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Everything a Notary Must Know about an Apostille

by American Association of Notaries
According to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, An apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document. In order for the apostille to be used, both the issuing and receiving countries must be party to the Apostille Convention. Additional information about the Apostille Convention can be found in the publication ABCs of Apostilles. In addition, the following link provides a list of countries belonging to the Apostille Convention.

I have clients from all walks of life who require assistance in processing their apostille requests. It is important to note that, as notaries, we are assisting with the processing of the client's paperwork and sometimes providing courier services. The most common documents that need apostilles are birth certificates, school diplomas and transcripts, power of attorneys, and marriage, birth, and death certificates.

While you don't have to be a notary public to assist with the apostille process, many documents that require an apostille need to be notarized first, so having a notary commission is a plus if you plan to take on this endeavor.

There are several different variables involved when determining how an apostille request should be processed. There is no way all of the variables can be covered in one article. However, the majority of the documents I've processed have been fairly simple and have only required an apostille from the Secretary of States Apostille Unit.

Each state handles the apostille request in a different manner. For instance, some states charge a fee per document. At the time of this writing, Texas charges $15 per document apostille. Indiana, on the other hand, does not charge a fee for apostille documents, while New Mexico charges $3 per apostille.

Texas and New Mexico apostille units usually provide same-day service for walk-ins. Indiana does not guarantee same-day service for walk-ins, and if a person is requesting more than 15 documents at one time, the person will have to drop documents off and return in a day or two for pick up.

Before beginning the apostille process, there are several factors that must be considered:

Type of document: This will determine the approval authority. For example, I had a customer who had a Federal FBI background check that needed an apostille for use in Mexico. Two things to note here:1- Federal documents must be apostilled by the U.S. Department of State.2- Mexico is a party to the Apostille Convention, so there was no authentication required, only the apostille.

Country of destination: Is the document to be used in a Hague or non-Hague country? If the document is being used in a non-Hague country, then it will need to be authenticated, not apostilled. (Additional steps are usually required.)

State from which the document originated: This will determine which state issues the apostille. Apostilles are issued by the originating state. For instance, I had a client who lived in Mexico, and he needed an apostille for his college transcripts to use in Mexico. He attended the University of North Carolina, so transcripts had to be notarized by the university's registrar and then forwarded to the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office for a Mexico apostille.

Date of the document: Rules regarding the dating of documents will vary from state to state. For instance, if a Texas resident has a certified copy of a birth certificate with a date that is more than three years old, a new certified copy of the document needs to be requested. Birth certificates requiring an apostille in the state of Texas cannot be more than three years old. You need to know your state's procedures.

These are just a few of the steps involved in processing requests for an apostille. Check with your Secretary of State's Office for a more detailed explanation.

-- Phyllis Traylor, U.S. Army Retired is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

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Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.
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