Documenting an Easier Way to Live
"Just use it!" responded an official from the Georgian Ministry of Justice when Vakhtang Zaalishvili, legal advisor to a British company, asked what to do with a document that had been notarized in Great Britain. The answer came as a pleasant surprise.
It hasn't always been so easy. Until recently, foreign companies like Mr. Zaalishvili's British client needed to spend at least one month and hundreds of dollars to have the documents they needed to register their businesses in Georgia officially translated, notarized, and certified. And before Georgia would even begin the complicated process of recognizing foreign documents, the foreign company had to jump through a complicated series of hurdles in its own country. U.S. companies, for example, had to get U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice's signature attesting that their documents were legal and proper before they could even be presented to Georgian officials. Similarly, Georgians wishing to register academic diplomas, birth certificates, or business registrations in foreign countries faced the same grueling and expensive process to get documents legalized in two countries.
Georgia's recent accession to the "Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents" eliminates the requirement for duplicate legalization of public documents among the 100 member states. To aid in Georgia's accession to the Hague Convention, USAID Business Climate Reform provided the Government of Georgia with a road map and recommendations for amendments to the laws necessary for accession.
Replacing the complicated two-country legalization process is a simple certificate - an "apostille" - by an authorized government official that the document is valid, which is accepted by all other member states. Certification in Georgia now requires a maximum of only 5 days for processing and a $12 state fee. This eliminates the need for citizens of member states to dually legalize birth, marriage, and death certificates; extracts from commercial and other registers; patents; court rulings; acts and attestations of signatures; or academic diplomas issued by public institutions. In Georgia, an apostille can be issued by the Ministries of Justice, Education and Science, and Labor, Health, and Social Affairs.
Joining the Hague Convention allows Georgia to provide its citizens with increased legal mobility, offer its businesspeople a widened arena for doing business, and encourage its students to gain greater exposure to the international community. Membership in the Hague Convention is expected to save Georgian citizens more than $10 million annually in administrative costs.
"Apostille documents will dramatically speed up the process of registering foreign businesses, saving us time, stress, and money," said Lasha Gogiberidze, Partner and Director of BGI Advisory Services Georgia.
Decreased time legalizing documents means increased opportunities. "It was almost too late for me to apply for graduate school in Japan when I applied to the Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs to legalize my health certificate by an apostille," said Ivane Jokhadze 21, a resident of Tbilisi, who plans to study business administration in Japan in the fall. "The Ministry managed to deliver the document in two days, so I was able to get my documents to the university in Japan on time."
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