Anyone might ask that question, What is Apostille And How to handle this myself instead of hiring an agency or a professional service that cost me too much.
Well, I’m quite sure you going to find your answer within this article.
This is the ultimate guide to the Apostille Notarization and Legalization process for Documents in United State + a free eBook for download.
We wrote an in-depth article that almost covered the most issues that might face those who trying to get this documents apostilled or authenticated by the official authority.
It has been fifty years since the adoption of the Hague Convention, abolishing the bureaucratic requirements of legalization for foreign public documents. The Apostille Convention is one of the most widely accepted and applied of all the international treaties. The Conference mainly aims to facilitate the worldwide circulation of public documents in an age of unprecedented global interconnectivity, in which international trade and investment, as well as the cross-border movement of people, find support in the mutual recognition given by States to these documents.
The guide is designed to help individuals in the United States understanding what does the Apostille mean? and how it facilitates a lot of complication in authenticating documents for foreign use.
The guide is not intended to provide a commentary article on the text of the treaty, however, it is a free guide on how to obtain an apostille by yourself in the United States fast and easy.
Table of Content
What is an Apostille?
A certificate issued under the Hague Apostille Convention that authenticates the origin of the foreign public document.
The origin of the word “Apostille”
The word “Apostille” is pronounced /a-pos-TEE, / not /a-pos-TEAL/ or /a-posTILL-ee/ and it is of French origin. It derived from the French verb “apostiller”, which means to certify.
A piece of paper, affixed to the public document, on which an Apostille is placed. An allonge is used instead of placing the Apostille directly on the underlying document.
The act of issuing an Apostille stamp in accordance with the Apostille Convention.
A person who makes a request for an Apostille to be issued.
Authentication is a generic term that refers to an official process of verifying the origin of a public document.
Capacity refers to the legal authority to perform a designated function. The Capacity is defined by the law of the State of origin. An Apostille certifies the capacity of the person who executed the underlying public document
It is an official authority designated by a signatory country of the Hague Apostille convention that is competent to issue Apostilles. A country may designate one or more Competent Authorities and may designate Competent Authorities that are only competent to issue Apostilles for certain categories of public documents.
The use of the Model Apostille Certificate
What Does an Apostille Look Like?
The purpose of the standard model of the Apostille certificate is to ensure that the Apostilles, which are issued by the various signatory countries are clearly recognized in all other signatory countries to facilitate the circulation of foreign public documents. The Apostille certificate should conform with the model of Apostille certificate. Generally, an Apostille must include the following:
- The title in French ‘Apostille (Convention de La Haye du 5 October 1961).
- The 10 numbered standard informational items, which are visible in the following picture:-
What does an Apostille do?
The “Apostille” is an official certificate that certifies the capacity in which the signer signs a document. In another word, the Apostille stamp certifies the authenticity of the signature on foreign documents. It doesn’t certify the content of the document. It merely certifies that the signature in true and authentic. The official text of the Apostille treaty described the function of the Apostille as:
“The effects of an Apostille The only effect of an Apostille is to certify the authenticity of the signature, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, and where appropriate, the identity of the seal or stamp which the document bears. The Apostille does not relate to the content of the underlying document itself (i.e., the apostillised public document).”
You may review the whole text of the Hague Apostille Treaty 1961 here
Applicability of the Apostille Convention
What documents can use Apostilles?
Any public document destined for foreign use can be apostilled. In the United States of America, we can sum up the most common documents that usually require an Apostille Stamp into three main categories:-
Documents issued by the U.S. Federal Government.
