What to do when a country doesn’t issue Apostille

Legalization of official documents from abroad is always a challenge. In Bulgaria, as in most other countries, the documents originating from another country need to have an apostille. With that, the documents should be further translated in Bulgaria. Then the signature of the translator must be legalized by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But what if the foreign documents are originating from a country that hasn’t signed the Hague Convention of 1961? Then the legalization process is becoming somewhat tricky. The problem becomes even more severe if Bulgaria has no embassy or consulate in that country.

Legalizing public documents from Madagascar for use in Bulgaria

To illustrate the problem, we will take a real life example. Madagascar is a country that has not yet signed the Hague Convention of 1961 and hence is not issuing Apostille. A Bulgarian citizen is married in Madagascar and in order for his marriage to be registered in Bulgaria, the Malagasy marriage certificate needs to be legalized and translated into Bulgarian. Additionally, in order for the foreign spouse of the Bulgarian citizen to obtain visa D, there are a bunch of documents that need to be signed in front of a notary public in Madagascar. Such are declaration from the Bulgarian citizen that the marriage is genuine, lawyer’s POA, etc. All these documents need to be then legalized and translated as well. So how can all this be accomplished?

The language matters

If the above sounds overly complicated, then you got it right. So what needs to be done? First of all, if the documents are in Malagasy (language), there is a problem. In Bulgaria there is only one sworn (official) translator from/to Malagasy, born in 1938, who has already retired last year. So translation from Malagasy is a huge problem. Theoretically it is possible for the documents to be translated to another language first and then legalized and translated into Bulgarian. This approach however makes the whole procedure close to impossible to accomplish, as the amount of work is, mathematically speaking, not doubled, but squared. So if possible, try to get the public document, in our case the marriage certificate, issued not in Malagasy, but in French for example. In our case, the marriage certificate was issued in French, so the language problem is basically solved.

For the declarations needed for the visa D, we will be preparing them in Bulgarian and French, so hopefully the notary public in Madagascar will be willing to certify them. We will assume that this will be the case.

Legalization of the marriage certificate and the visa D declarations

This is the core task and the main problem. There are two approaches, so we will explain each one in more detail.

Legalization by the Bulgarian embassy in South Africa

As we already mentioned, Bulgaria has no embassy or consulate in Madagascar. Bulgarian citizens, residing in Madagascar are allowed to use the services of the Bulgarian embassy in Pretoria, South Africa. For that reason, in order for the Malagasy documents to be legalized, the following needs to be done:

  1. The documents (marriage certificate, declarations, POA, etc.) need to be first legalized by the Foreign Ministry of Madagascar;
  2. The documents, as legalized by the Foreign Ministry, need to be delivered (ie sent by courier) to the Bulgarian Embassy in South Africa and legalized there.

Once the documents are stamped by the Bulgarian embassy in Pretoria, they should be sent to Bulgaria for further translation into Bulgarian and legalization.

Legalization by the French embassy (the more controversial option)

This option can prove to be much easier to accomplish, but is somewhat tricky indeed. As there is no Bulgarian embassy in Madagascar, Bulgarian citizens are entitled to consular protection by the consular authorities of any other EU Member State. The catch here is the term “protection”. By this it is usually understood only emergency protection, such as loss of passport, criminal prosecution, etc. Legalization of documents doesn’t normally fall under the term “protection”. But of course, things are subject to interpretation. If there is a nice French employee at the French Embassy in Madagascar, she (let’s be old fashioned and still use the “she”) may very well certify the Malagasy marriage certificate and other documents. The French embassy, if willing to assist of course, will most likely require the documents to be first legalized by the Foreign Ministry in Madagascar, however this is not certain.

Now, if all that works out, the documents with the legalization by the French embassy can be eventually used in Bulgaria. However, this route is somewhat controversial. If some overly cautious Bulgarian clerk decides that the legalization route through the French embassy is not to his liking, the documents may eventually be rejected at some point.


All in all, the legalization procedure is complicated. If the host country doesn’t issue Apostille and there is no Bulgarian embassy present, things become really difficult. With our assistance however, nothing is impossible. Please contact us for any further information you might require.

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