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Frequently Asked Questions:

What is an Apostille?
An "Apostille" is a form of authentication issued for documents that will be used in countries that participate in the Hague Convention of 1961. Apostilles are only used to authenticate documents that will be used in another country. An Apostille may take the form of a stamp upon a document or it may be attached to the document as an allonge (a French word describing an attachment to a legal document). If an allonge is used, it is important that it NEVER be detached from the original document, to which it may be stapled, glued, or otherwise firmly attached.
Who Signs & Seals an Apostille?
Apostilles are signed by a "Competent Authority". Documents issued by a federal office must be apostilled by federal officials, all other documents are apostilled in the state from which they originate.
What is a Competent Authority?
In most US states, the office of the Secretary of that State is designated as a Competent Authority, in others, it is the office of the Lieutenant Governor. In all cases, the Competent Authority is the office able to authenticate the seal of the notary and/or other authentication of the signatures.
What documents must be apostilled by the US Secretary of State?
Federally issued documents include all documents issued and sealed by federal agencies (FBI, FDA, USDA, etc) as well as documents sealed by military notaries or by federal officials.
For a complete list of Competent Authorities in the US and abroad, refer to the Hague Convention on Private International Law at: www.hcch.net and click on "Authorities".
When Does an Apostille Need US State Department Certification?
Some documents must apostilled by the Office of the US Secretary of State:
Documents signed by a federal official with the official Seal of that Agency
Documents signed by an American consular officer, military notary or a foreign consul
The U.S. Department of State will not issue an Apostille for state-issued documents.
If your documents are intended for use in a country that does not participate in the Hague Convention of 1961, you may request an authentication certificate from the Department of State based on the authentication requirements.
What does an Apostille do?
An Apostille certifies the origin of a public document, verifying that the signature or seal of the authority that signed or sealed it is genuine – it does NOT certify the content of the document. In other words, an Apostille does not guarantee the accuracy of the information in the document, it just guarantees the signatures of those who have testified to it. You could get an apostille for a grocery list - all that the competent authority would care about is whether or not it was notarized properly and the proper supporting documents are present!
An Apostille is the ONLY formality that is required to authenticate the origin of a public document between Members of the Convention. No other paperwork may be required to authenticate the document.
What documents can use Apostilles?
The Convention only applies to public documents. Foreign nations have various rules governing which documents are public and which are not, but the following documents are generally eligible for Apostilles:
  • court documents
  • administrative documents (e.g. civil status documents)
  • notarial acts
  • corporate documents such as company by-laws and articles of incorporation
  • power of attorney
  • diplomas, transcripts and letters relating to degrees
  • official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as official certificates recording the registration of a document or the fact that it was in existence on a certain date and official and notarial authentications of signatures.
Where do I get an Apostille?
Most Apostilles are issued at the state level: only certain specific documents require an Apostille to be issued from the US Department of State.
Every state in the United States has designated authorities who certify and attest documents and signatures.
  • 1. For example, let’s say Mark, who lives in the state of Maryland, has a notarized document that he needs to have apostilled for use in Germany.
    In every state, notarys public are registered and certified by some Competent Authority; in Maryland, the office of the Secretary of State maintains those records.
  • 2. Mark sends his notarized documents to the office of the Secretary of State and once the signature and seal of the notary public have been authenticated, an Apostille is issued.
    The Maryland Secretary of State attaches its apostille as an allonge containing the required information in the proper order of numbered fields and signs and seals the document.
  • 3. Mark's apostilled document is now legal for use in Germany.
    An apostilled document does not require additional certification by the U.S. Department of State or legalization by a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas to be recognized in a participating country.
  • To see a complete state-by-state listing of competent authorities, visit the Hague Conference on Private International Law website www.hcch.net and click on “Authorities”.
What Does an Apostille Look Like?
Scroll down to look at an example of an Apostille from the State of Maryland. Maryland affixes its Apostille as an allonge, or attachment, to the original document. Note the numbered fields and other details that conform to the requirements of the Apostille Convention. Additional fields MAY be added to an Apostille, but must be placed outside the box with the required fields.
How do recipients in foreign countries verify my Apostille?
Every Competent Authority is required to keep a register in which it records the date and number of every Apostille it issues, as well as information about the original person or authority who sealed the public document.
Many Competent Authorities have begun to record Apostilles in registries which are available online; the relevant web address is usually to be found beneath the main section of the Apostille. If an authority is not keeping online records, verification can be done by calling the certifying authority to verify the Apostille number on the certificate.
How do recipients in foreign countries verify my Apostille?
Every Competent Authority is required to keep a register in which it records the date and number of every Apostille it issues, as well as information about the original person or authority who sealed the public document.
Many Competent Authorities have begun to record Apostilles in registries which are available online; the relevant web address is usually to be found beneath the main section of the Apostille. If an authority is not keeping online records, verification can be done by calling the certifying authority to verify the Apostille number on the certificate.
What if the recipient rejects my Apostille?
Apostilles issued in accordance with the requirements of the Convention MUST be recognized in the country where they are to be used.
A recipient cannot reject your Apostille because it is placed incorrectly or attached to the document in an unusual manner, and it may not be rejected because of extra text placed in addition to the ten mandatory fields.
Apostilles may only be rejected when their origin cannot be verified or if their elements differ too radically from the standard format (see “What Does an Apostille Look Like?”).
If you are having difficulty with a rejected Apostille, contact your state's Office of the Secretary of State for assistance.
What about non-Apostille Countries?
Countries that are not members of the Apostille Convention require different forms and certifications. As these requirements change, we recommend that you consult the embassy website for information or call the relevant embassy before attempting to legalize your document on your own.
USApostille partners with industry leader USLegalization to provide services for non-Apostille nations. Please follow the link below and select the country in question from their list of non-Apostille nations to obtain an estimate for the processing of your documents.
What can USApostille do for me?
f you have a document that you wish apostilled, you can do it yourself - or you can let us do it for you, saving you time and money! USApostille works with you to make sure that your documents are submitted correctly and certified, authenticated and legalized by the proper authorities and back to you - FAST!
USApostille processes your documents quickly - our relationships with embassies and consulates, as well as our years of experience in navigating documentation issues, eliminate delays and processing errors.
USApostille partners with USLegalization, one of the leading document legalizing companies in the United States, to handle legalizing documents for non-Apostille nations, which require the approval of the US Secretary of State as well as other documents.
Contact USApostille today!
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