What Is Apostille?

An apostille is a certificate issued by the Secretary of State in accordance with the 1961 Hague Convention for the purpose of authenticating a public document (e.g., a birth certificate, death certificate, or notarized document) for use in certain foreign countries. Authentication and apostille requests may be made in person or through the mail.

Apostilles are used whenever public documents need to be produced abroad. If you have been told you need an apostille, your documents need this verification to be valid in another country. An Apostille only authenticates the origin of the underlying public record.

he word “Apostille” (pronounced a-pos-TEE, not a-pos-TEAL or a-pos-TILL-ee) is of French origin. It comes from the French verb “apostiller,” which derives from the old French word “postille,” meaning “annotation,” and before it, the Latin word “postilla,” a variation of the word “postea,” which means “thereafter, afterward, next.”

Apostille testifies that the Notary’s authority was valid when the notarial act occurred. This process is called authentication, or legalization, of the document. These documents may include court documents, civil records, other documents issued by an administrative authority, and notarized documents.

Apostille used to be quite a complicated collection of forms required to accompany the notarized document. However, since October 15, 1981, the United States has been part of the 1961 Hague Convention abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents to streamline the process.

The Convention provides for the much-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 territories should be certified by one of the officials in the jurisdiction where the document has been executed. The official must have been designated competent to issue certifications by ‘Apostille’ (usually in the State Secretary of State or state notary administrator) provided by the 1961 Hague Convention.

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