For Nigerians travelling abroad to study, settle down, do business, or undertake any transaction that may require their Nigeria-issued documents such as birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate and other legal documents, it is compulsory to authenticate such documents by notarising them and getting an Apostille stamp on them at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In order to use public documents (issued in Nigeria) outside the country, such documents must be legalized, certified and authenticated through the Apostille authentication process carried out by the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Apostille Stamp basically lends international legitimacy to a particular document and certifies that it is original and was issued by the appropriate authority as claimed.
How to Legalize Your Certificates & Documents With Apostille Stamp
The procedure for getting an Apostille stamp on your birth certificate or any other document is fairly straightforward on paper, but as with all things that involve the government bureaucracy in Nigeria, artificial bottlenecks characterise the process.
The first step is to contact a certified Notary Public to notarise the document for you. This role is typically played by lawyers, and you should contact a lawyer to inquire about this. The cost of notarising the document is not fixed, as it varies significantly depending on the Notary Public in question and on your bargaining power.
After the document has been notarised by the Notary Public, the second step is to take the document with you to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the actual apostilling process takes place, with the appending of an Apostille Stamp on the document. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ask for assigned officers of the Legal Services Division (LSD), to whom you should directly submit the documents – usually between the hours of 9.am to 12 noon on Mondays to Thursdays.
Cost and Completion Time Frame of the Authentication Process
The Apostille document authentication process at the Ministry of Foreign affairs usually attracts an official fee that is typically less than N500 per page (currently about N300), for which payment must be made to the government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) at any commercial bank. Consequently, you would submit the bank teller to the designated cashier at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the issuance of receipt. However, do not expect that the official authentication fee is all that you would part with at the ministry, as you may have to grease some palms with tips in order to expedite the process. Otherwise, your document may take an eternity to be authenticated with the Apostille Stamp.
The official time-frame for authenticating documents and making them ready for collection is 24 hours, but of cause it can take much longer or much shorter than that depending on how ‘nice’ you are to the officials at the Foreign Ministry’s Legal Services Division. If you want your documents treated and stamped expeditiously, then it is advisable to encourage the officials with the little you can afford to spare. If all goes accordingly, you should be able to collect your authenticated document with the Apostille seal by the next morning (Monday to Thursday) or within two days at most.
However, depending on the nature of the document, there may be some additional layers of work required – which means a longer waiting time for you to collect it. This occasionally the case with certain types of certificates (such as marriage or divorce certificates, for instance) which may have to be sent to the issuing authority (e.g. courts or registries) for confirmation of genuineness prior to Apostille authentication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is not always the case though, as this aspect may be sidestepped depending on certain prerogative considerations.
So there you have it; that is how the Apostille and document authentication process works in Nigeria. If you need assistance with this, feel free to contact me.