Consular legalization of foreign documents
In order to have legal validity in Brazil, some documents may need to pass through a process of authentication in a Brazilian consulate abroad. In this article, you will get some general information about this process, when and where to do it, and in what cases foreigners are usually required to legalize documents issued abroad
Legal validity of foreign documents in Brazil
In order to produce legal effect in Brazil, foreign documents first need to pass through:
1) Consular legalization by a Brazilian diplomatic office located abroad and payment of the fees required
2) Sworn translation into Portuguese
3) Registration at the national Public Registry of Deeds and Documents.
You can check all the information about sworn translation in this article. From now on, we will detail the process of the consular legalization of foreign documents, according to the Brazilian law.
What is consularization of foreign documents?
If you already had to gather some paperwork for a bureaucratic procedure in Brazil, you probably came across the following terms:
- Consularization of foreign documents
- Legalization of foreign documents
- Consular authentication of foreign documents
- Consular notarization of foreign documents
Although it sounds like a bunch of different procedures, all those names refer to the same thing: the process of getting a foreign document endorsed and registered by a Brazilian consulate abroad. The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations officially uses the term authentication or legalization of foreign documents (autenticação de documentos estrangeiros or legalização de documentos estrangeiros, in Portuguese).
Consularization is an endorsement by the local Brazilian diplomatic authorities, to certify that the documents are legit, usually by certifying the signature placed in the papers, or certifying the signature of the public notary who certified that signature.
According to the Brazilian consular and legal rules, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs located in Brasília-DF, as well as its regional offices in some Brazilian states have no jurisdiction to make the consularization of documents issued in foreign countries. Only Brazilian documents can get authenticated in the country.
So, the consularization of foreign documents must necessarily be done in a Brazilian office located abroad. Moreover, the process has to be done at a Brazilian consular office located at the same country where the documents were issued. Meaning that it is not possible to authenticate a document issued in the United States in a Brazilian consulate located in Italy, for example.
Who needs to legalize the documents in a Brazilian consulate?
First, it is important to say that only original documents can be legalized, what excludes the photocopies. The best way to find if a document needs pass through legalization is to ask the entity where you will submit such documents whether the consularization is required or not.
However, basically everyone that intends to come to Brazil with non-touristic purposes will have to undergo the procedure of authentication of foreign documents at some point. Exampling, people who:
- Are applying for any sort of Brazilian visa, naturalization and RNE
- Are doing business involving foreign contracts in Brazil
- Want to revalidate their foreign diplomas in Brazil
- Need to get driver’s license or drive with a foreign license in Brazil
- Are coming to work, live or study in Brazil
Documents required to be legalized at a Brazilian consulate
School documents: diplomas, certificates, transcripts and statements must be signed by a school's authority and carry the school's raised seal or rubber stamp. For diplomas and certificates only the original can be authenticated. For transcripts and statements, a copy is acceptable for authentication.
Official documents: identity cards, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, marriages certificates must be a true copy, issued by the competent government office.
All other documents: (power-of-attorney, commercial bids, contracts, agreements, invoices, donation letters, and any other papers) must be signed before a notary public before being submitted to the Brazilian Consular Office.
How to get the documents authenticated in a Brazilian consulate
The legalization of the some documents requires the previous recognition of its signatures by a notary public as well as the recognition of the notary public’s signature by the competent institution in the province.
- Only original documents can be legalized. Photocopies cannot be legalized.
- The Consulate General will only legalize documents issued in its area of jurisdiction.
If you are in the country where the document was issued, the best option is to check opening hours and availability of the closest Brazilian consulate, and go there in person bringing the documents. If it is not possible to go there in person, you can mail the documents, after calling the consulate and checking what are the requirements to do so. Actually, the busiest Brazilian consulates will only give the option to authenticate the documents through mail. That is why it is imperative to call and check that out first.
After submitting the documents to the competent consulate, there is a period of processing that generally goes from five to twenty working days, depending on the consulate.
Important: Only Brazilian General-Consulates (Consulado-Geral) can legalize documents. General-Consulates are commonly located in the main cities of each country.
The Brazilian General-Consulates have websites where all the information and requirements for the legalization of documents are displayed. You can check the websites and adresses of all the Brazilian consulates around the world here.
Do I have to pay for the legalization of documents?
Each Brazilian consulate will have its own policy and requirements for the legalization of foreign documents. That is why it is imperative to check this information first through the consulate's communication channels. Some Brazilian consulates do not charge any fees for the legalization of documents. But, others require the payment of some administrative fees in the local currency, which values vary from consulate to consulate, from country to country.
International agreements that preclude the legalization of documents
Brazil signed treaties with Brazil and Argentina that exempt some documents from the need of legalization.
This agreement applies to public documents issued either in Brazil or Argentina that must be submitted in the territory of another, or its diplomatic or consular agents, even when these agents exert their functions in the territory of a State not part of this agreement. Are considered public documents:
- The administrative documents issued by a public official in the exercise of their functions;
- Public deeds and notarial deeds;
- The official recognition of name or date placed on private documents. . The Parties shall be exempt from all forms of intervention consular legalization of documents in the conditions above.
The Agreement on Cooperation in Civil Matters between the Government of Brazil and the French Government exempts from legalization the public deeds issued in the territory of either state shall be exempted from legalization when they have to be presented in the territory of another State. Are regarded as public deeds, in the sense of this agreement:
- Documents emanating from a court, prosecutor, a clerk or an officer of justice
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Notarial deeds;
- The official recognition of signature or date placed on private documents.
The signatures on the documents by a French authorities mentioned above, need no consular legalization. If the document does not meet the above items, they only need to be authenticated by a public notary, to make it official, what dispenses consular authorization.
All documents originating in countries of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries - (Brazil, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde, Angola, Portugal, Mozambique and East Timor), established in Lisbon in 1996, obviously are exempted from sworn translations. Still, they have to go through the process of legalization.
There are still no agreements between the Mercosul countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela and associates) that exempts documents from the need of legalization. However there's a cooperation agreement, that enables people to legalize their documents out of the country where the document was issued. That makes possible for someone to legalize a Uruguayan document in a Brazilian consulate located in Argentina, for example.