Documents in Holland: Certified vs Sworn vs Apostilled vs Legalized

Find out what it means when your local Dutch gemeente (city hall) requires a document be ‘apostilled’ or ‘legalized’ or a translation be ‘certified’ or ‘sworn’…

Dutch gemeente in The Hague

When expats first arrive in Holland, they are often required to submit documents to their local city hall (‘gemeente’) to officially become a resident (added to the Dutch ‘Basisregistratie Personen’ or BRP, the personal records database). While it may seem easy enough (for example, a copy of a birth certificate or a marriage license), you must look closely at any additional requirements related to the document, so that it will be accepted.

There are 4 different ways a document can be reproduced. It is important to understand the type of document being asked for by the gemeente, to save yourself unnecessary trips to your local Dutch city hall.

Dutch-Translated Document – This is the most basic Dutch-translated document because it can be performed by anyone who is fluent in Dutch and the original language which the document was written in. This type of translated document is never accepted by Dutch municipalities, Dutch law offices, Dutch notaries or other organizations which require an “official” Dutch-translated document.

Certified Dutch-Translated Document – This type of document is generated by a professional translator and is stamped and signed by the translator signifying he/she stands behind the correctness of the translation. The original document in the foreign language is attached to the translated version. This type of document is accepted when an organization has requested a “certified” Dutch translation. For example, a Dutch university may require a foreign student applying for admission to submit a “certified” Dutch translation of his/her prior school record. This type of document is usually not accepted by departments of local or national administration, such as the Dutch IND (Immigration en Naturalisation Department)

Sworn Dutch-Translated Document – This type of document can only be produced by a translator who is listed in the Raad voor Rechtsbijstand (Rbtv), the Dutch register of sworn interpreters and translators. The translated document is signed and stamped with the translator’s seal (which includes his/her number in the register). The translated document is attached to the original foreign language document. This type of “sworn” Dutch translation document is the type most often required by municipalities, the Dutch IND as well as law firms and notaries for many legal transactions.

Apostilled Document – In 1961, several countries signed a treaty convention right here in The Hague which allowed certain administrative bodies within each country to be granted the authority to legalize copies of public documents. A document with the affixed ‘apostile’ is accepted as a legal copy of the original document in any country that is a member of the convention. As of today, more than 100 countries are treaty members. ‘Apostilled’ documents are commonly required of Americans, Brits, Australians and New Zealanders among others. An official copy of a document which does not have an ‘apostille’ stamp will be rejected by Dutch municipalities and other administrative organizations, such as the IND.

Legalized Document – For all other countries which have not signed the ‘apostille’ treaty convention, the process their documents need to go through is that of ‘legalization’. So whereas an American national will need to provide an ‘apostilled’ birth certificate for municipal registration at a local city hall in Holland, a Brazilian national would be required to produce a ‘legalized’ birth certificate.


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