On 8 March 2023, China finally acceded the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of legalization for Foreign Public Documents (Apostille Convention). It will go into effect on 7 November 2023. This event should have a huge and positive impact for international businesses operating in China.
Currently, the legalization process includes notarization by an official institution, notary or court; authentication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and finally consular legalization by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate. In contrast, the apostille process involves only one authentication authority appointed by the State where the authentication takes place. Soon, Chinese courts and authorities will then directly recognize documents authenticated by such an authority.
This could impact the preparation of various kinds of documents for international companies doing business in China, including:
- A foreign company's incorporation / registration documents required for a foreign investor in China. For example, to establish a subsidiary, invest into a joint venture, or acquire a local company. Court and arbitration processes also require these documents when Chinese lawyers to represent foreign companies in China.
- Powers of Attorney executed by a foreign company to Chinese lawyers to represent them in court or arbitration.
- Evidentiary materials that are created abroad, and need to be presented in a Chinese court or arbitration.
The only caveat: China has yet to decide whether it will regard the above as "public documents".
Even if the scope will be less broad than hoped for, this step is a positive sign from China. After three years of sealed borders with relatively low levels of cross-border economic activities, any sign that China is willing to facilitate cross-border business should be welcomed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.