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Old 28.08.2015, 13:22
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What is the point of an apostille?

So after getting married in the US, my Swiss husband and I (American) were advised to get an apostille for our marriage certificate in order for it to be recognized abroad. We did this for several copies (you have to go through the US state's govt) and submitted them to the Civil register office, only to find they have to send it back to San Francisco to "legalise" it. I am wondering what the point of even getting one is, when Switzerland still has to send your documents and marriage certificate back to the consulate in the country where the marriage took place to verify the legality of your marriage for the familienausweis. Why even get the apostille?

Also, it seems to me that according to the San Francisco consulate's website, since both the US and Switzerland are part of the Hague convention that created the apostille standard, our apostilled marriage certificate should be enough to verify our marriage, without "Legalisation by the competent authority of the state issuing the document".
According to the chart on this page, since the US and Switzerland are both part of the Apostille Hague Convention, our marriage should fall under "Legalisation by Apostille".

https://www.eda.admin.ch/content/cou...ivilstand.html

What am I missing here? It seems like Switzerland is part of the apostille convention, but just does it their own way anyway.
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Old 28.08.2015, 13:28
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

The United States has never ratified the relevant Hague convention. http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act....status&cid=41

Edit: "Accession" is the act whereby a state accepts the offer or the opportunity to become a party to a treaty already negotiated and signed by other states. It has the same legal effect as ratification.
Sorry. https://treaties.un.org/pages/Overvi....xml#accession
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Old 28.08.2015, 13:53
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

Hmm thanks for the response, but I'm really not sure what that means for my question then.
I could see that maybe since they didn't technically ratify it, that there could be an issue with the legality of it, but the US is still listed as a member of the convention, and does in fact issue apostilles. Why would they issue the apostilles if they weren't considered legitimate?

I fear I'm looking for logic in bureaucracy, where it is often difficult to find. Any other insight would be appreciated.

This being said, I should mention we have gone through with the civil status change requirements and sent our documents to San Francisco so I'm not trying to bypass any laws, just trying trying to understand them.
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Old 28.08.2015, 14:13
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

I think the problem may be that you didn't register your US marriage with the Swiss embassy to start with.

Swiss nationals as well as foreigners who have a relationship with a Swiss citizen under family law are under an obligation to report events affecting their civil status to the Swiss representation responsible for their place of residence abroad.

https://www.eda.admin.ch/content/cou...ivilstand.html
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Old 28.08.2015, 14:14
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

Why do you not ask this question to the civil register office servant who sent the documents back to SF?

Maybe he does not know what an apostille is?

PS: Where is your location North America?
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Old 28.08.2015, 14:16
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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Maybe he does not know what an apostille is?
It's somebody like this

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Old 28.08.2015, 14:30
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

When we got married 20 years ago, we were living in the US and wanted to marry in the Netherlands (my husband's country). I had to send a US birth certificate and a notarised letter stating that i was free to marry to my state in the US, and they certified the document as real so that the Dutch gov't would accept the document as real. That, i thought was the purpose of the apostile.

When we were married, we asked for an international marriage license. I have the original with a seal and a few copies that have a stamp "official copy" in Dutch, and we've used them, no problem for the last 20 years.

Does the US have a recognized international marriage license form? I have no idea. If not, is the purpose of the apostille to certify that your marriage license is real?

For us, the hardest part was the form attesting we were free to marry. Now, you fill out one at the embassy, but in 1995, we went round and round with the Dutch and agreed on a notarised letter.

My experience and info is old, so may not be directly applicable.
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Old 28.08.2015, 14:42
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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Hmm thanks for the response, but I'm really not sure what that means for my question then.
I could see that maybe since they didn't technically ratify it, that there could be an issue with the legality of it, but the US is still listed as a member of the convention, and does in fact issue apostilles. Why would they issue the apostilles if they weren't considered legitimate?

I fear I'm looking for logic in bureaucracy, where it is often difficult to find. Any other insight would be appreciated.

This being said, I should mention we have gone through with the civil status change requirements and sent our documents to San Francisco so I'm not trying to bypass any laws, just trying trying to understand them.
could they have not realised it was already apostilled and didn't require further legalisation?
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Old 28.08.2015, 15:07
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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I think the problem may be that you didn't register your US marriage with the Swiss embassy to start with.

