What is an apostille & why do I need one?

If you landed on this page, you’ve probably been told by someone that you need to legalize or apostille your documents in order to use them in a foreign country. Essentially, to apostille a document is to make it “legal” or “certified” for use outside of the country. This is a way for other countries to know with certainty that your document came from where you said it came from.

One quick note: just because you apostille a document doesn’t mean that the contents of the document are legitimate. For example, you could legalize a fake diploma. The apostille or certification only confirms that a notary or other signature attached to the fake diploma is legitimate. That means that the document could even be in a foreign language. The government doesn’t care as long as it meets the requirements for an apostille.

Okay, back to the apostille.

“Apostille” is actually a French word that means “certification.” As it applies to documents, it is a special word to indicate a certain type of certification recognized by countries who belong to the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is an agreement between countries to use the same form of authentication for foreign documents. Some countries belong to it and some don’t.  The apostille is a simplified way to legalize paperwork, whereas the older method requires two steps, including a certification from the foreign embassy.

Some common documents that require authentication:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Corporate documents
  • Diplomas and Transcripts
  • Passports
  • Police Letter or Criminal Background Check