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Notaries often encounter documents that are meant for other countries. While these documents are notarized in the same way as others from different countries, you may be asked if you can provide something called an “Apostille” for the document.

An Apostille is a certificate — often attached to the document by an appropriate government official after it is notarized. While you are not responsible for obtaining an Apostille, signers often ask about them, so it’s helpful to understand what they are and how they work.

The Apostille Certificate follows a prescribed format and must include the following information:

  1. Country of issue
  2. Signatory
  3. Capacity of the signatory
  4. Details of any seal on the document
  5. Place of issue
  6. Date of issue
  7. Issuing authority
  8. Apostille Certificate number
  9. Stamp of issuing authority
  10. Signature of representative of issuing authority

The Apostille Convention provides the simplified certification of public (including notarized) documents to be used in countries that have joined the convention. Documents destined for use in participating countries and their territories should be certified by one of the officials in the jurisdiction in which the document has been executed.

The Apostille Convention requires that all Apostilles be numbered consecutively, with individual numbers applied to each Apostille issued. The recognized standard Apostille contains a seal and 10 mandatory references: name of country from which the document emanates, name of person signing the document, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, in the case of unsigned documents, the name of the authority that has affixed the seal or stamp, place of certification date of certification, the authority issuing the certificate, number of certificate, seal or stamp of authority issuing certificate and signature of authority issuing certificate.

Before the introduction of Apostille certificates, the burden on international courts and authorities to judge foreign documents as authentic was quite considerable. On October 5, 1961, the Hague Convention abolished the requirement of legalization for foreign public documents. The Convention reduces all of the formalities of legalization to the simple delivery of a certificate in a prescribed form, entitled “Apostille,” by the authorities of the State where the document originates. This certificate, placed on the document, is dated, numbered and registered. The verification of its registration can be carried out without difficulty using a simple request for information addressed to the authority which delivered the certificate.

Who issues Apostilles?

An apostille is issued by your Secretary of State’s office or Notary commissioning agency. The single Apostille is the only certification needed. Once prepared and verified, the Apostille is attached to and sent along with the notarized documents. Notaries cannot issue apostilles themselves. This all happens after the notarization and requires no action on your part.

Authentication certificates are used for destination nations that are not part of the Hague Convention. Instead of a single Apostille, the document needs several authentication certificates, including those from your commissioning agency, the U.S. Department of State, the consul of the destination country and potentially another government official in the destination country.

Why Do I need Apostille?

An Apostille is an official certificate which legalizes official and copied documents in states (countries) which accept the Apostille stamp. It is often the case that documents will require Apostilles when moving into a particular state for employment purposes. Once a document has gained an Apostille certificate these documents are then legal for use and are accepted in these states without requiring any further legalization.

Since the convention came into place on the 5th October 1961, the use of the Apostille in different states has continually grown, and there are now over 100 member states who accept the Apostille certificate. Even countries that are not signed up to the Hague Convention will still ask for one although the only difference with these countries is that further legalization is often required by their embassies. Examples of some Non-Member states who request further legalization for the use of documents are the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait. If you need to submit documents to Dubai, you would need a full UAE attestation service.

There are essentially four different types of documents which are eligible to gain an Apostille certificate. These documents are: –

  • Court Documents
  • Administrative Documents
  • Notarial Acts or Solicitor signed Documents
  • Official Certificates

These are the type of documents which can be issued with an Apostille certificate which are intended for use officially in foreign countries. The Apostille is placed onto different types of documents for different purposes. For example, university certificates and transcripts often require Apostille when going to these countries for working purposes. Other documents which also require the Apostille are company documents, such as Certificates of Incorporation and Articles of Association. These documents are required when companies are looking to set up new branches in foreign countries, and this can take place as long as the documents have the Apostille and are legalized.

Depending on what the document is that needs legalizing, the Apostille can be issued on copies as well as original documents. Documents such as Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates and any other documents with official signatures on, the original is required in order to gain the Apostille on that particular document. Copies of the documents with the Apostille on them are not accepted as the signature on the documents will not be classed as original. If you are traveling abroad for a wedding, you may need Apostilles for marriage on several documents.

Documents such as Academic Certificates, Transcripts, and Employment Letters can all get the Apostille on copied documents. However, before the document can be sent off to get the Apostille these documents must be officially certified by a solicitor or a notary public. If they are not correctly signed, they will be rejected, and the Apostille will not be issued.

Why may you need Embassy Legalisation?

Embassy Legalisation is required by states that are not part of the convention. Often these states will still ask for the Apostille to be provided on the document although they will certify with their own stamps and signatures as a form of further legalisation. Embassy Legalisation is often required for either working or education purposes. Often employers will ask the new employee to provide educational certificates such as degrees or A-Levels. Also they may sometimes ask the employee to provide evidence of Criminal Record Checks. If these documents have not been obtained legally from a particular embassy they would not be accepted in that state. The reason for this is that, documents not originally from a particular state and without legalization in the new state are not recognized nor usable in that state.

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