An apostille is an internationally-accepted certification attached to a government-issued public document. It can also be a stamp or seal on the document itself. The apostille makes the document it's attached to legal for use in Turkey and in any other country which has signed the international apostille convention. It also includes contact information for the issuing authority if further authentication is required.
The Apostille Convention
The Apostille Convention (Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents) established an agreed-upon, standard way of legalizing documents between countries. It also required each country to designate one or more "competent authorities," as the convention calls them, to issue apostilles.You'll find a list of participating countries on the Hague Conference on Private International Law website.
What To Do If Your Country Isn't On the List
If your country isn't on the list, then it isn't participating in the Apostille Convention, and you'll have to contact your country's embassy, consulate, or foreign ministry for instructions on how to legalize your document. And you can go directly to "Step 3: Get the Document and the Apostille Translated."
The 3-Step Legalization and Translation Process
Step 1: Learn Who the Competent Authority Is and How to Send Documents to Them
Go to the list of competent authorities here:
Find your country on the list, and click on the link which has the words "Competent Authority (Article 6)." That will take you to a page which explains how to contact the competent authority, including a link to a website which should give you information about where to send your document, what the fee is, and how much time it will take.
Note: There may be one, or more, competent authorities for each country. For example, in the UK the competent authority is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), while each of the UK's overseas territories each has its own. In the USA, each state has its own competent authority, and so does the federal government in Washington, DC).
Step 2: Send Your Documents
Create a cover letter which includes your e-mail address and telephone number, as well as your return address, the name of the document you are sending and its date and document number. Send the cover letter and document by registered mail or cargo delivery service to the address listed on the competent authority's website.
What the Competent Authority Does
Each competent authority has a file containing the signatures of government employees who are authorized to issue public documents. After receiving your document, they'll check the signature on the document against their signature exemplars. If everything is okay, they'll attach the apostille to your document (or stamp or place a seal on it), and send it back to you.
How Much it Costs and How Long it Takes
Each competent authority has its own fees, so the cost will vary. The time it takes will also vary according to your choice of delivery method. But once it gets to the competent authority, turnaround time is usually just one or two business days.
After you receive the document with its apostille (or other legalizing document if your country isn't part of the convention), both must be translated into Turkish by a yeminli çevirmen (sworn translator). The translator will then have the translation notarized. For a typical document, this might take as little as one or two hours.
Your Foreign Document is Now Legal in Turkey
You can now give your document to the Turkish authorities and it will be accepted. It is now as legal in Turkey as it is in your home country.
Important!: The notary will stamp both the original document, the apostille, and the translation on the back with his or her stamp. That stamp will include a document number. Photograph or write that number down and keep it for your files. If later you need those same translated and notarized documents, you can simply take that number back to the same notary and ask them to pull it from their files. It will be a lot cheaper than going through the whole process again.
Finding a Sworn Translator
The Yeminli Çevirmenlik Federasyonu (TURÇEF, or in English, Federation of Sworn Translators) Has a website here:
At the bottom of the home page is a menu of the regions of Turkey. You can use this to find a listing of sworn translators for your area, which include their contact information and the languages they are authorized to translate to and from. Another way to find a translator is to find a notary first. Noters work with a specific group of translators who have offices nearby.
Finding a Notary
You can find all notaries public in Turkey here:
You can also just walk around the center of town and look for their signs.
A Note on Private Companies which Arrange Apostilles
There are numerous private companies which charge for getting an apostille for your document. They are not "competent authorities" under the Apostille Convention. They simply do everything that I have written above, which you could just as easily do, and charge you for it.
If you have any questions about apostilles or other legal issues, please post them in our Turkish Law Forum.