The US federal government consists of a large number of federal agencies and departments, with main headquarters in the District of Colombia and regional offices all over the United States. A document to be considered as a federal document must be issued by one of the federal agencies, signed by a federal official and include the stamp (seal) of the federal agency that issued the document. Here are some of the common federal departments and common official federal documents:-
First: Federal Agencies in the United States:-
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – CDC/ATSDR (HHS)
- Food Safety & Inspection Service – FSIS (USDA)
- Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services – CMS (HHS)
- Drug Enforcement Administration – DEA (DOJ)
- Department of Justice – DOJ
- Department of Labor – DOL
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – ATF (DOJ)
- Department of Commerce – DOC
- Food & Drug Administration – FDA (HHS)
- National Institutes of Health – NIH (HHS)
- Department of State – DOS
- Department of Agriculture – USDA
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Office of the U.S. Trade Representative – USTR
- Social Security Administration SSA.
Second: Common Federal Documents:-
- Certificate to Foreign Government – CFG
- Naturalization Certificate
- S.S.A. Benefit Letter
- Certificate of Exportability.
- Certificate of Free Sale – CFS
- Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product.
- COPP – Foreign Manufacturer
- Non- Clinical Research Use
- Specified Risk of Bovine Origin Materials
- Phytosanitary Certificate
- Animal Health certificate
- Plant Certificate
- Patent – Trademark
- FBI background Check
- U.S. Tax Residency – Form 6166
- Sanitation certificate
Third: Examples of Federal documents:-
This is a list of some federally issued documents that can be apostilled for use outside the United States. It is not a comprehensive list, it is only meant to show you what a federal document can be. You can read more about Federal Government in the United States Here.
Documents issued by the States Governments in all 50 States and U.S. territories.
The state government or local government is another branch of the United States government, which consists of 50 Secretary of State offices. Each State has a Secretary of State office that is responsible for issuing official State certifications such as vital records or business certifications and licenses. Some of these documents must be apostilled if you want to live, travel, study or getting married abroad. A document must be an original certificate or a certified copy issued by the State department that issued the document. State documents can never be notarized. It only requires to include the signature of the state official. Here are some examples of the common State documents that often require an Apostille.
First: Common State Official Certified Copies:-
- Restated Certificate of Incorporation
- Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce
- Certificate of Formation
- Certificate of Incumbency
- Certificate of existence
- Statement of Dissolution
- Business License
- Articles of Incorporation
- Certificate of Merger
- Corporate Resolution
- Foreign Certificate of Registration
- Termination of foreign Corporation
- Corporate Consolidation
Second: Examples of State official Certified Copies:-
If you want to request a certified copy of a document on file with the Secretary of State, you have to contact the State agency in your State, not any other State.
General Documents issued by private institutions.
The term general documents refer to any document issued by private agencies in the United States such as the academic institutions, universities, companies or lawyers. It is any document that doesn’t bear the signature of an official State of the federal officer, that is why it requires being certified in front of a notary public to confirm the identity of the signers.
First: Common Notarized Document:-
- Power of Attorney
- Packing list
- TEOSL Certificate
- Bachelor DegreeHalal Certificate
- Bill of Lading (Air, Ocean, Truck, Rail)
- Insurance Certificate
- Kosher Certificate
- Dangerous Goods Certificate
- Consular Invoice
- Pro Forma Invoice
- Letter of Credit
- Bank Draft
- Export Declaration
- Shipper Letter of Instruction
- Certificate of Analysis
- Pre-Shipment Inspection
- Veterinary certificate
- Sales certificate
- Weight Certificate
- Shareholder certificate of Interest
- Shareholder Contribution Schedule
- Agreement to Form a Corporation
- Stock Purchase Agreement
- Agency Agreement
- Business Letter
- Letter of Authorization
- Company Bylaws
- Letter of Resignation
- Distributor Agreement
- ISO Certificate
- Technical Data Sheet
- Stock Certificate
- Shareholder List
- Letter of Intent
- Operating Agreement
- Asset Purchase Agreement
- Bill of Sale
- Change of Agent
- Fumigation Certificate
Second: Examples of Notarized Documents:
Where do I get an Apostille?
Each Signatory country to the Hague Apostille Convention is required to appoint one or more establishments( official departments) that are authorized to issue Apostilles “Competent Authorities”. Each country has the freedom to determine the number and identity of Competent Authorities.
