Why do I need certified copies and how can I obtain them?
You have most probably heard the term "certified copy" ("beglaubigte Kopie") or the phrase "you need to have your documents/certificates authenticated" in Germany. In particular, when applying at university or the Civil Registry Office ("Standesamt"), you are required to submit a certified copy of your diplomas or documents. Here you can learn what a certified copy is and how you can make a certified copy of your documents.
What do I need to know?
A certified copy is a copy of a document that has been legally certified in Germany. It means a stamp would be attached to the copy that proves it is identical to the original document. Many authorities do not want your original documents, but a certified copy of them - as the originals must be preserved from loss or any other damage.
During the authentication process, it is verified that the copy is identical to the original. A special stamp and the signature of the person who carried out the authentication process are added to the document as an official guarantee - this stamp must be visible on all pages of the document.
Please note: Most authorities don’t accept certified copies of a certified copy. You need to have the original document as well. For instance, if you have a certified copy from Afghanistan and make another certified copy from it in Germany, the second copy won't be accepted by German authorities.
- Local Municipal Office (“Bürgeramt“): Here you can have both documents issued by the German authorities and the ones required by them authenticated. You are expected to pay ca. 4 euros per page for the authentication process. In large cities, you often need to make an appointment to have your certificates authenticated- without one, you may have to wait in line for a long time.
- Notary („Notar“): You can also go to a notary and have your documents certified there. But the Notary's service is often much more expensive than that of the "Bürgeramt". At notar.de, you can find notary offices nearby.
- Civil Registry Office („Standesamt“): Copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates or death certificates can be certified by the Civil Registry Office that issued them. Here you are often expected to pay about €5 to €8 per certificate.
- Schools & universities: You can have copies of your school diplomas or graduation certificates authenticated at the school or university where you graduated. Many schools and universities provide you with some cost-free certified copies of your diplomas along with the original certificate. Students often have to pay a few euros for more copies.
If you are not in Germany but need a certified copy of a document for German authorities, you can go to the German embassy in your country. Keep in mind that the service will cost you money.
Please note: The German Embassy in Damascus is currently closed. The next German diplomatic mission for Syrians is located in Beirut (Lebanon) and you can obtain your certified copies from there. You can find a full list of the German embassies and diplomatic missions online.
The person in charge will check your copy (or make a copy of the original, in case you haven't already) as well as the original document. If the document and copy are identical, you will be handed a stamped and signed copy (i.e. authenticated copy) which equals the original. The amount you have to pay for the service differs based on the city where you live and the authority you have chosen.
Please Note: In case you receive financial support from the Jobcentre, submit the payment receipt to the Jobcentre staff responsible for you, as they may refund your money.
Regular translators cannot provide you with a certified copy of your documents. Some of them may offer to do so, but the result will be fake and not accepted by the authorities. Make sure to go to a sworn translator if you need your documents translated and certified. You can find sworn translators, for instance, at justiz-dolmetscher.de or bdue.de.