The Apostille: Validating International Documents

by Judy King 7. June 2010 14:56

Nearly 50 years ago, nations from around the globe began signing the 1961 Hague Convention agreement to simplify verification of documents needed by international travelers, residents, and businesses.

The single-page form – the apostille -- has continued to gain international cooperation and support. By the mid-mark of this decade, it has been approved by more than 60 nations replacing an old time-consuming bureaucratic process to certified the authenticity of notarized and public documents by obtaining the approval of a series of dignitaries in the hierarchy of both the country of origin and the country where the document was needed.

The Apostille Notarizes the Notary
You'll find a variety of terms used by the various branches of government in countries around the world. While an official or facilitator may ask for an original document to be authorized, gold-stamped, authenticated, legalized, validated, certified, or to have the notary's signature notarized, they are all talking about the apostille's endorsement which is accepted in all other member countries.

The apostille is a single-page notarization by the secretary of the state in which the attached document was executed. The sole purpose of the apostille, which is a state-level notarization, is to certify the authenticity of the signature of the public official signing the original document, the capacity in which the signer acted, and the identity of any stamps or seals on the original document.

Governments Trust Documents with Apostilles

Hague Convention member countries have agreed to accept this document as conclusive proof that the signature of the notary or public official is genuine and that the official holds the indicated office. No further evidence is required for acceptance in any Hague Convention country.

Which of Your Documents May Require an Apostille?

While most U.S. and Canadian documents are currently accepted as valid by the various branches of Mexican government, increased security measures may soon require that more documents be authenticated by the apostille.

During the past decade, the apostille or other verification has not often been required on marriage certificates, educational certificates, licenses and diplomas, and other documents.

Home buyers and sellers need the authorization when they decide (while out Mexico) to issue a power of attorney rather than attend the closing of a property..

Other common state-level documents that could be required to be authenticated with an apostille in the state of origin before their foreign presentation include:

  • Authorization to conduct business for a foreign firm or franchise
  • Car title or car title history
  • Adoption certificates
  • Notarized parental permission letters
  • Certificates of an assumed name
  • Permission to transport human remains from the country
  • Birth certificates
  • Statements of marital status (usually for application for a wedding license)
  • Certificates of marriage
  • Divorce decrees
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Corporate by-laws
  • Certificates of mergers
  • Patent applications
  • Trademark applications
  • Diplomas
  • School transcripts
  • Deeds
  • Assignments of interest
  • Power of attorney
  • Document registration
  • Probated wills
  • Court documents

The procedure
With the increasing focus on absolute verification of identity and documents, most states now have websites outlining the process for submitting documents to the Secretary of State or Authentication Office.

The rules and regulations vary from state to state, but in most cases you can submit your paperwork by mail, enclosing a prepaid return envelope. The apostille fee varies, but in most states it averages $20 US per document.

Tip: If you need to send documents from Mexico to a Secretary of State for certification, we recommend that you use a courier service such as DHL, FedEx, or UPS rather than mail service. The time you save and the security of these systems make the costs worthwhile.

For a list of United States authorities that issue apostilles in the state where your document originated, check this United States Department of State website: http://travel.state.gov/about/info/customer/customer_312.html>

Note: Canadian Documents

Not all countries around the world have signed the Hague Convention agreement to facilitate the acceptance of international documents. While Canada has signed some of the other Hague Convention policies, the apostille is not available to validate documents in Canada. To have Canadian documents certified, contact a providence office for information about authenticating the notary's signature.

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Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

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About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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