Function of Competent Authorities
The competent authority is the key function of the Hague Apostille Treaty. It is assigned the following functions under the Convention:
- To receive the authentication requests for Apostille.
- To verify the origin of any document that requires an Apostille.
- To affix the Apostille stamp to the underlying public document.
- To record each Apostille issued at the register of Apostilles to be able to verify the origin of each Apostille issued by that particular Competent Authority.
Competent Authority in the United States:
The United States of America has designated (2) two competent authorities that are responsible for the affixing of the Apostille stamps on U.S. documents that are destined for use abroad. The Secretary of State offices in all 50 States and the US Department of State in Washington DC. It is the type of the public document that determines the right competent authority:
- Secretary of State Apostille:
The Secretary of State office in all 50 States authenticates signatures only on documents that are issued in the same State, signed by a notary public or signed by one of the following public officials and their deputies:
- The State’s county clerks or recorders
- Court Administrators of the Superior Court in the same State
- Executive clerks of the superior court
- Executive officers of the Superior Court
- Judges of the superior court
- Public State Officials
- US Department of State Apostille
The U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC is the competent authority designated by the US government to affix Apostille stamps on federally issued documents that are destined for use in one of the Hague Convention Participating Countries. The federal document must be:-
- Executed by one of the U.S. federal agencies.
- Have an official’s original and/or stamped signature of the agency.
Why some Documents Need US Department of State Apostille?
The function of the competent authority is to verify the signature on the public document to be able to attach the Apostille stamp. In the United States, there are two branches of the government: the local government, represented through the Secretary of State office in all 50 States, and the federal government, which is represented by the US Department of State in Washington DC.
Each official department will verify the signature of its official’s employees. The Secretary of State office in Alabama won’t Apostille a document if it was signed by a California officer and you will need to get your Apostille in California, not Alabama. Same as a federally issued document, it must be apostilled by a department that will be able to verify the authenticity of the federal officer, which, in this case, will be the US Department of State in Washington DC.
Who can Apostille a document in the United States?
The type of your document determines the right competent authority, which can affix the Apostille stamp. State public documents must be certified by the Secretary of State/ Lieutenant Governor office in the same State where the document was issued or notarized. While documents issued by federal agencies in the United States must be apostilled by the US Department of State in Washington DC.
Delivery of Apostille services
It is up to the Competent Authority to define the appropriate delivery model of the Apostille service to provide. In most States, Apostille services are delivered by one of the following methods:
• Over the Counter:
Over the Counter Apostille Service or Walk- In service allows the applicant to requests and receives an Apostille by visiting the premises of the Competent Authority. You can visit the Secretary of State office anytime during the regular business hours and request an Apostille, while some States allow Walk-in Service by appointments only. If you need an Apostille in the following States, the Applicants must call the Secretary of State office to schedule an appointment first:-
|States that require a prior appointment||Contact Information|
|Montana||T: (406) 444-1877|
|North Dakota||T: 701-328-2901|
|South Dakota||T: 605-773-2797 E: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Rhode Island||T: 401-222-1487|
Other competent authorities limit the time for the walk- in service such as the US Department of State in Washington, DC that limits the time for processing Apostille requests received by hand to only one hour per day from 8:00 a.m. till 9:00 a.m. EST. Review the working hours in the previous table.
