Legalization by consular officers

Learn more about the legalization process of foreign documents so that they are valid in other countries.


If you need to submit a document written in a foreign language to Brazil, the first step to follow is having it translated by a sworn translator, right? Wrong. Before anything else, you need to know whether the document in question requires a special authentication process, known as legalization by consular officers.

This is also valid if you need to submit documents issued in Brazil to institutions in other countries. Before you hire a translator, check whether the document needs to be legalized by consular officers.

Anyway, what is legalization by consular officers?

Documents issued abroad and used in Brazil with legal effects or documents issued in Brazil and used abroad for legal purposes should be subjected to a special authentication process known as legalization by consular officers. This process certifies signatures and official stamps in documents.

The legalization process consists of an official stamp or label, which is signed by the officer in charge. This gives public faith to the document in question. The legalization will not attest the contents of the document.

Therefore, if you have a false or expired document in your hands, it will continue to be false or expired even when legalized by consular officers.

The legalization process will depend on the document being issued in Brazil or in another country. Learn more:

Documents issued in Brazil for use abroad

For documents issued in Brazil which will be used abroad, go to the Legalization Sector of the Legalization Division and Foreign Consular Network (CGLEG), located in Brasília, in the Federal District.

You can also go to one of the nine Representation Offices of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, located in the capital cities of the states of Amazonas, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and São Paulo. In both cases, the service is free of charge.

Preferably, documents to be legalized should be written in Portuguese, but it is also possible to submit bilingual documents provided that one of the languages is Portuguese. If your document is written in foreign language, a sworn translation will be necessary.

Despite the fact the legalization process is not intended to attest or void the contents of the document, and only to certify it was signed by a certain person or issued by a certain authority, the Legalization Sector of the Legalization Division and Foreign Consular Network can refuse to legalize documents that do not comply with the Brazilian laws.

Legalization can be done in person or mail, with a registered letter. When the legalization process is done personally, a request form must be filled out for legalization. Up to 10 documents can be legalized on the same day.

When the legalization process is done by mail, a specific form should also be filled out and sent together with the documents to be legalized. Additionally, a sealed and addressed enveloped should also be submitted so that the agency can return the documents through a registered letter. Documents will be returned in 30 business days.

Documents issued abroad for use in Brazil

Documents issued in foreign countries must be legalized by Brazilian consulates located abroad so that they are valid in Brazil. The Ministry of Foreign Relations, located in Brasília, and its nine Regional Offices cannot legalize documents issued in other countries.

Documents issued abroad must be legalized in the Brazilian Embassy or Consulate located in the country where the document was issued – or in an institution with jurisdiction over the place. In this process, the signature or authentication in the document is certified and a fee must be paid.

After that, the document is translated to Portuguese by a sworn translator. Documents written in foreign language have no legal effect in Brazil, even when legalized.

It is important to remember that foreign documents cannot be legalized in Brazil. These should be legalized only by some authorities, like Brazilian Embassies or Consulates located in the country where the document was issued.

Do I need to have my document legalized whenever I submit a document issued in Brazil to a foreign country and vice-versa?

Before you do anything to try to legalize your document, bear in mind that legalization is not necessary when the document involves countries with which Brazil has a treaty, like France and Argentina.

Additionally, the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, known as the Apostille Convention, became effective in Brazil on August 14th, 2016. With this treaty, documents issued in the 112 signatory countries do not need legalization by consular officers. In turn, these documents will require an Apostille.

An Apostille is an annotation made in a document to certify its origin. In Brazil, this annotation is managed by the National Council of Justice and carried out in authorized Courts of Record. An Apostille should be made in the country of origin for documents issued abroad.

When a document needs to be translated, it should be translated before the Apostille. The original and the translated documents should have an Apostille, as they are two separate, independent documents.

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