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Apostilles & Legalizations: Getting to Know The Basics

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Posted on by Kacy Flowers


If you are involved in a transaction where you need to submit official documents to a foreign country, you will want to have a basic understanding of when Apostilles are necessary and when you may be faced with the more prolonged Legalization process. Knowing the basics up front will help you avoid time-consuming research and costly mistakes.

In order for a document to be used in a business or legal transaction outside of the country where it originated, it must receive special certification or authentication. Traditionally, the only method for authenticating a document was a lengthy process known as Legalization – which involves multiple levels of certifications applied by various government agencies.

Today, many countries around the world have joined a treaty that streamlines the process of authentication by requiring only a single certification mark known as an Apostille for documents shared between member nations. The full name of this treaty is the “Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents” - more commonly referred to as the Hague Convention.

There are many different types of documents that can receive an Apostille including certified public documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates, charter documents, patent registrations, etc. and documents such as school transcripts and powers of attorney that bear the signature and seal of a notary public. It is important to note that the Apostille certifies only the origin of the document to which it is applied, it does not certify the actual content of the document.

A document can only receive an Apostille when its country of origin and the country where it is to be used are both members of the Hague Convention. If either country is a non-member nation, the required method for authenticating the document would be Legalization rather than Apostille.

For a full list of Hague Convention member countries, please click here.

The process of Legalization varies by country but in general, it requires the application of several individual certifications involving officials of the country where the document was issued and officials from the consulate or foreign embassy of the country where the document will be used.

Still have questions, or need to initiate an Apostille or Legalization request? Contact CLAS today! One of our friendly experienced Service Representatives will be happy to assist you.  800.952.5696 | connect@clasinfo.com

For informational purposes only; content does not constitute legal advice.

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