Legalisation and translation of documents

The Dutch authorities and the authorities of other countries need to be certain about the status of each other’s documents. These documents are therefore legalised.
Legalised documents like birth certificates and marriage certificates are needed in the application procedure of work- and residence permits, but also for registration at a Dutch municipality in order to obtain the social security number (BSN, or Burger Service Nummer). The different types of legalisation and requirements regarding translation are explained here.


Some countries have entered into agreements streamlining the legalisation chain. This means that certain documents from one of the contracting states may be used in another contracting state with only a single legalisation or even none at all (mainly within Europe).
The best-known legalisation convention is the convention abolishing the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents, also known as the Apostille Convention. This convention shortens the chain so that only a single action is required: the addition of an apostille. A document bearing an apostille does not require any further legalisation by the embassy or consulate of the country in which it is to be used. An authorised official issues the apostille once he/she is satisfied that the document and its signature are genuine. Which official or authority can issue the apostille varies per country.

Do I need an apostille or legalisation ?

Whether an apostille is required will depend on the country in which the relevant document was issued. At this point more than 100 countries are committed to the Apostille Convention.
If the documents you need to legalise are issued in a country that is not part of the Apostille Convention, the Dutch Mission in that country is responsible for legalising the documents for use in the Netherlands. Firstly, however, the documents must have been legalised by the country’s own authorities, usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the country where the documents were issued.

Legal translations

A birth certificate, marriage certificate, or declaration of marital status written in any other language than Dutch, English, French, or German must first be translated before it can be legalized. This can only be done by a sworn translator. The translation will then bear the translator’s stamp and is ready for an apostille or further legalization.
Your local Dutch embassy/consulate will be able to put you in touch with an approved translator. If you need a legal document translated and you already live in the Netherlands you can also find a legal translator in the Netherlands.

Passport photos for official identity documents

When you apply for a residence permit or any other legal document, the Dutch authorities often require a passport photo. The following general requirements should be taken into account:

  • The size of the photo is 45 x 35 mm
  • The photo is in colour
  • The photo is taken recently and not older than 6 months
  • The face of the applicant should be photographed from the front against a light, uniform background
  • Both eyes should be visible, if necessary behind glasses with transparent glass. Dark glasses may not be worn for the photograph unless the applicant has demonstrated that they are necessary for medical reasons
  • The head should be uncovered, unless the applicant has demonstrated that a covering may be worn for reasons of religion or health. Should the head be covered, the face should remain visible.

For more information and all the requirements, please click here.