Hong Kong – Apostille or Authentication?

Documents intended for Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR must be stamped with an apostille from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and do not follow the same process as documents intended for China (mainland).


What do you need for documents going to Hong Kong?

Hong KongAs a leading provider of notary public services in Sydney, we help many clients with notarising their documents intended for Hong Kong. Sometimes some of those clients also receive different advice about the formal requirements for documents that have been notarised in Australia. In this article, we try to clear the confusion and provide some guidance based on our experience in helping clients in Australia send their documents to Hong Kong.

What kind of documents do we notarise for Hong Kong?

Some common documents that we notarise include:

  • the Notice of Intended Marriage for marrying in Hong Kong
  • registration applications to practice a profession in Hong Kong (ie, we have assisted doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and veterinarians)
  • certification of identity and identification documents (including the Hong Kong Identity Card)
  • property dealings and transaction-related legal documents for property in Hong Kong
  • legal documents used in court proceedings in Hong Kong, including probate and estate matters, and
  • witnessing the power of attorney or transfer documents relating to property in Hong Kong.

Generally, any kind of document that has been signed and witnessed in Australia, or is a copy of an original Australian government document, intended to be sent to or be used in another country should be notarised by a notary public.

Legalising documents for Hong Kong

Aside from having a document notarised by a notary public, the notarised document also needs to be legalised. This means the notarised document must be either stamped with an apostille or authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Sometimes this level of formality is not required. For many clients, just having the documents notarised is enough, but if in doubt then it is always safer to have the documents properly legalised.

The formality of legalisation applies to documents intended for countries all over the world. However, clients have been confused about what kind of formalities exist between Australia and Hong Kong in terms of legalisation – perhaps because they receive different and conflicting advice from their lawyers or from various government offices. While it is important to obtain the right advice, especially if that advice comes from a lawyer or government office, it is also important to ensure that whoever has provided that advice is aware of the practice adopted in Australia and the internationally recognised apostille.

Sometimes our clients are asked to have their documents notarised, authenticated by DFAT and then legalised by the Chinese Consulate. This is the normal legalisation process that clients must follow when they send their documents to China, and even though Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, the Chinese Consulate website suggests that documents intended for Hong Kong (and Macau) do not need to be legalised by the Chinese Consulate. Instead, documents intended for Hong Kong must be notarised and then stamped with an apostille from DFAT. The Chinese Consulate is not involved.

Hong Kong still recognises the apostille

This is important information because many people (including lawyers in Australia and in Hong Kong and China) assume that since Hong Kong is now part of China, the formal processes that exist in terms of authenticating and legalising notarised documents with China also extend to Hong Kong. This is not correct, or at least it is not correct from the Chinese Consulate’s perspective.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law is the authority responsible for drafting the Apostille Convention, and it confirms that:

“When Hong Kong and Macao were restored to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997 and 20 December 1999, respectively, China declared that the Convention will continue to apply for Hong Kong and Macao.”

Fortunately, this means is that the legalisation of documents for Hong Kong will be cheaper and faster – all good news for our clients.

If you are in Australia and you are sending your documents to Hong Kong, ask for clear instructions from your lawyer or the appropriate government office first. But if they advise you that you need to legalise your document through the Chinese Consulate in Australia, provide them with a link to this article and suggest that legalisation of documents for Hong Kong only requires an apostille from DFAT.

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Do you have any questions regarding this article?

Whether you're notarising a document for the first time or the hundreth time, the requirements, processes, and terms can be confusing and daunting - or just a pain and a hassle (especially if you need an apostille, or to authenticate or legalise as well). Don't worry! We're here to simplify it, explain it, and help you with what you need to achieve it.

Contact us or visit our Frequently Asked Questions for more information about our notary public services. We've also created a flowchart to help explain notarisation, apostille, authentication and legalisation.

So, what's next?

Visit our Notary Fees page for a free quote for our notary public services or just call us on +61 2 9687 8885 to speak with our friendly team about your requirements.

Why choose Phang Legal for your notary public services?

We're a leading provider of notary public services in Sydney known for our experience and expertise in notarising documents for other countries, our low-cost fixed fees and service offering, and our availability to help on short notice. With our offices conveniently located in Parramatta, the geographic centre of the Sydney metropolitan area, we help clients from across Sydney and beyond with personal, professional and timely notary public services.

Ern Phang, Notary Public
Ern Phang
Notary Public

This website is maintained by Phang Legal, a boutique law firm in Parramatta and a leading provider of quality notary public services to satisfied clients across Sydney.

Ern Phang is a director of Phang Legal and a notary public (since 2005). Ern regularly writes about his experiences as a notary public and the issues faced by his clients in sending documents to other countries.

All information contained in this article is for general purposes only and correct at the time of publication. Only rely on information and advice specific to your situation and current at the time you wish to rely on it.