The Translation Service, the Authentication Unit, and Births, Deaths and Marriages work very closely to offer a streamlined service – in the form of a one-stop shop – to clients in need of documents to be used overseas, such as birth, marriage and death certificates. Some of the documents that you translate into foreign languages for us are issued by BDM, and will be either ‘Apostilled’ or Seal of the Department of Internal Affairs of New Zealand‘authenticated’.

We also translate a number of documents which aren’t issued by BDM, and hand them over to the Authentication Unit. Any document issued by a government agency or a Notary Public can be processed by the Authentication Unit. Many of those documents are powers of attorney, notarised copies of foreign birth or marriage certificates etc.

Carlee – who took the Proust Questionnaire this month – kindly agreed to answer all our questions and tell you what happens to some of your translations.

Q: Good afternoon Carlee. As you know, our translators do a lot of translations that end up on your unit’s desks. But before we go into more details about the secret workings of the AU, could you tell us what your unit actually does?

A: With pleasure Stefan! Our job at the Authentication Unit is to verify NZ issued documents that people need to use overseas. Often an overseas authority will require this verification as they are unable to tell whether a foreign document is genuine or not. We can verify all original NZ government issued documents, as well as any document that has been notarised by a Notary Public. We are able to verify the signatures and seals on these documents as we hold a vast database with the signatures and seals of government officials and notaries in it. Once we have verified that the document is genuine we attach one of two kinds of certificate to it – either an Apostille certificate or an authentication certificate. These certificates have the official seal of the Department and are recognised overseas.

Q: What’s the difference between an Apostille and an authentication? And why is one more expensive than the other?

A: What kind of certificate you require depends on what country you are using your document in. If the country has signed the Apostille Convention (Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents) then you need an Apostille certificate. Once we attach an Apostille to your document you can use it overseas without further ado. However, if the country requesting your document is not party to the Apostille Convention then you need an authentication. This is a longer and more expensive process as once we have attached the authentication to your document the documents must be stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then stamped by the foreign embassy of the destination country.

Q: What’s all the rage about the e-Apostille?

A: An e-Apostille is an electronic version of an Apostille. Basically it’s a scan of your document attached to an electronic Apostille certificate, which we email to you. e-Apostilles are great as you can email them overseas, saving time and money, since NZ is far from most overseas countries. It also has more security features than a paper Apostille.

Q: Is there a legal requirement for documents to be translated if they are to be Apostilled or authenticated and used overseas?

A: We don’t require people to translate their documents when they submit them to us for an Apostille or authentication – we don’t need to be able to read the document so we can accept documents in a foreign language. However, the overseas authority requesting the document may require a translation, either into their language or into English. Some foreign embassies here in NZ require translations – for example the Italian and Russian embassies.

Q: Are some foreign authorities harder to work with than others?

A: Different countries definitely have different requirements when it comes to accepting NZ issued documents. Authorities in some countries require people to provide translated documents, with individual Apostilles, which costs more for the applicant. Some countries even ask us to translate the Apostille certificate itself, which is not required under the Apostille Convention. We’ve had Apostilles rejected in some countries – one common reason is that they look at the person’s document and expect it to look the way the same document looks in that country. This is not a valid reason to reject an Apostille – countries need to take into account that documents are issued differently in different countries. We have also had Apostilles rejected as an overseas authority took issue with the dimensions of our certificate!

Q: Do you think the way AU and TTS work together could be improved? If so, how?

A: I think we offer a pretty good service. I don’t know of any overseas Authentication Office that offers translations, or one where you can order a marriage certificate, a translation and an Apostille all from one department. I think our service is pretty fast and helpful to customers. We work pretty closely with the Translation Service. We need them to provide excellent translations for our customers so their documents will be accepted overseas without any hiccups. We want to be sending the highest quality documentation overseas so we can maintain NZ’s good reputation for trusted documents, and we rely on the Translation Service to help us with language related issues.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

Do you have questions for Carlee? Leave a comment and we’ll grill her again.

Stefan