Authentications enable international recognition of documents and have to meet a number of legal requirements which are outlined in the following section:
Authentications provide legal security.
Official documents generally have to be authenticated in order to be used in another country. This form of authentication for international legal purposes is referred to as diplomatic authentication or legalisation. This is a formal act which confirms the genuineness of a signature and the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, and, as required, also the genuineness of a seal or stamp. This act eventually also confirms the identity of the issuer of the official document.
Legalisation of official documents is not required when the states involved have agreed on waiving the authentication requirement in a bilateral or multilateral agreement (see below). The legalisation of foreign documents is not possible when Austria has suspended authentications for documents from the issuing state (see below).
The attestation of signature of a private document confirms that the signature of a certain person on the document is authentic, i.e. that the signature is indeed that of this person who either signed the document or recognised his/her signature as being genuine before the attestor.
The authentication of a public official document used internationally solely confirms the genuineness of the signature and the official seal and – if required under international law – the position of the person/official who has executed, issued or certified the document or the capacity in which this person acted. The attestation of a signature on a private document only confirms the genuineness of the signature on the document.
When both the state that issued the official document and the “state of destination” in which the official document is to be used agreed in a bilateral or multilateral convention on abolishing the requirement of legalisation for a certain type of documents, such documents are to be recognised directly by the authorities of the state of destination. In such cases, diplomatic authentication/legalisation is not required.
Austria has concluded international law agreements with other states both on the partial and the full abolishment of legalisation requirements. Often agreements on issues related to civil status, official documents, mutual legal assistance and other special topics or consular agreements contain provisions according to which only certain official documents are exempt from legalisation, such as for instance documents issued by courts.
The legalisation of documents issued by certain states may be suspended by the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs when it is not possible to guarantee reliable verification of the genuineness, substantial accuracy or correctness of the content of these documents cannot be guaranteed. In such cases the competent Austrian representation authority must not authenticate/legalise documents issued by the respective state.
Legalisation of documents issued by the following states is currently suspended:
Afghanistan Burundi Comoros Chad Congo (Brazzaville Congo – Democratic Republic of the (Kinshasa) Equatorial Guinea Iraq Korea – Democratic People’s Republic of Myanmar Somalia Sudan (Khartoum) South Sudan