Sometimes individuals or companies must send legal documents issued in the United States to other countries. In the past, it was difficult for these foreign countries to determine the authenticity of these documents. To simplify the process, the concept of the apostille stamp was created.
What is an Apostille?
During the 1961 Hague Convention, participating nations agreed on a form of document authentication known as an apostille stamp. When foreign nations receive legal documents bearing the apostille stamp, they can reasonably assume that the papers are authentic.
What Types of Documents Require an Apostille?
A company may need an apostille stamp on their articles of incorporation, a power of attorney or bylaws. Individuals sometimes require apostilles on academic transcripts, diplomas and assignments or on birth, marriage and death certificates.
Who Provides an Apostille Stamp?
The Office of the Secretary of State for each state is empowered to place the stamp on documents for use in foreign countries. The website of the secretary of state is the best place to find information on the process, as it can vary somewhat from one state to the next. Typically, the applicant must fill out a form explaining what the document to be authenticated is, how it will be used and where it will be used. The applicant sends the form, the original document that requires the stamp and a fee to the secretary of state for processing. After a few days, the applicant receives their original document, complete with apostille stamp, in the mail. They are then free to send the document to the foreign country.
Potential Complications to Consider
The Office of the Secretary of State typically provides an apostille stamp on documents signed by the county clerk or another county or state government official without requiring further authentication. However, documents that are not signed by a recognized government official may need to be notarized before receiving the apostille stamp. This means that the document must be signed in the presence of a notary who then attests to the authenticity of the signature. The notarized document is then sent to the secretary of state with the request for apostille stamp. In these circumstances, the secretary of state’s office is authenticating the signature of the notary as a recognized official. If there is any doubt about the need for notarization, it’s best to contact the secretary of state’s office before mailing the request.