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Legalization of foreign documents (authentication)

Verified 28 janvier 2020 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

Clarification of the rules for legalizing a public act done abroad

The decree n°2020-1370 of 10 november 2020 specifies the rules for the legalization of a public act by a foreign authority.

This text shall enter into force on 1to January 2021..

The information contained on this page remains current and will be modified on this date.

The legalization of a document established abroad makes it possible to attest its authenticity with a view to a procedure in France. This is a procedure for validating the shape of the document, not its content. A French document intended for a French administration must not be legalized. In addition, certain foreign documents, including those issued by a State of the European Union, do not need to be legalized.

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

Only a foreign document intended for a French administration must be registered.

Public acts

Foreign public documents intended to be produced in France must be legalized, in particular the following acts:

  • Shipping of court decisions
  • Act of a judicial or administrative court
  • Act drawn up by a court clerk or a judicial officer
  • Notarial act
  • Shipment of a civil registration document
  • Act drawn up by an administration
  • Official declaration (mention of registration, visas for certain dates, certification of signature...)
  • Act prepared by a diplomatic and consular officer

Private acts

Certain acts under private established abroad must sometimes be legalized before being produced in France.

These include:

  • Attestation on honor
  • Debt recognition
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Certificate of accommodation

Exceptions

Some foreign documents do not need to be legalized because of international agreements.

In particular, some public documents issued by State of the European Union.. For example, a birth certificate.

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

You can also check with the embassy of the country of origin of the document.

To be legalized, a document must be written in French.

Otherwise, it must be accompanied by a translation into French by a qualified translator..

This translation must be done before the legalization process begins.

The legalization procedure is used to certify:

  • the veracity of a signature on an act,
  • the function and authority of the signatory of the act,
  • the seal or stamp affixed to the document.

The legalization of an act takes the form of an official stamp.

  Warning : legalization of an act under private may be done only in the presence of its signatory.

General case

The French embassy or consulate established in the issuing country shall have jurisdiction to legalize an act of foreign origin.

For example, the French embassy in Rabat is competent to legalize a Moroccan act.

Act of a foreign embassy in France

The French Minister for Foreign Affairs is empowered to legalize a public act of a foreign embassy or consulate established in France.

This document must be presented to another foreign diplomatic and consular agent established in France.

The time required to legalize a document varies.

It depends in part on the processing time needed by the authorities of the issuing country to "pre-legalize" the document.

According to international custom, the legalization of a foreign 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)
  • Overlegalization by a French consular authority on the spot

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