• Apostille Service by Mail
The applicant may also request and receive an Apostille by mail. However, due to constant updates, it is recommended to review the official website of the competent authority before you mail your request to ensure that you have fulfilled all the requirements. Below is a list of the official governmental websites responsible for affixing the Apostille Stamp in all 50 States and S Department of State.
|US Virgin Islands||http://ltg.gov.vi/images/stories/pdocs/notary%20public%20handbook%20rev052311.pdf|
The timeline between requesting an Apostille and receiving the Apostilled documents differentiates according to the competent authority, which is responsible for affixing the Apostille Stamp. Each competent authority sets its own processing time depending on the work volume and the available staff. For example
How long does it take to get an Apostille?
|State||Turnaround Time by Mail||Walk-in Turnaround Time|
|Alabama||5 Business Days||Same Day|
|Alaska||(1-2) Business Days||Same Day|
|Arizona||5 Business Days||Same Day|
|Arkansas||2 Business Days||Same Day|
|California||(7-10) Business Days||Same Day|
|Colorado||(2-3) Business Days||Next Business Day|
|Connecticut||3 Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Delaware||(2-3) Weeks (2-3)||Business Days|
|Florida||5 Business Days||Same Day|
|DC SOS||(2-3) Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Georgia||(1-2) Business Days||Same Day|
|Hawaii||7 Business Days||Same Day|
|Idaho||1 Business Day||Same Day|
|Illinois||(7-10) Business Days||Same Day|
|Indiana||(3) Business Days||2 Business Days|
|Iowa||2 Business Days||Same Day|
|Kansas||5 Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Kentucky||3 Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Louisiana||3 Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Maine||(2-3) Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Maryland||(1-2) Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Massachusetts||(2-3) Weeks Next||Business Day|
|Michigan||(1-2) Weeks||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Minnesota||2 Business Days||Same Day|
|Mississippi||2 Business Days||Same Day|
|Missouri||2 Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Montana||5 Business Days||Same Day|
|Nebraska||One Day||Same Day|
|Nevada||3-4 Weeks||10 Business Days|
|New Hampshire||2 Business Days||Same Day|
|New Jersey||15 Business days||15 Business Days|
|New Mexico||Same Day||Same Day|
|New York||4 Business Days||Same Day|
|At New York City Office Only|
|North Carolina||5 Business Days||Next Business Day|
|North Dakota||3 Business Days||Same Day|
|Ohio||3 Business Days||Same Day|
|Oklahoma||(1-2) Business Days||Next Business Day|
|Oregon||(1-3) Business Days||20 Minutes|
|Pennsylvania||5 Business Days||Same Day|
|Rhode Island||One Business||day Same Day|
|South Carolina||2 Business Days||Next Business Day|
|South Dakota||One Business||Day Same Day|
|Tennessee||(2-3) Business Days||Next Business Day|
|Texas||10 Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Utah||5 Business Days||5 Business Days|
|Vermont||One Business||Day Same Day|
|Virginia||(5-7) Business Days||2 Business Days|
|Washington||7 Business Days||While you await|
|West Virginia||2 Business Days||Within Few Minutes|
|Wisconsin||10 Business Days||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Wyoming||One Business Day||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Puerto Rico||Depending on the Work Volume||Same Day|
|US Virgin Islands||Depending on the Work Volume||Depending on the Work Volume|
|Federally-Issued Documents||12 Business Days||12 Business Days|
How much does Apostille Cost?
