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4 Steps 4 Legalizing Your Documents

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Your credentials and documents going abroad need to be apostilled/authenticated/legalized in the country of the documents' origin, in order for them to get accepted in a foreign country. If the doc originated in the United States and it is going to be submitted in China, the officials in China will not accept your documents unless they are legalized from the government officials located in the U.S.

Common documents that we authenticate and legalize include- notarized documents, diplomas, transcripts, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees, affidavits, powers of attorney, single status certificate, corporate documents, FBI reports, certificate of origin, commercial & corporate documents, etc.

The basic steps for document legalization are:

Step 1. Notarize or Certify the document. Usually it begins with the relevant parties signing a document and having it notarized. Your documents may require additional authentication, by county, court, health department, etc. before they can be apostilled/authenticated/legalized.

Step 2. Certification by a State of the United States. You need to submit an original notarized or certified document, and provide the name of the foreign country where the document will be used. The Secretary of that State provides an apostille certificate furnishing the fact that the notarization that is on the document in question is reviewed by the state official in charge, then certifies that the signature of the notary and the jurisdiction are correct and appropriate. Then an apostille, authentication or a certification is affixed to the document intended to go to another country.

Step 3. Authentication by the U.S. Dept of State located in Washington D.C. This office provides signed certificates of authenticity of documents. Documents that require legalization are submitted to the U.S. State Department office before they are further processed through the embassy of the country of destination. The competent authority in the office affixes its seal to the document or issues a separate certificate to the document.

Step 4. This step takes place in the Embassy, (located in the U.S.), of the country to where the documents are intended to go, and involves the placing of the consular seal and signature after verifying the authenticity of the signatures and seals of the office of the U.S. Dept. of State. As in the cases of the regular notarization and apostille certificate mentioned in the previous steps, the Embassy or Consular authentication also in no way attests to the authenticity of the contents of a document. But it merely verifies and certifies to the authenticity of the signature and seal of the official at the U.S. Dept of State. The Embassy Consular ensures the authenticity of the very last signature and the seal affixed on the document.

The most important thing to remember is that at the very first step mentioned above, be sure to have your document notarized by a commissioned notary for the state. If you do not have the correct notarization your apostille/authentication/legalization request will be rejected. All signatures and seals must be originals. Documents improperly notarized will be rejected by the government officials. Please be sure to find a commissioned notary public with a minimum of 5 years of service, a member of the National Notary Association and one who will follow your state’s notary law. If the notary makes a mistake, your docs can be rejected.

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