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Language Services Article: What is an Apostille?
May 22, 2013
What is an Apostille?

Apostille is a French word that means certification. When presenting foreign language documents, there are rules that each foreign country have regarding the translations and authentication of those documents. In order for documents to be properly recognized in those countries, they must be “apostilled,” meaning notarized for international use.

The apostille is honored in all “Hague” countries including the United States. Hague refers to The Hague Convention of 1961, whereby participating countries agreed to simplify the validation of documents through the use of a standard authentication, in this case, an apostille. The United States has been a member of the Hague Convention since 1981. You would need to check to see if the apostille certification is recognized in the country you wish to visit.

Why do I need to have a document apostilled?

The apostille verifies that the origin and legal status of the certifying official (in most cases a Public Notary) are valid. The apostille is the final step in the chain of authentication process for foreign documents. This step helps expedite document transactions and overseas business affairs by demonstrating it has gone through all of the necessary steps. Essentially, it’s a certification of a certification (which is why the concept can be so confusing).

Some examples where you may need to submit documents to other countries may include getting married in a foreign location, receiving part of an estate from a deceased relative or being part of an international litigation lawsuit. If you were to decide to marry in a foreign country, as you might suspect, you would need to take some legal documents with you - passports, birth certificates and a certificate of freedom to marry. As an American citizen, these documents will be in English. In order to use these documents in some foreign countries, you must obtain a certified translation in the requested language, proving that the translations are performed by qualified linguists. Para-Plus will provide an Affidavit of Accuracy with translations upon request. Once you have the Affidavit of Accuracy in hand, it will need to be submitted, along with the original documents, to either the embassy of the country you are visiting or to the state where the document originated to get apostilles. Once apostilled, the Affidavit of Accuracy will be certified and you will be able to use the documents in the foreign country.

How do I obtain an apostille?

There are several steps you will need to take to obtain an apostille. They include:

• Determine if the country that you are visiting is part of the Hague convention of countries and that the apostille is accepted there.

• Gather the original, notarized, legal documents you will need to have certified and translated (if necessary).

• If the documents are required to be translated, send the documents to a qualified, professional language company and obtain a Translation Affidavit of Accuracy for each document.

• Send the Affidavit(s) of Accuracy and the original documents to either the embassy of the Hague target country or the state where the documents originated to be apostilled. (Each state has slightly different rules to obtain an apostille.)

• Check to see if the apostille is required to be translated to the foreign country’s language.

Because an apostille ensures that the legal documents in one country are valid in another country, they are very valuable tools. Start with your original, notarized documents and check to see if the target country is part of The Hague Convention and accepts apostilles. Contact the state where the document originated to access their specific rules for obtaining an apostille.


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