The Apostille statutory fee varies according to the designated competent authority. Some States provide Apostille services free of charge, while other States may charge over
|Alabama||$5.00 per document|
|Alaska||$5.00 per document|
|Arizona||$3.00 per document|
|Arkansas||$10.00 per document|
|California||$20.00 per document|
|Colorado||$5.00 per document|
|Connecticut||$40.00 per document|
|Delaware||$30.00 per document for commercial use & $30.00 for 1 document or more for non-commercial use|
|Florida||$10.00 per document & $20.00 per document for Court issued Document|
|DC SOS||$15.00 per document|
|Georgia||$3.00 per document|
|Hawaii||$1.00 per document|
|Idaho||$10.00 per document|
|Illinois||$2.00 per document|
|Indiana||Free of Charge|
|Iowa||$5.00 per document|
|Kansas||$7.50 per document|
|Kentucky||$5.00 per document|
|Louisiana||$20.00 per document|
|Maine||$10.00 per document|
|Maryland||$2.00 per document|
|Massachusetts||$6.00 per document|
|Michigan||$1.00 per document|
|Minnesota||$5.00 per document|
|Mississippi||$5.00 per document|
|Missouri||$10.00 per document|
|Montana||$10.00 per document|
|Nebraska||$10.00 per document|
|Nevada||$20.00 per document|
|New Hampshire||$10.00 per document|
|New Jersey||$25.00 per document|
|New Mexico||$3.00 per document|
|New York||$10.00 per document|
|North Carolina||$10.00 per document|
|North Dakota||$10.00 per document|
|Ohio||$5.00 per document|
|Oklahoma||$25.00 per document|
|Oregon||$10.00 per document|
|Pennsylvania||$15.00 per document|
|Rhode Island||$5.00 per document|
|South Carolina||$2.00 per document|
|South Dakota||$25.00 per document|
|Tennessee||$2.00 per document|
|Texas||$15.00 per document|
|Utah||$15.00 per document|
|Vermont||$10.00 per document|
|Virginia||$10.00 per document($5.00 for each additional document if signed by the same official on the same date for the same country|
|Washington||$15.00 per document|
|West Virginia||$10 for the first document, $5 for each additional document, if signed by the same public official|
|Wisconsin||$10.00 per document|
|Wyoming||$3.00 per document|
|Puerto Rico||$3.00 per document|
|US Virgin Islands||$25.00 per document|
|Federally-Issued Documents||$8.00 per document|
Registering the Apostille
How do recipients in foreign countries verify my Apostille?
The Hague Apostille Convention requires each Competent Authority (the official department responsible for the issuing of the Apostille Stamps) to keep a “register” in which it records the details of each Apostille issued. The Apostille register is a necessary tool against fraudulent Apostilles and to allow recipients in the country of destination to verify the origin and authenticity of each Apostille. The register completes the Apostille process, as set out in the following diagram:
What if the recipient rejects my Apostille?
Each Competent Authority is required to verify the accuracy of the details in an Apostille, which is supposedly issued by that Competent Authority correspond with those recorded in the Apostille register. Whether any additional information in the register is to be provided to the person making the request is subject to applicable laws, including information disclosure and data protection.
Where the Competent Authority operates a paper or an electronic register (In case a register is not accessible online by the recipient), the verification process is started by a request from the recipient to the Competent Authority by telephone, fax, email or regular mail.
An official of the Competent Authority verifies in the register of the Competent Authority whether there is a matching record of the Apostille details provided by the recipient. This can be a time-consuming process. If the Competent Authority operates an e-Register, the verification process is greatly facilitated and largely automated as the recipient will receive an instant reply from the e-Register in response to his or her query. This process can be completed within a few minutes over long distances without the intervention of an official of the Competent Authority indicated in the (paper or electronic) Apostille.
Electronic Registrar in the United States
In the United States, there are about 9 competent authorities that operate an electronic registrar of the Apostilles. It facilitates the process of verifying the origin and the authenticity of the apostille in the foreign country.
Embassy Legalization vs. Apostille Certification
What is the difference between Apostille and Legalization?
An Apostille, as we previously mentioned, is an official international certification that replaced the bureaucratic legalization procedures of a foreign public document. It was first introduced during the Hague Apostille Convention 1961 abolishing the legalization requirements of foreign public documents ad replaced it with the Apostille. However, there are some countries that didn’t sign the Apostille treaty and still require embassy legalization to accept foreign documents.
Apostille VS Legalization in the United States
If you need to certify your document for international use in the united States, you have to determine the right type of certification you need. It depends mainly on the destination country, in which you will use the document. If the destination country is a member of the Hague Apostille convention, it will only require an Apostille from the Secretary of State office in the same State where the document was issued or from the US Department of State in Washington DC for federally issued documents. Only single certification will be required.
On the other hand, If the destination country is not a member of the Hague Apostille convention, you will need to acquire more than one certification in order for your document to be accepted overseas. The document must be certified by the local Secretary of State, authenticated by the US Department of State and finally legalized by the embassy of the destination country in Washington DC.
