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How to legalize foreign documents in Spain?

Do you want to travel soon to Spain and need to legalize documents from your country? In this article we answer the most important questions regarding the legalization of foreign documents in Spain. All the information you will see is for guidance only, you should still seek specific advice from the nearest Spanish embassy or consulate in your country of origin. So, are you ready? Let’s go! We will tell you everything you need to know.

What is involved in legalizing foreign documents in Spain?

Although this article is merely a guideline, we will try to give you a detailed description of the aspects to take into account when legalizing your documents.

To begin with, legalization is an administrative act designed to grant legal validity to a foreign public document, approving the authenticity of the signature present in it; as well as the quality that the signing authority has performed.

Unless there is a legal instrument that exempts you from this obligation, any foreign public document you possess must be legalized in order to be valid in Spanish territory, just as any Spanish public document must be legalized in order to be legally valid abroad.

The legalization of foreign documents, in order to be valid, must be carried out in the country of origin of the document and must be verified as correct by the Spanish consulate while in the country, as long as the country of origin is not a signatory of the Hague Convention.

Likewise, such document will have to be printed by means of the Security Seal, which admits the exclusive legalization through the Spanish diplomatic or consular authority, with no other requirement than the addition of a security seal of an approved model.

How much does it cost to legalize foreign documents in Spain?

A legalization of documents is free of charge when performed by the Legalization Section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation.

In the event that the procedure is carried out through a Spanish embassy or consulate or through the corresponding College of Notaries, for documents certified by a Spanish Notary Public, the fee in force at the time will be applied.

However, for more detailed information, we recommend that you consult the prices directly with the Spanish representation abroad or with the corresponding College of Notaries.

Can legalizations expire after a certain period of time?

No. This type of procedure does not have an expiration date. However, if the document that was issued has a limited duration, the legalization will be terminated when the document expires.

Likewise, there are no time limits to request the legalization of documents, since you can do it whenever you need or are requested to do so.

Is it possible to be denied legalization of documents in Spain?

The answer is yes. It is possible that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union, may not legalize documents in the following cases:

  • If the original is neither a public document nor a private document notarized.

  • When the signatures to be legalized are not deposited in the registry of the Legalization Section of the Ministry.

  • When the document does not have the previous legalizations by the authorities established in the regulations.

Even so, despite a document receiving a denial, recourse can be had to the channels that Spanish laws establish for this purpose. That is, Law 39/2015 of October 1 corresponding to the common administrative procedure of the AAPP.

Which documents can be legalized for use in Spain?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation has created a Legalization Section where only the following are admitted:

  • Original public documents.

  • Copies issued by the issuing agency.

  • Certified copies of documents previously legalized through diplomatic channels or apostilled by Spanish representations abroad.

  • Notarized copies.

Is a sworn translation of the legalized documents required?

Regarding those documents that were issued by the Spanish authorities and that are going to be used abroad, you should first consult with the local legislation. This is who establishes the need or not of the translation of the documents.

Generally, countries only accept documents in their native or official language. In this sense, any foreign document that is to have effect in Spain must have been previously translated into Spanish. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation has stated that it will only accept official translations:

  • Performed in Spain by a Spanish sworn translator or interpreter who has been appointed as such by the Ministry. It should be noted that these translations are exempt from legalization and are valid without the need for additional formalities.

  • Carried out or assumed as their own by a Spanish representation located abroad. It is important that, in addition, these are legalized by the relevant section of the Ministry.

  • Made by the diplomatic or consular representation in Spain of the State. These legalizations must also be carried out by the corresponding section of the Ministry.


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In which cases is the legalization of documents not applicable?

Given the growing exchange between different countries around the world, many States and governments (including Spain) have decided to sign agreements to facilitate their citizens any type of procedure related to foreigners.

Legalizing your foreign documents is essential for them to be valid and effective in another country, unless there are international conventions, treaties or agreements that exempt you from legalization, allowing the procedure to be done through diplomatic channels.

The most relevant agreement in this matter at present is the Hague Convention No. XII of October 5, 1961, Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. But it is better known as the Hague Convention. You will want to check if your country is a member of this Convention to find out if you should apply for a Hague apostille for any of your documents.

But it is not only the Hague Convention that exempts citizens from the responsibility of legalizing their foreign documents, there is also the Athens Convention. The latter exempts the legalization of documents referring to the civil status, nationality, domicile or residence and family situation of the signatory countries.

Likewise, the London Convention, referring to documents issued by consular or diplomatic agents, as well as official declarations -such as mentions of registration, certifications of signature on any other document and visas of a date certain-.

Finally, another case that would exempt you from the responsibility of legalizing documents is the Vienna Convention, which applies to multilingual certifications of birth, death or marriage certificates.


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What is legalization through diplomatic channels and for which cases does it apply?

In case you did not know, legalization through diplomatic channels is the procedure used to legalize foreign public documents issued by States that are not signatories to any of the aforementioned agreements, whose function is to expedite these procedures.

Generally, it consists of each of the participating authorities executing an individual legalization of the document.

In the case of a document issued by a non-consular authority of the country of origin, only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Origin and the Spanish diplomatic or consular representation in said State shall intervene in the legalization.

Likewise, if the document has been issued by a consular authority duly accredited in Spain, only the legislation section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation may intervene in the legalization.

In accordance with the regulations applicable to each case, the following documents will be free of legalization:

  • Academic documents that are submitted to the registry of the Spanish Ministry of Education.

  • Academic documents that are submitted to the Spanish Embassies and Consulates.

It is important to mention that all foreign documents legalized by the Spanish Consulates or Embassies in the country of origin, and which include a transparent security label, do not require legalization in this category.


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Are you considering traveling to Spain soon and starting a new stage? Well, in order to do so, you will need the legalization of foreign documents in Spain and, guess what? At TAS Consulting we are experts in helping in this kind of situations. Contact us at and our experts will gladly provide you with the legal advice you need to complete your procedures.

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