When Do I Need To Get an Apostille for My Certified and Notarized Translation?

An apostille is a unique seal of a government authority that certifies that a document is a legitimate copy of the original document. In other words, it validates documents to be used in other countries by authenticating them. The apostille works like an international notary.

The countries that have adopted the use of apostilles since the development of this concept in 1961 have eventually become signatory countries. If you are in a signatory country and traveling to another signatory country, you will need an apostille of required documents. However, unless the country you are in has signed the Hague Convention, you would not be able to acquire an apostille. Only with the approval of the Secretary of State can an apostille be deemed valid.

Some specific categories of documents need apostille certificates. Apostille are needed for various public documents which, of course, depend on the country they would be used in. Vital records, corporate documents, legal documents and criminal records require apostille certificates. The following are some categories of personal documents and corporate documents that require apostille certification:

  • If you need to transfer your power of attorney to someone else to purchase or sell real estate, to file  insurance claims, to take legal actions or simply to control your finances in some other country, an apostille becomes necessary.
  • If you want to adopt a child from a foreign land which participates in the Hague Convention, various documents need to be apostilled.
  • Many countries ask for birth certificates to be apostilled just to verify the authenticity of the document.
  • For the overseas transportation of a loved one’s remains or the settlement of his estate in another country, the death certificate should have an apostilled copy.
  • Apostiles are often required for marriage and divorce certificates.
  • For both criminal background checks and certificates of good conduct, apostilles are required.
  • Academic documents such as diplomas and transcripts also require apostilles.  Evaluations of foreign academic credentials also need apostilles.
  • Apostilles become necessary in cases of children’s travel consent letters and the letter of invitation necessary for obtaining the U.S.s visa. Foreign driver’s license also need to be apostilled.

In regard to the corporate documents that need apostilles, the following should be noted:

  • An apostille-certified power of attorney that belongs to you is needed when you designate someone to handle your corporation overseas.
  • Corporations must provide apostille-certified  articles of incorporation to verify their authenticity and legitimacy in the countries where they operate.
  • A Certificate of Goodstanding, a Certificate of Amendment and a Certificate of Incumbency require apostillles.
  • A corporate resolution also requires apostilles.

Understanding Apostilles

An apostille (French: apostille) is a special certificate with a seal for authentication (legalization) of documents by the Secretary of State in the that in which the document was issued.  Apostille holders shall be exempt from any additional form of authentication.

The use of an apostille as a form of legalization of documents is governed by the Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, signed at the Hague on October 5, 1961.  The Convention envisages the authenticity of a particular class of documents (public documents) to be certified using a unified method – by putting on the document itself or attached to it a special certificate – an apostille. For the purposes of the Convention, public documents include:  documents issued by a state court; administrative documents;  documents executed before a notary public; official certificates which are placed on documents signed by persons in their private capacity, such as official certificates recording the registration of a document or the fact that it was in existence on a certain date and official and notarial authentications of signatures.  The can include birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees and adoption decrees.

An apostille releases the document to which it is attached from any further certification and legalization as by the country of issue, and in the country – party to the Convention where the document will be presented.  Thus, documents originating from countries – parties to the Hague Convention, and provided with an apostille, are not legalized by the diplomatic or consular mission accredited to the country they are intended to be used in. However, If a document does not have or cannot be provided with an apostille, to produce action on the territory of Bulgaria, for example, it must be authenticated (legalized) according to usual procedure – certification by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the issuing country, then legalization by the Bulgarian diplomatic or consular mission in that country or by an office accredited to it. The same regime applies to Bulgarian documents intended to produce action on the territory of any of the rest parties to the Convention. In many countries it is possible local authorities to recognize not only original documents, but also copies of documents provided with an apostille, when the copy is certified by the competent local authority or a notary in accordance with domestic law. This means that it is possible once issued, a document to be used repeatedly in different States Parties to the Convention. It raises the question of the Certified Translation of the document. In cases where holder of the document intends or needs to personally present it to the authorities of other States Parties to the Convention, he or she may obtain a Certified Translation into the respective language in any country according to local requirements.