Hague Apostille Countries
You will find below a table that shows all member countries to the Hague Apostille convention:-
|Bahamas||Grenada||South Sandwich Islands|
|British Virgin Islands||India||Turkey|
|Brazil||Ireland||Turks and Caicos Islands|
|Brunei||Isle of Man||Tuvalu|
|Colombia||Kazakhstan||Us Virgin Islands|
What about Legalization | Non-Apostille Countries?
- The table below contains all countries that still did not join the Hague Apostille Convention
|Burkina Faso||Laos||Sri Lanka|
What is a Notary Public?
A notary public is an official employee who can perform many notarial acts including, but not limited to: acknowledgment of signatures, execution of Jurats, certification of copies of documents, the witness of signatures and administration of Oaths and Affirmations. A notary public has an official notary seal and stamp, which they affix to notary certificates and records all transactions in their notary registers.
It is an official authorized by the United States law to act as an unprejudiced witness to signatures, authenticate copies of documents, certify signatures made by individuals, administer oaths and perform other notary acts within the notary jurisdiction.
Appointment of Notary Public
The notary public in the United States is appointed by their State of residence, by neighboring states, or a State wherein the notary has employment or runs a business. Notaries are an official but independent employee that often work for the government.
Duration of Notary License
The notary public in the United States has a term of service that is usually four or five years depending on their state of jurisdiction. However, the duration of service could exceed to reach five years in some States. For example, State of Louisiana determines the service duration of its notaries for life.
Jurisdiction of Notary Public
Notaries in Louisiana may only perform notary acts within the parishes they are designed to practice in. All other states permit their commissioned notaries to practice anywhere within the boundaries of their state, twenty-four hours of the day.
How to obtain the Apostille Stamp fast
In time pressed situations, you may need to obtain your Apostille fast and easy due to upcoming marriage or unexpected travel. Some States provide expedited Apostille service that allows customers to order fast Apostille service in charge of extra fee. However, the majority of Secretary of State offices in the United States (Competent Authorities) does not provide an expedited service. Here is a list of all States that provides expedited Apostille Service
|States that provide expedited service||Walk- In Service||Mail Service|
|Connecticut||$90.00 per Document 24 Hours Adoption Documents cannot be expedited Rejected documents will result in the forfeiture of expedited fee||$90.00 per Document 24 Hours|
|Delaware||Expedited Service for Commercial Use only $70.00 per Document -One Business Day $80.00 per Document – Same Day $550.00 per Document – 2 Hours $1050.00 per Document – One Hour||Expedited Service Available for Mailed Orders- Commercial Use only $70.00 per document- One Business Day $80.00 per Document – Same Business Day $550.00 per Document- 2 Hours $1050.00 per Document – One Hour|
|Nevada||$95.00 per Document: One Business Day $145.00 per Document: 4 hours $520.00 per Document: 2 Hours $1020.00 per Document: hour||$95.00 per Document: One Business Day $145.00 per Document: 4 hours $520.00 per Document: 2 Hours $1020.00 per Document: hour|
|New Hampshire||Additional $25.00 for each 10 documents or less Same Day||Additional $25.00 for each 10 documents Same Day|
|New Jersey||$40.00 per Document: One Business Day $525.00 per Document: 2 Hours $1025.00 per Document: 1 Hour||$40.00 per Document Next Business Day|
|Washington||Additional $50.00 on the Total Amount 2 Business Days Additional $50.00 on the total amount 2 Business Dyas Wisconsin||Not Available Expedited Service Available for Mailed Orders only $35.00 per Document: 3 Business Days|
What can California Apostille do for me?
California Apostille is a professional provider of expedited Apostille service in the State of California. We charge only $50.00 per single California Apostille. Additionally, we can provide a wide range of authentication and consular services in Washington, DC including authentications by US Department of State and foreign embassies in District of Columbia. Visit our website for quotes and procedures.