Swiss nationals as well as foreigners who have a relationship with a Swiss citizen under family law are under an obligation to report events affecting their civil status to the Swiss representation responsible for their place of residence abroad.

https://www.eda.admin.ch/content/cou...ivilstand.html

So, yes and no. You are absolutely correct in that we didn't do things in the correct order (more out of ignorance than intention). My husband has never actually lived in Switzerland (he's a dual citizen with an EU country where he grew up so he's not savvy to the Swiss laws). He got a job here, and we came to Switzerland on short notice.

Where you're wrong is that I don't really have a problem, as we have jumped through the necessary hoops for the civil status office and we will receive the familienausweis (in time). I'm just trying to understand the apostille stuff.

We are in Switzerland (legally, as my B permit is in processing, pending my familienausweis of course). We realize now the familienausweis is not usually a hindrance for the B permit, because most have a D visa for which the familienausweis is required. At the recommendation of the Zurich migration office, I entered as a tourist intending to apply for the D visa, then leave and reenter, but the migration office ended up just starting the B permit process without the D visa.
We only got married in May 2015 so we still fall into the six month time frame to report civil status changes. We didn't realize the importance of doing this immediately as it seemed to us in the US that it was something to take care of in Switzerland with the certificate/apostille. Because I wasn't forced to get the D visa, it seemed like the two processes could happen simultaneously and weren't dependent upon each other, especially since dependent visas for spouses of EU citizens and 3rd country B permit holders require only a valid marriage certificate. I understand why some of our assumptions were wrong now (he is Swiss!).


Like I said earlier, I was just wondering if anyone had insight into the apostille system and why it doesn't suffice to legalize a US marriage. Asking the civil status office is obviously a good idea, but my husband is handling that correspondence and he has not done so that's why I came here.
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Old 28.08.2015, 15:40
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

The apostille should have been sufficient.

This being said there might have been issues as to which authority affixed the apostille (check here: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act...etails&aid=353)

or, they might have had some concerns as to the marriage itself (i.e. concern that its sham marriage...) and wanted to check with the consulate;

or, some other administrative reason.
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Old 28.08.2015, 15:45
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

Thanks for the reply.

An important note: Update your location status to at least reflect the canton you live in. Many things (certain laws, schooling, tax, garbage collection) in Switzerland depend on the canton (Kantönligeist). To distinguish canton from the towns with the same name write for ex. Canton Zurich or use the two letter short form ZH. (the one on the cars license plate).
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Old 28.08.2015, 16:24
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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So, yes and no. You are absolutely correct in that we didn't do things in the correct order (more out of ignorance than intention). My husband has never actually lived in Switzerland (he's a dual citizen with an EU country where he grew up so he's not savvy to the Swiss laws). He got a job here, and we came to Switzerland on short notice.

Where you're wrong is that I don't really have a problem, as we have jumped through the necessary hoops for the civil status office and we will receive the familienausweis (in time). I'm just trying to understand the apostille stuff.

We are in Switzerland (legally, as my B permit is in processing, pending my familienausweis of course). We realize now the familienausweis is not usually a hindrance for the B permit, because most have a D visa for which the familienausweis is required. At the recommendation of the Zurich migration office, I entered as a tourist intending to apply for the D visa, then leave and reenter, but the migration office ended up just starting the B permit process without the D visa.
We only got married in May 2015 so we still fall into the six month time frame to report civil status changes. We didn't realize the importance of doing this immediately as it seemed to us in the US that it was something to take care of in Switzerland with the certificate/apostille. Because I wasn't forced to get the D visa, it seemed like the two processes could happen simultaneously and weren't dependent upon each other, especially since dependent visas for spouses of EU citizens and 3rd country B permit holders require only a valid marriage certificate. I understand why some of our assumptions were wrong now (he is Swiss!).


Like I said earlier, I was just wondering if anyone had insight into the apostille system and why it doesn't suffice to legalize a US marriage. Asking the civil status office is obviously a good idea, but my husband is handling that correspondence and he has not done so that's why I came here.
It could be that had you registered the marriage at the embassy first they would have then notified the cantonal authorities that you'd married and they had seen the apostilled documents attesting to this which would have "legalised" it in the eye of the authorities here. Just a guess on my part though.

Another possibility from the link you provided:

"In countries prone to civil status fraud such documents often require verification by a law firm approved by the competent Swiss representation."

Whether the US is considered a "country prone to civil status fraud" I don't know, but could be another explanation for sending the paperwork back to San Francisco.

In any case I shouldn't worry too much about it. There'll probably be lots of other things about Switzerland that you won't understand.

