SOURCE: National Notary Association

April 12, 2006 07:00 ET

The Hague Conference on Private International Law and the National Notary Association Announce Launch of e-Apostille Pilot Program

Program to Support the Development of Secure, Cost-Effective Models for the Issuance and Registration of Electronic Apostilles, Thus Strengthening the Important Benefits of the Apostille Convention in the Cross-Border Use of Public Documents

LOS ANGELES, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 12, 2006 -- The Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) and the National Notary Association (NNA) have launched the e-Apostille Pilot Program (e-APP) at the 2006 Special Commission on General Affairs and Policy of the HCCH in The Hague, Netherlands. The NNA, the nation's professional association providing education and advocacy for Notaries Public, and the HCCH, an intergovernmental organization working for the progressive unification of the rules of private international law, have been leading the way to ensure the secure and efficient cross-border exchange of vital public documents.

The Hague Apostille Convention facilitates the circulation of public documents that emanate from one State party to the Convention and need to be produced in another State party. It does so by replacing the cumbersome and frequently costly formalities of a full legalisation process by the mere issuance of an Apostille Certificate. Apostille Certificates are affixed by a "Competent Authority," in the United States most commonly a Secretary of State, and authenticate the origin of a public document. The Hague Apostille Convention (the full name of which is "The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents") only applies as between States parties. 87 States, including the USA, are currently party to this important instrument. In the USA, one of the most important practical applications of the Apostille Convention relates to the authentication by US Notaries of signatures on documents bound for another State party to the Convention.

The e-APP -- the latest collaboration of the HCCH and the NNA -- aims at encouraging participating States to implement effective, low-priced and safe models of e-Apostilles and electronic Registers of Apostilles (e-Registers). Electronic Apostilles will provide the convenience and security of digitally signed electronic documents. The e-Registers will be accessible on-line, thus allowing any interested person who is being presented with an Apostille to verify easily the origin of the Apostille.

The e-APP will strengthen the important benefits of the Apostille Convention: it will allow for dramatic cost savings and lead to a level of security which by far exceeds current standards in the paper-only environment. The e-APP is also an effective tool to combat fraud in the context of the ever increasing cross-border use of public documents. The e-APP will thus translate the current paper-based Apostille system into a more efficient and secure government service for consumers and businesses that rely on important public documents, including notarial authentications of signatures.

The e-APP is designed to illustrate how the conclusions and recommendations from previous meetings and forums can be applied in practice by using currently available technology. Any Member State of the HCCH or non-Member State party to the Apostille Convention is invited to participate in the development and implementation of the suggested models.

The National Notary Association will host the Second International Forum on eNotarization and eApostilles (May 27-29, 2006) to provide an opportunity to discuss the e-APP with interested parties from the United States and abroad, and to solicit active participation in the e-APP among the Apostille Convention member States. The Forum is part of the NNA's 28th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., to be held May 27-31, 2006.

During the course of this four-year pilot program, the HCCH and the NNA will jointly develop models of e-Apostilles and e-Registers. As regards e-Apostilles, the use of digitally signed PDF documents will be promoted as the initial medium for the exchange of e-Apostilles; the suggested e-Registers will be based on completely open-source technology. Both components will be made available for free to any interested Competent Authority and be supported by freely available educational programs and materials to promote the use of these secure models.

"We are pleased to continue our exciting work with The Hague," said Timothy S. Reiniger, Executive Director of the NNA. "It was just one year ago that the NNA hosted the First International Forum on eNotarization and eApostilles, jointly organized by The Hague and the International Union of Latin Notaries, and the e-APP represents an exciting evolution toward the goals articulated at that gathering."

Participants in that Forum concluded that the text and spirit of the Apostille Convention are not an obstacle to the use of e-Apostilles and e-Registers and that the Convention's application and operation could be further improved by relying on modern technologies. As a result, both the Special Commission on General Affairs and the Forum encouraged the development and application of e-Apostilles and e-Registers.

"Indeed, our work with the National Notary Association promises to lay the foundation for broader acceptance of secure, electronic documents," said Christophe Bernasconi, First Secretary of The Hague Conference on Private International Law. "This pilot program is an important next step in the practical development and implementation of e-Apostilles and e-Registers."

About the National Notary Association

Founded in 1957, the National Notary Association (NNA), a non-profit professional organization, is committed to the professional development of Notaries throughout the United States by providing education, support and advocacy. The NNA educates law makers, businesses and state officials on best notarial practices and leads efforts to make necessary changes to state and federal laws and regulations.

About The Hague Conference on Private International Law

With over 60 Member States representing all continents, the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) is a global inter-governmental organisation. A melting pot of different legal traditions, it develops and services multilateral legal instruments, which respond to global needs. An increasing number of non-Member States are also becoming parties to the Hague Conventions. As a result, the work of the Conference encompasses more than 120 countries around the world. With currently 87 States party, the Apostille Convention is one of the most successful instruments adopted under the auspices of the HCCH. The HCCH held its first meeting in 1893, on the initiative of T.M.C. Asser (Nobel Peace Prize 1911). It became a permanent inter-governmental organisation in 1955, upon entry into force of its Statute. Since then, the Hague Conference has adopted 36 Conventions, the practical operation of many of which is regularly reviewed by experts meetings. For more information, see www.hcch.net.

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