Apostilles and Apostille Certificates

In October of 1961, the Hague Convention was convened by a number of countries. One of the purposes of the meeting was to establish a way for certain public legal documents issued by one foreign government to be accepted as "legalized" or "authentic" by another government. To do this, the signing countries agreed to issue what now is called an "Apostille" or "Apostille certificate" to accompany the certified or original copy of the public legal document. Most often, presenting the original or certified copy of the public legal document, its Apostille Certificate, plus a notarized translation is enough; nonetheless, it is up to the client to verify this with one or more reliable sources in the government of the foreign nation. Sometimes it may be necessary to have the Apostille document translated.

Detailed information about Apostille Certificates:

What are Apostilles or Apostille Certificates

The two terms mean the same thing. Whether you obtain an Apostille from New York, California, Florida, Texas or even Mexico, the style and format is basically the same. Below you can see what to expect if you need to obtain an Apostille for your foreign document.

Apostille Certificate Apostille Certificate Example Peru
Apostille Certificate issued in the United States Apostille Certificate issued in Peru

Do I Need to Obtain an Apostille?

Those who submit a birth certificate translation, marriage license translation, or other foreign document to USCIS are usually not required to obtain an Apostille. Remember, the Apostille is mainly to authenticate the original document - NOT the translation - for use in a foreign country. Apostilles are most often required for individuals from the U.S. who wish to marry in Mexico and various other foreign countries. In such case, the Apostille needs to be obtained to authenticate the birth certificate, divorce decree, marriage certificate, etc.

How to Obtain an Apostille Certificate for your Public Legal Document

In the United States, obtaining an Apostille Certificate is relatively easy and inexpensive. Apostilles are obtained from the Secretary of State's office (or equivalent) of the original state that issued the public document originally.

For example, let's say you live in Nebraska but need your marriage certificate from New York as well as your birth certificate from Kentucky to be translated. The apostille for the marriage certificate would be requested from New York's Secretary of State and your birth certificate from Kentucky's Secretary of State. Although it is not always requested, it is a good idea to also have your Apostille certificate translated. Translating an Apostille certificate is easy and costs only $15.00 with the translation of any public legal document.

All Secretaries of States have websites, and on those, information can be found on how to easily obtain the Apostille certificate by mail or in person. Here are useful links for each state:

What Constitutes a Public Legal Document?

Documents that are considered Public legal include birth certificates, marriage certificates or licenses, death certificates, divorce decrees, adoption records, and criminal records. Certified copies of business organization documents on file with the Secretary of state such as articles of incorporation, certificates of limited partnership, etc. also qualify for Apostille certificates.

Authentication for use in countries who are not signers of the Hague Convention should check with the U.S. Department of State's page Office of Authentications

"They are telling me that I need to Apostille my translation, is this correct?"

Strangely enough, when you are told to "Apostille the translation", 95% of the time, this is either incorrectly understood or you are being told inaccurate information. It is unclear why this happens so much. What is meant is that the ORIGINAL LANGUAGE document needs the Apostille certificate FROM THE STATE THAT IT IS ISSUED. Once you confront the government agency office with this information, most times they confirm this to be correct.