Apostilles are affixed by Competent Authorities designated by the government of a state which is party to the convention.A list of these authorities is maintained by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Examples of designated authorities are embassies, ministries, courts or (local) governments. For example, in the United States, the Secretary of State of each state and his or her deputies are usually competent authorities. In the United Kingdom, all apostilles are issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes.
To be eligible for an apostille, a document must first be issued or certified by an officer recognised by the authority that will issue the apostille. For example, in the US state of Vermont, the Secretary of State maintains specimen signatures of all notaries public, so documents that have been notarised are eligible for apostilles. Likewise, courts in the Netherlands are eligible of placing an apostille on all municipal civil status documents directly. In some cases, intermediate certifications may be required in the country where the document originates before it will be eligible for an apostille. For example, in New York City, the Office of Vital Records (which issues, among other things, birth certificates) is not directly recognised by the New York Secretary of State. As a consequence, the signature of the City Clerk must be certified by the County Clerk of New York County to make the birth certificate eligible for an apostille. In Japan all the official documents are issued in Japanese language, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA, JAPAN) then provides an apostille for these documents. In India the apostille certification can be obtained from the Ministry of External Affairs
The apostille itself is a stamp or printed form consisting of 10 numbered standard fields. On the top is the text APOSTILLE, under which the text Convention de La Haye du 5 octobre 1961 (English: Hague Convention of 5 October 1961) is placed. In the numbered fields the following information is added:
Country ... [country name]
This public document
has been signed by ... [name]
acting in the capacity of ... [function]
bears the seal/stamp of ... [authority]
at ... [location]
the ... [date]
by ... [name]
No ... [apostille registration number]
Seal/stamp ... [of the authority giving the apostille]
Signature ... [signature of authority giving the apostille]
The information can be placed on the (back of the) document itself, or attached to the document as an allonge.
Four types of documents are mentioned in the convention:
administrative documents (e.g. civil status documents)
official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as official certificates recording the registration of a document or the fact that it was in existence on a certain date and official and notarial authentications of signatures.