When is it Necessary to Have an Apostille?

An Apostille is necessary to legalize a document for international use in countries that are part of the Hague Apostille Convention. This is typically required for birth certificates, marriage certificates, diplomas, or corporate documents used in legal matters.

What is an Apostille?

The United States has been a party to the 1961 Hague Convention since October 15, 1981. The Convention provides for 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 where the document has been executed.

Apostilles and authentication certificates validate the seal and signature of a Notary on a document so that it can be accepted in a foreign country. Both verify that the notary held a Notary commission when the document was notarized.

Apostilles are used when public documents are transferred between countries that are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention of 1961. This international treaty streamlined the cumbersome, traditional procedure for authenticating documents.

Obtaining an apostille involves a specific process. It is issued by your Secretary of State’s office or Notary commissioning agency. The apostille, being the only certification needed, is prepared, verified, and then attached to the notarized documents. It’s important to note that notaries themselves cannot issue apostilles. This entire process takes place after the document has been notarized.

It’s important to note the differences between Apostilles and authentication certificates. Authentication certificates are used for destination nations that are not part of the Hague Convention. Unlike the 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.

The requirements and processing time for authentication certificates will vary from country to country.

What Countries Accept Apostilles?

There are over 110 countries that are part of the Hague Convention, which will require an apostille. These countries include the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Ireland, and many more.

On November 7th, 2023, China made a significant move by joining the Hague Convention. This international treaty aims to simplify the acceptance of public documents across borders.

As discussed in our February 2024 blog post, Canada recently took a significant step to simplify cross-border legal processes by joining the Hague Convention. This decision benefits businesses and individuals engaged in international activities, offering streamlined solutions for document recognition and legal proceedings.

What is the Hague Convention?

The Hague Convention, officially known as the Hague Conference on Private International Law, is an international treaty designed to facilitate cooperation among countries in the field of private international law (https://www.hcch.net/en/states/hcch-members ). The Hague Convention has many aspects, however, the portion formally known as the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, is a part of an international treaty designed to facilitate the acceptance of public documents in foreign countries. It was established to eliminate the need for time-consuming and often costly consular legalization processes.  Click here for more information on the Hague and Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents.

Are Apostilles Needed for all Documents?

According to USA.gov:  If the country where you want to use your document is on the 1961 Hague Convention member list, you will need an apostille.

  • Documents such as vital records issued by a U.S. state will need an apostille from that state’s secretary of state.
  • Federal documents will need an apostille from the U.S. Department of State.

Is an Apostille the Same as a Notary?

Each action verifies a different thing. A notary verifies the identity of the individual signing the document and that the signature is legitimate. The apostille certifies the authenticity of the notary’s signature. A document certified with an apostille is to be considered acceptable for legal use in all Hague Convention participating nations. The apostille certifies the validity of the document itself.

 Common Mistakes to Avoid when Getting an Apostille

Obtaining an apostille can be overwhelming and confusing.  Using a service company such as Accumera will help ensure things go smoothly.

#1 and, most importantly, verify that the country is part of the Hague Convention. The rest is a little easier:

  • Give yourself time! These services can take weeks or months, depending on the country. Do not wait until the last minute.
  • All documents must be original, no photocopies.
  • Apostilles are applied to documents in their state of origin. Avoid rejections and time delays.
  • Make sure any document you are having apostilled is current.
  • Get the notarization first, before the apostille. Make sure the notary license is active and not expired.
  • Never remove the apostille from the document- it becomes invalid.

Do Apostilles Expire?

In short, an apostille does not expire. However, apostilles do have an issue date, and in some circumstances, you may be required to get an updated one. Situations vary depending on the document, purpose, and country.

How Do I Get my Documents Apostilled?

Accumera can assist with obtaining and preparing documents and having them apostilled for use overseas. Many of our clients need an apostille attached to their US public documents so they can be used overseas. These documents include certified copies of a certificate of incorporation, certificate of good standing, or notarial attestations. We can obtain or prepare these documents and have them apostilled for use overseas upon request. Please note that an apostille can only be issued by countries that are the signers of the 1961 Hague Convention and can only be issued to other countries that are signers as well.

If you need a document authenticated for use in a country that is not a signer of the 1961 Hague Convention, you will need our Embassy Services.

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Resources: National Notary Bulletin, Texas State University, USA.gov, 1961 Hague Convention member list,

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