With a changing global economy, businesses increasingly need to work with documents on an international level. Conducting business internationally is not as easy as conducting business between States. Certification as to the validity of documents and signatures is more important than ever as today’s technology improves the ability to reproduce information and documents fraudulently. There are three types of acceptable validation methods available: Apostilles, Authentications and Legalizations. All three attest to the authenticity of documents and signatures, so that all parties involved in a transaction can safely rely on the validity of the documents presented. Keep in mind that none of the three methods certify any facts regarding the content of documents. Some examples of documents that are used on an international level and will need the proper certification are real estate deeds, corporate records, marriage and birth certificates, patent assignments, trademark registrations, powers of attorney, and adoption records.
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This term refers to the legalization of a document for use internationally under the 1961 Hague Convention. The Hague Conference on Private International Law is the world organization for cross-border cooperation in civil and commercial matters. It was established in order to streamline international business transactions.
The United States joined as a member of the Hague Apostille Convention on October 15, 1981 and a current list of member countries can be found on the following Hague Conference on Private International Law website link: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=states.listing
**Apostilles for U.S. federal agency documents are issued by the U.S. Department of State.
**Apostilles for U.S. state documents are issued by the U.S. Department of State, to authenticate documents notarized and/or certified by a U.S. state official.
**Whether a document is issued by state or federal government, the Apostille attests to the state or federal official’s signature, thereby deeming the document to be “authentic”
The U.S. Department of State provides authentication services to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals on documents that will be used overseas. It also ensures the requested information will serve in the interest of justice and is not contrary to U.S. policy. The U.S. DOS has established a specific “authentications” section to receive documents executed in the U.S. for use in foreign countries. An authentication is required prior to taking a document to any foreign embassy for legalization. Private or government documents can be authenticated. In order for a document to be authenticated, it must meet specific requirements and the document must be original.
In a case when an Apostille is not appropriate (that is the destination country is not a member of the Hague Apostille Convention) the document must be presented to the applicable foreign embassy for legalization. This is done after the document has been authenticated (see previous section). Most foreign countries with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations, have embassies located in Washington DC. and each one determines its own requirements, fees, procedures and hours of operation.