Consular legalisation of foreign documents used in Vietnam: A practical guide.

Posted in .
Last updated on July 1, 2021
Consular legalisation of foreign documents used in Vietnam: A practical guide

Consular legalisation is an important process undertaken by foreign investors in Vietnam, commonly at the stage of the market entry assessment upon establishing a formal entity in country, or where official documents from the investor’s country are required by the Vietnamese authorities for a specific civil, legal or commercial application on behalf of the foreign individual or a foreign entity. In this article, we delve into and explain the practical process and requirements for legalising documents issued by a foreign country to be used in Vietnam.

Under International Law, Consular legalisation is the process of authenticating or certifying a legal document so that a foreign country’s legal system will recognize it with full legal effect. Under Vietnamese laws, Consular Legalisation refers the certification of the Vietnamese authority of the stamps, signatures, and titles on foreign documents for being able to be recognised and used in Vietnam.

In other words, the Consular legalisation procedure helps with making the documents issued by one country valid to be used in another country. When legalising the documents, the authority merely certifies the signature, stamps appearing on the documents, and the authorities are not responsible for the accuracy of the information/content contained therein. The whole process is commonly implemented by the authorities of both countries (i.e. the Originating Country and the Destination Country) and for the scope of this Article, the Destination Country is Vietnam.

With the exception of certain, special documents issued by some countries which Vietnam has an agreement with, generally speaking, all of the documents issued by a foreign country must undergo the Consular legalisation procedure in order to be accepted and used in Vietnam. Typically, the most common documents required for Consular legalisation are as follows:

  • Incorporation documents of the offshore company: Certificate of incorporation, articles of association, charter, company extract/ company profile, etc.
  • Personal documents: degree, diploma, birth certificate, marriage certificate, criminal check, working experience letter/ reference letter, celibacy certification, etc.

* This list is by no means exhaustive, but it shows the typical documents that require consular legalisation by the Vietnamese authorities.

Documents exempt from consular legalisation

Certain foreign documents are exempt from Consular legalisation if they meet specific conditions, such as (i) treaties to which Vietnam and the foreign countries are parties, or (ii) if Vietnamese law allows to exempt, or (iii) if the receiving Vietnamese authority does not require Consular legalisation, etc. However, most of the exemptions have diplomatic purposes. Below is a list of countries and documents exempted from consular legalisation when used in Vietnam.

No.CountryType of documents
No.CountryType of documents
1.Republic of PolandDocuments under the authority of consular officers issued by a representative mission of Poland in Vietnam.
2.Republic of BulgariaDocuments under the authority of consular officers which issued by a representative mission of Bulgaria in Vietnam

Documents on civil, family and criminal law issued by the authority in Bulgaria.

3.Republic of CubaDocuments under the authority of consular officers issued by a representative mission of Cuba in Vietnam.

Documents on civil, marriage, family, criminal, labour are issued by the authority.

4.Republic of ItalyDocuments used for adoption are issued by the authority.
5.Russian FederationDocuments under the authority of consular officers issued by a representative mission of Russia in Vietnam.

Documents made or authenticated by judicial authorities (including certified translations and extracts) issued by Judicial authorities.

6.JapanDocuments related to the civil status issued by the authority.

* Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive.

Consular legalisation process in practice

According to Vietnamese law, the authorities allowed to undertake legalisation processes are:

  1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam and its related bodies
    In Vietnam, the Consular Department in Hanoi and the Office of Foreign Affairs in Ho Chi Minh City are 2 (two) departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that can perform Consular legalisation in Vietnam.
  2. Vietnamese Embassy/Consulate
    Overseas Vietnamese diplomatic missions, consulates, or other organisation authorized to perform the consular function are competent to carry out legalisation overseas. These organisations are commonly referred to as Vietnamese Embassy/Consulate.

    Where the documents which require legalisation are submitted at the Vietnamese Embassy/ Consulate in Originating Country, they must be certified by the Originating Country’s authorised bodies (Ministry of Foreign Affairs or another foreign authority) in advance, and then the Vietnamese Embassy/ Consulate will legalise them subsequently.

In this case, generally speaking, the legalisation process involves the following steps:

Where the documents which require legalisation are submitted at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vietnam, they must be certified in advance by a foreign diplomatic representative mission or consulate or by another foreign agency authorized to perform consular functions in Vietnam, and only then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam and its related bodies can legalise these subsequently.

In this case, generally speaking, the legalisation process involves the following steps:

As mentioned above, the common element in the Consular legalisation procedure is that the whole process is commonly implemented by the authorities of both the Originating Country and the Destination Country (Vietnam). Accordingly, the detailed procedure (the order, the specific authorities) shall differ from country to country and from document to document, however the final step must always be implemented at the Vietnamese authority level. Therefore, the applicant is advised to contact an appropriate Vietnamese authority for the specific requirements or contact us for further details.

Practical examples and insights

As the above procedure is generic and may need specific additional actions to complete depending on the countries involved in the legalisation process, we provide below a few practical experiences in regard to consular legalisation in Vietnam:

  • At the stage of the legalisation process where the foreign documents are to be submitted to the authority in Vietnam, the foreign documents need to be translated into Vietnamese by a qualified translation agent in Vietnam for valid usage
  • In some countries and for some documents, the process should be implemented wholly overseas. Taking Hong Kong as an example, the legalisation procedure for the documents issued by the Companies Registry shall be undertaken as follows:
    • Step 1. Obtaining the document’s certified true copy from the Notary Public of Hong Kong SAR;
    • Step 2. Certifying the document by the High Court of Hong Kong SAR;
    • Step 3. Getting the document certified by the Vietnam Embassy in Hong Kong SAR.
  • Some Embassies/Consulates of foreign countries in Vietnam support their citizens/organisation to authenticate certain type of documents in Vietnam, however not all documents and all foreign Embassies/ Consulates can and are allowed to perform this task. For example, certain documents issued by the United States of America, Singapore, Australia, etc., can be legalised either wholly overseas or wholly in Vietnam.

Final thoughts

The Consular Legalisation procedure generally involves several official institutions in more than one country, hence it is a highly complex process that often needs support or tailored advice depending on the particularities of the documentation which requires legalisation and the relevant countries involved. We advise foreign individuals and investors to become familiar with the requirements at each level of the consular legalisation procedure, and to ensure that the documents are correctly and accurately legalised, following all the required steps according to the current laws and regulations.

If you require support or advice in regard to consular legalisation or other complementary elements, do not hesitate to contact us via our website vietnam.acclime.com or our social media channels.

Share this guide

Need business support in Vietnam?

Get in touch with us to take the next step towards starting and managing your business in Vietnam.