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What is an Apostille?

Documents issued in the United States must be legalized when they are intended to be used in a foreign country.

When getting an Apostille, the document’s destination is important.

The Secretary of State issues two types of authentications for foreign documents – certified or apostilled. The United States is a member of the Hague Convention, which allows member countries to verify and exchange documents between each other that are submitted through the Apostille process. 

If the document will be going to a country that is a member of the Hague Convention, it will be certified by apostille by the Secretary of State in the country from which the document is originating. If the document is going to a country that is not affiliated with the Hague Convention, the issuing Secretary of State can certify it.

Authenticating documents is done to confirm that a document and the signatures on it are legitimate. This confirmation allows foreign countries to validate documents as being original and coming from the United States. Therefore, one key step in determining the certification process is determining if the destination country has membership in the Hague Convention. Foreign countries are not familiar with the documents used in the United States and this is why the apostille process was developed. Documents such as a Power of Attorney allow a person to act and sign on the behalf of another individual or company. It is critical that documents of such importance be legalized in the proper manner to ensure they will be accepted and considered valid in countries abroad.

Legalization Process

Legalizing a document involves officials legalizing the signature of the official that signed before it.

For example:

  1. A person in Vermont signs an original document in front of a Notary Public that authenticates the person’s signature.
  2. The County Clerk in Vermont certifies the Notary’s signature.
  3. The Vermont Secretary of State authenticate the Clerk’s signature and issues the apostille.

If the document is being legalized by an embassy:

  1. The Vermont Secretary of State’s authentication is confirmed by the United States Department of State.
  2. The Embassy of the destination country then confirms the authentication of the U.S. Department of State.

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