What is an Apostille?

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Hague Conference on Private International LawAn Apostille (pronounced “ah-po-steel”) is a French word meaning certification.

An Apostille is simply the name for a specialized certificate, issued by the Secretary of State. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will accepted in one of the other countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention.

In the United States, all 50 states and the Federal Government (US Department of State – Office of Authentication) can issue an Apostille.
United States Apostille
US Department of State Apostille

In 1961, many countries joined together to create a simplified method of “legalizing” documents for universal recognition. Members of the conference, referred to as the Hague Convention, adopted a document referred to as an Apostille that would be recognized by all member countries.

Since October 15, 1981, the United States has been part of the 1961 Hague Convention abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents.

The Apostille Convention provides for the 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 their territories should be certified by one of the officials in the jurisdiction in which the document has been executed.

The Apostille Convention requires that all Apostille’s be numbered consecutively, with individual numbers applied to each Apostille issued. The recognized standard Apostille contains a seal and 10 mandatory references: name of country from which the document emanates, name of person signing the document, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, in the case of unsigned documents, the name of the authority that has affixed the seal or stamp, place of certification date of certification, the authority issuing the certificate, number of certificate, seal or stamp of authority issuing certificate and signature of authority issuing certificate.

Prior to the introduction of Apostille certificates the burden on international courts and authorities to judge foreign documents as authentic was quite considerable. On the 5 October 1961 the Hague Convention abolished the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents. The Convention reduces all of the formalities of legalisation to the simple delivery of a certificate in a prescribed form, entitled “Apostille”, by the authorities of the State where the document originates. This certificate, placed on the document, is dated, numbered and registered. The verification of its registration can be carried out without difficulty by means of a simple request for information addressed to the authority which delivered the certificate.

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