Of more concern to you yourself is your continuing tax filing obligations to the US

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Inter...-Aliens-Abroad

and the problems your nationality may cause you in getting a bank account here. You'll have to sign a W-9 form to allow any bank to send the account info on to the IRS and my advice is to keep your account/s completely separate from your husband's. Otherwise his info will need to be reported too.
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Old 28.08.2015, 16:46
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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Like I said earlier, I was just wondering if anyone had insight into the apostille system and why it doesn't suffice to legalize a US marriage. Asking the civil status office is obviously a good idea, but my husband is handling that correspondence and he has not done so that's why I came here.
I suspect this is slightly mistaken use of terminology by the Swiss, to be honest.

The apostille does not certify that the content of the document is accurate; it's just a statement about the signature. In some cases the Swiss like to check the actual content of the document and often the local embassy will hire a PI to do this.
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Old 28.08.2015, 17:35
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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I suspect this is slightly mistaken use of terminology by the Swiss, to be honest.

The apostille does not certify that the content of the document is accurate; it's just a statement about the signature. In some cases the Swiss like to check the actual content of the document and often the local embassy will hire a PI to do this.

In the case of a original birth or marriage certificate an apostille proofs exactly that: That the certificate genuine.

In the case of a notarized copy of a document an apostille will (mostly) only proof that the notarizing body acted in official manners.

http://www.hcch.net/upload/abc12e.pdf
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Old 31.08.2015, 12:47
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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In the case of a original birth or marriage certificate an apostille proofs exactly that: That the certificate genuine.

In the case of a notarized copy of a document an apostille will (mostly) only proof that the notarizing body acted in official manners.

http://www.hcch.net/upload/abc12e.pdf
Page 13 of that document points out specifically that the apostille certifies only the signature, not the content. This distinction is important.
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Old 31.08.2015, 13:04
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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Page 23 of that document points out specifically that the apostille certifies only the signature, not the content. This distinction is important.
So to combine yours and mine:
An apostille certifies that a document is a genuine public document, but not that its content is accurate and correct.
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Old 31.08.2015, 13:05
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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So to combine yours and mine:
An apostille certifies that a document is a genuine public document, but not that its content is accurate and correct.
So what is its value then?
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Old 31.08.2015, 17:16
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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So what is its value then?
The apostille "certif[ies] the authenticity of the signature, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted and, where appropriate, the identity of the seal or stamp which it bears."

In most countries public notaries can notarize signatures or copies. In case of signatures they confirm that the person who signed a document actually did so, in case of copies they confirm that the copy is a true copy of the original document.

The whole purpose of legalization is to have a chain of signatures confirming the preceding signature. In countries where you do not have any apostilles, you will need to have a notary notarize the signature, the cantonal chancellery legalize it (possibly also the federal chancellery) and then submit it to the embassy of the country where you require the document, who will superlegalize it by confirming "yes we recognize the stamp of the cantonal/federal chancellery".

The apostille is simply a short cut by which affixing the apostille does away with having to go to the embassy.

So in short, the apostille (or the notarization) itself does not confirm that the content of a document is true, however, if in the present case, where a public entity has issued a formal document and signed it, the apostille at least confirms that the entity that has signed it, actually exists.
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Old 31.08.2015, 17:26
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

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I suspect this is slightly mistaken use of terminology by the Swiss, to be honest.

The apostille does not certify that the content of the document is accurate; it's just a statement about the signature. In some cases the Swiss like to check the actual content of the document and often the local embassy will hire a PI to do this.
Indeed, this is the case. Even notarization in Switzerland does not confirm the contents of the document, only that the person signing the document actually signed it.

The apostilla, in turn, certifies the signature of the notary, which is required for international use. For example, when I lend a family member or friend one of my vehicles, I print out a permission note and get it notarized at the commune (i.e. I sign it in the presence of the town secretary, otherwise a notary), then apostillaed in Bellinzona at the cantonal offices. Without the apostilla, the permission would only be valid within Switzerland.

As for the marriage thing, I also married a Swiss in the US, though we actually resided in CH at the time. Nothing to apostilla, but they did send the marriage certificate back to NY to be validated. For 6 months, I was married and my wife not!

Tom
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Old 02.09.2015, 21:21
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Re: What is the point of an apostille?

Lots of helpful information here, thanks everyone. Looks like I was hoping the apostille would have a bit more power than it does.

I hope I understand correctly then, that this business with the consulate in San Francisco is more to investigate me as an American who wants to claim the right to live in Switzerland as a spouse, as I was asked to send my birth certificate, marriage certificate (with apostille, of course) and a certified copy of my soul to them without expecting to get it back.
Hopefully mine doesn't take 6 months.
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