General information

A variety of documents are (or may at some point be) required before and during your research stay.

Checklist: Important Documents
Please read the corresponding section of our Welcome Guide carefully first.

In addition, certain documents must first be officially verified before they can be accepted for use by German authorities. Find out more under “Legalisation”, “Apostille”, “Authentication” and “Notarisation” below.

Verifying foreign documents for use in Germany: Apostille or Legalisation?

Certain foreign-issued public documents must undergo an official verification process before they can be used by German authorities. This is to determine that they are both authentic and correct. There are two ways of confirming the authenticity of a foreign public document: Apostille or Legalisation. The main difference is in who gives the confirmation and how fast.

Legalisation: Traditionally, confirmation of authenticity is given by a consular officer of the state in which the document is to be used, only after it has passed through a confirmative chain of authorities including those of the state that originally issued the document. This process can take several weeks or even months.

Apostille (short for The Hague Apostille): To simplify and speed up the traditional legalisation process, many countries have agreed on a treaty called the Hague Convention. If both states concerned with a document are party to this agreement and consider the document public and requiring legalisation, authenticity of the document can be confirmed by a designated Competent Authority of the state that originally issued the document, rather than a consular officer of the state where the document is to be used. This makes it considerably easier and faster to obtain (in most cases, within only a day). For more information see the brochure The ABCs of Apostille (PDF).

Verifying German documents for use in Germany: Authentication or Notarisation?

Certification/Authentication (Beglaubigung): Certifies merely that an original and a copy of a document are complete and identical or that a signature under a document was made by the undersigned in the presence of an officer. Usually the entity that issued a document will be competent to authenticate its copy or signature. For example, copies of documents (e.g. degrees) issued by TU Dresden can be authenticated by designated university staff (see below), whilst most other public documents need to be authenticated by officers of a local Citizens’ office (Bürgerbüro). Civil status documents such as birth certificates can only be authenticated by the Civil Registrar’s Office who issued the original document.

Notarisation (notarielle Beurkundung): A special notarial act which certifies that certain persons have signed a document in the notary’s presence and were previously informed of its contents. The laws of each country specify exactly when this form of authentication is required.

Verifying German documents for use in another country: Certification AND Apostille/Legalisation

If you would like to use a German public document (e.g. a degree certificate) in another country, you can have its authenticity verified as described above. First you may need a certified one-sided copy of your original, especially if the original is a two-sided document (see above for certification/authentication). You can then have an Apostille issued for this certified copy by the Competent Authority in Germany. If the target country where the verified document is to be used is not a partner of the Hague Convention, please talk to us about how to get a legalisation of your German document.

Whom to contact

Legislation (of a foreign document for use in Germany)

The German embassy or consulate in the country where the original documents were issued.

Apostille (for a foreign document for use in Germany)

The designated Compentent Authority for any public documents issued in your country or region. Read here how to get an Apostille and find a list of Competent Authorities by country.

Apostille (for a German/Saxon degree certificate for use in another country)

The Landesdirektion Sachsen (State Directorate of Saxony) is the Competent Authority according to the Hague Convention who may issue an Apostille for degree certificates (e.g. a doctorate degree) obtained here in Saxony. For one-sided originals, the Apostille will be attached directly to the back of the original document. For two-sided originals, a certified one-sided copy needs to be obtained first from the university that issued the degree before an Apostille can be made out for it.