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Commonly known as legalization or apostille

China has joined the Hague Apostille Convention which has come into force as of 7 November 2023. The legalization process described herein is no longer necessary. Rather, you are to obtain an appostile.

Legal documents issued in one country are not automatically valid in another and this is with good reason. A judge in China cannot be expected to independently know or verify whether the signature of a notary in Argentina is real or not. To solve this problem a procedure known as legalization is used - it creates a hierarchical chain of "checks" effectively linking the Argentinian notary to the Chinese judge. The last step, authentication by a Chinese consulate or embassy, provides legal authorities in China with a certification they can recognize and validate, as it was applied to the document by an organ of their national government according to Chinese law.



Legalization is a multi-step process with different steps depending on the type of document and where it was issued. The first two or three steps are always done locally; usually notarization and authentication by a state or federal government body (such as the Department of Foreign Affairs). Documents are normally classified as either "public" or "private". Public documents are issued by foreign governments while private documents are typically prepared by individuals with the help of a notary.


Public Documents

  • Marriage Certificate

  • Birth Certificate

  • Court Records

Private Documents

  • Power of Attorney

  • Affidavit

  • Notarized "True Copies"


Public Documents

  1. Original document issued by the relevant government department.

  2. Authentication by Secretary of State (or equivalent).

  3. Authentication by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  4. Authentication by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate.

Private Documents

  1. Original document notarized by a notary public.

  2. Authentication of notarial seal by notarial regulatory authority.

  3. Authentication by Secretary of State (or equivalent).

  4. Authentication by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  5. Authentication by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate.


The initial steps to legalization will always vary depending on the state/province and country. The content and format of the authentication stamps and stickers attached to a document vary too. There is no universal standard, so it is not possible to provide a catalogue that would be valid for every jurisdiction worldwide.

The only sure way to know a document has been properly authenticated for use in China is to confirm it has a "China Authentication" counterfoil (sticker) attached to it.

China Authentication Sticker

If our firm is handling your case, we will most likely be arranging legalization of any relevant documents on your behalf. If you are looking to handle the procedure yourself, you would be advised to review the "Authentications" section on the website of the Chinese embassy or consulate responsible for your location. Alternatively, there are specialist agents who can assist you, usually for a relatively modest service fee.


Expat Group Leader, Partner

Flora and her team are here to help and would be pleased to answer any questions you may have. For urgent matters in particular, email is the most expeditious means of communication.

Flora Huang holding papers

Email Flora for quick, free answers at

Alternatively, you can call her directly on +86.181.2115.5305

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