physical certification of signature on an instrument private can't be done only in the presence of its signatory.


Some foreigner documents do not no need to be legalized due to a international agreement.

In particular, some public documents issued by a European Union countries.

For example, a birth certificate.

To find out if a document should be legalized, see the summary table of the current state of treaty law in legalization.

You can also find out from the embassy of the country of origin of the document.

A document written in a foreign language must be accompanied by a translation into french made by a authorized translator.

This translation must be done before starting the legalization process.

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Public document of foreign origin

The French Embassy or Consulate established in country issuing the act can legalize one public act of foreign origin.

The act must be pre-legalized by the competent authority of the issuing State.

It may be an act issued by the State of residence or by diplomatic and consular authorities of another State present in the territory of the State of residence.

For example, the French Embassy in Beijing may legalize a Chinese act or a public act issued by the German Embassy in Beijing.

Special case of an act of a foreign embassy in France

The French minister of foreign affairs may legalize one public act of a embassy or a foreigners consulate established in France.

This act must be destined to be presented to a other diplomatic and consular foreigner established in France.

Please note

the legalization office in the ministry of foreign affairs is not competent to legalize a foreigner act.

The time limit for legalizing a document is variable.

It depends in part on the processing time required to the authorities of country issuing the act for “pre-legalize” the document.

Indeed, according to the international custom, the legalization of a foreigners act intended to be produced in France is based on the principle of "double legalization" :

  • Legalization by the competent authority of the issuing country (usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Over-Legalization by a French consular authority on site

Most countries subject to legalization follow this principle of double legalization.

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