It is easy to become confused about the terminology between Apostille, Legalization, Authentication, and Notarization. This blog will describe the definitions of each and when they should be used.
When presenting a document for use in another country, the destination country will require that the authenticity of signatures and seals be verified.
An Apostille is used between countries that are members of the Hague Convention of 1961 and is attached to the original document to verify the authenticity of the documents signatures and seal. The Hague Convention of 1961 consisted of countries coming together to create a simplified method of certifying documents for universal recognition.
The process of Apostilling your document is as follows:
- If needed, the document must first be notarized.
- For state issued documents (such as school transcriptions), you then send the papers to the Secretary of State where the notarization is confirmed and the document is Apostilled
- For federal issued documents (such as a social security benefits letter), you then send the papers to the U.S. Department of State where the notarization is confirmed and the document is Apostilled
** Please Note – Not all documents should be notarized before being Apostilled. It is best to research to determine if your documents must follow this process.
For the countries that are not members of the Hague Convention of 1961, documents must go through the Embassy Legalization process.
The steps are as follows:
- If needed, the document is first notarized
- For state issued documents, you send the papers to the Secretary of State where the notarization is confirmed
- For federal issued documents, you send the papers to the U.S. Department of State where the notarization is confirmed
- And finally, all documents are sent to the Embassy of the destination country for Legalization
** Please Note – Not all documents should be notarized before being Legalized. It is best to research to determine if your documents must follow this process.
There are two definitions for the term Authentication when used to certify documents. As shown above, it is provided at the second step of the Legalization process by the State Department. The document is Authenticated before it is sent to the Embassy.
Authentication is also a generalized term used by many for the entire Apostille or Legalization process. You may hear or read people say ‘the Authentication process’, and knowing if the destination country is a member of The Hague Convention of 1961 or not, would determine which process to follow.
Notarization is the certification by a notary public of a non-vital record or non-FBI Report that is required before an Apostille can be issued.
A notary cannot Apostille a document; they simply ensure the authenticity of the signatures that appear on the document.
- Apostille – a form of certification for countries that are members of the Hague Convention of 1961
- Embassy Legalization – a form of certification for countries that are NOT members of the Hague Convention of 1961
- Authentication – the second step of the Embassy Legalization process. Also used as a general term to either Apostille or Legalize a document
- Notarization – the first step for documents before they can be Apostilled. A notary cannot Apostille a document
Above is a shortened definition of each.
One Source Process
We understand that this can be confusing. At One Source Process, we have Apostilled and Legalized many documents, so this is kind of fun for us. We know exactly the process each document must follow to be authenticated. Please feel free to Contact Us with any questions.
You do not need to worry if your destination country is a member of the Hague Convention or not, and you do not need to worry about getting in touch with the State Department. We have worked with all the departments and know exactly who to contact.
Once your documents are notarized, simply upload them with the Order Form, and we will take it from here. Your paperwork will be either Apostilled or Legalized, and quickly returned to you. We can even have the documents translated if needed. So stop worrying and begin packing for your trip abroad.