What type of documents need an apostille or state department certification (authentication) in the United States?

Written by Jose Zefu Kimpalou (Notary Public)

Published on 15 October 2023 12:00

Do you need to use a document in a foreign country?

In the United States, various types of documents may require an apostille or state department certification for use in foreign countries. These documents are typically categorized into three main groups:

  1. Personal Document:

    • Birth certificate
    • Marriage certificate
    • Death certificate
    • Divorce decree
    • Adoption papers
    • School diploma and transcripts
  2. Legal Document:

    • Power of Attorney
    • Wills and estate planning
    • Court documents (e.g., judgment, decree, and custody agreements)
    • Affidavit and sworn statement
  3. Business Document:

    • Articles of incorporation
    • Bylaws
    • Certificate of good standing
    • Commercial contract
    • Patent and trademark

The specific requirements for obtaining an apostille or state department certification could vary from state to state in the U.S. Typically, the process involves the following steps:

  1. Notarization: In most cases, the document must be notarized by a notary public in the state where it was issued. The notary will verify the identity of the person signing the document and place their seal and signature on it.

  2. State Authentication: After notarization, the document is sent to the Secretary of State's office in the state where it was notarized for state authentication. The Secretary of State's office will verify the notary's commission and seal.

  3. Apostille or Federal Certification: Once the document has been authenticated by the state, it can be submitted for an apostille or federal certification. The specific authority responsible for issuing apostilles or federal certifications in the United States is the U.S. Department of State, Office of Authentications. They will affix the apostille or federal certification to the document.

Important notes:

  • If the foreign country is not a member of the international Apostille Convention, the document may also need to be legalized by the foreign country embassy which will extend the overall process.
  • Not all documents can receive an apostille or federal certification. For example, documents that are related to U.S. federal matters, like immigration documents or documents issued by U.S. federal courts, are typically not eligible for apostilles. Instead, they may require different forms of authentication.

If you have specific documents that need apostilles or state department certifications, it's advisable to contact the relevant authorities, such as the Secretary of State's office in your state or the U.S. Department of State's Office of Authentications, to understand the precise requirements and process. Additionally, requirements and procedures can change, so it's a good idea to check for the most up-to-date information when dealing with document authentication for international use.

The good news? We can help you to navigate these requirements and processes!