Legalizations & Authentications FAQs

Every day clients call us with regards to Apostilles and legalizations. They are unsure what they are and how or why they are used. Some of the FAQs below came from the Texas Secretary of State’s website (Thank you). The remainder of the FAQs were compiled by the Client Service Representatives in the branch offices.

Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions:

QuestionWhat is an Apostille?

Answer

An Apostille is a form of certification set out in the 1961 Hague Convention, to which the United States became a subscriber in 1981. It is a form of numbered fields, which allows the data to be understood by the receiving country regardless of the official language of the issuing country.

QuestionWhat does the Hague Convention have to do with legalization?

Answer

In 1961, various countries joined together in now what is now known as the Hague Convention and drafted the Apostille treaty. The United States joined in 1981. The treaty allows for an approved governmental agency to recognize public documents issued by other signatory countries if those public documents are authenticated by the attachment of an internationally recognized form of authentication known as an Apostille. For more information on The Hague please click here.

QuestionWhat does an Apostille do?

Answer

The object of the Apostille is to “abolish the requirement of diplomatic or consular legalization for foreign public documents”. The completed Apostille certifies the authenticity of the signature, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, and identifies the seal/stamp which the document bears.

QuestionWho issues Apostilles?

Answer

Each subscribing nation may designate those authorities which may issue Apostilles for their jurisdiction. The United States has appointed the Secretary of State (or their counterpart) of the various states as said authority. The Secretary of State of Texas has expanded this authorization to include the Deputy Secretary of State and the division directors.

The Secretary of State may issue an Apostille on documents issued by persons on file with this agency, including county clerks, notaries public, and statewide officials. Recently issued birth/death certificates issued by locals registrars must have been issued within the past three (3) years in order for the Secretary of State to issue an Apostille.

The competent authority for issuance of Apostilles on documents issued by the federal government is the clerk of the federal courts.

QuestionWhere can I get an Apostille Certificate?

Answer

The only place where you can receive this certification that allows documents to be used internationally is through the Department of State. Granted depending on the type of document we will need to get the notary authenticated prior to taking the documents to the Department of State.

QuestionWhat kind of documents do I need an Apostille for?

Answer

The Apostille may be obtained to transmit public documents executed in one subscribing country to another subscribing country wherein the documents need to be produced. The Hague Convention defines ‘public documents’ as:

  1. those originating in a court, clerk of a court, public prosecutor or process server,
  2. administrative documents,
  3. notarial acts,
  4. official certificates placed on documents

These types of ‘public documents’ would include birth/death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, school transcripts and diplomas/degrees, among others.

QuestionWhen do we use an apostille or legalize a document?

Answer

The decision on which process to use is based on whether the country where you intend to use your documents belongs to the Apostille Section of The Hague Convention. If that is the case then you only need to have an Apostille.

If the country where you intend to use your documents is not party to the Apostille Section of The Hague Convention, you will need what is known as an Embassy Legalization.

QuestionWhy do I need a Legalization or Authentication?

Answer

When a document is to be used in a foreign country, it may be necessary to have the document authenticated. An authentication certifies the signature and the capacity of the official who has executed the document. The authentication may also authenticate the seal of the official.

The New York Secretary of State authenticates public documents for use in foreign countries. Only public documents issued in New York State which are signed by either a State Official or a County Clerk will be authenticated. The country of destination determines whether the authentication is in the form of an “Apostille” or a “Certificate of Authentication.”

QuestionWhat’s type of documents are eligible for legalization?

Answer

Just about any document, ranging from Good Standing Certificates, court documents, birth and death certificates, diplomas and Powers of Attorney can be apostilled for use in another country.

QuestionWhat is a Certificate of Authentication?

Answer

A Certificate of Authentication is issued by the New York Secretary of State to authenticate a public document for use in any country which is not a member of the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents.

QuestionWhat is a County Certification and in what instances is this required prior to taking the documents to the Department of State for an Apostille?

Answer

A County Certification is a certificate allocated by the County Clerk, which states that the notary public who signed the document is in fact who he/she say they are. At the County Clerk you can authenticate notary signatures for notaries who have qualified in that County or the signatures of public officials on documents.

All documents must be notarized by a notary public in order to be authenticated and legalized, or to receive apostille – except official, certified government issued documents.

QuestionWill I be able to get a document legalized for countries that are not party to The Hague?

Answer

Yes, you can get a legalized document for use in countries that are not party to The Hague. After getting the Certificate of Authentication by the Department of State, we would then take the extra step of going to the consulate/ embassy and getting the document legalized for a fee that varies by country.

QuestionAfter the Certificate of Authentication why do some countries require you to visit their consulate/ embassy and some don’t?

Answer

Whichever country you would like to legalize documents for that is not a party to The Hague Convention of 1961, will require you to visit their consulate/ embassy for legalization after the Department of State certification but prior to the documents use in said country.

Consulate and embassy fees and turnaround times vary based on the country. Please note that if the country is not a party to The Hague, you will need to place your request with sufficient time in advance, since turnaround times can vary from 24 hours to a week depending on the country.

It is a good practice to speak with a service familiar with the process to ask the right questions and quickly provide you with the correct documents needed for your transaction or closing. Contact us to arrange to have your documents legalized for use in a foreign jurisdiction.

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