What is Document Legalization?

Embassy-and-Consulate-LegalizationDocument legalization refers to the process of authenticating a document for a foreign country who has not yet adopted the simpler apostille process.  Legalizing a document issued in the USA and for a non-apostille country requires multiple government offices to certify the document before being presented to the Embassy or Consulate office for legalization (Final step).

This solves the dilemma by creating a chain of authentications (County, State, U.S. Department of State, and Embassy or Consulate office), by a progressively higher government authority so as to satisfy the requirement of the Embassy or Consulate office located in the United States.

A document originating from or notarized within the United States must be certified and legalized in the USA and presented to the Embassy or Consulate office before you can register the document in the foreign country.

Here is a brief illustration:

Certifying and legalizing a document for a non-apostille member country requires two to three steps to complete.  In some instances, there could be four steps (County Clerk Authentication of notary’s seal and signature).  The number of steps would depend on the State your documents originate from, the type of documents you need legalized, and the Country requesting your documents.  In addition, some States may require a notarized document to also be authenticated by the County Clerk’s office which can increase the steps from three to four.

The number of steps required can be answered by answering the following questions:

  1. The U.S. State your documents have been issued from.
  2. The type of documents you need certified and legalized (Example: Birth, Death, Divorce, Notarized Business documents, etc…)
  3. The Country requesting your documents.

For example, certifying and legalizing a document for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a three step process while certifying and legalizing a document for Brazil can be only a two step process.  When the jurisdiction of a document falls on the Embassy, the document will also require processing through the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

Certifying, attesting, and legalizing documents can be complicated. Don’t leave this process to untrained employees or non-professionals who do not fully understand the authentication process and the unique requirements of certain countries. Your paperwork could be rejected costing you time and money. Don’t let this happen to you.

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