Legalization Blog Series – Part 2

Posted by Gennine Cooper
January 31, 2018

Part two of our legalization blog series provides detail on apostilles, authentications and legalizations including what each step entails.  The process by which the documents are legalized is unique to the country in which the documents will be used.  Knowing the destination country can determine if the process will be same day or if it will take weeks to receive the completed document.

What is an Apostille?

An apostille certificate is a document consisting of 10 elements issued for documents to be used in countries that are party to the Hague convention that abolishes the need for full legalization by the embassy.  A list of these countries may be found at  For state certified documents or notarized documents, the apostille certificate is issued by the Secretary of State.  For federally certified documents, the apostille is retrieved from the U.S. Department of State, as only the federal government can attest to the authenticity of a federal document or a federal official’s signature.  When the Apostille has been issued, the document is ready for use and does not require additional steps (with the exception of California, Oregon, and Montana certifications).

Authentication and Legalization

For non-Hague countries such as the People’s Republic of China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia, documents will have to go through a multi-step process consisting of authenticating the document before submitting the document to the embassy for legalization.   The process of authenticating is similar to the attestation of the person signing that is provided with apostille certification with the exception, the seal, certificate, and/or ribbon affixed to the document by state officials requires authentication of the state official’s signature by the U.S. Department of State.

The U.S. Department of State will affix its authentication page to the state authenticated document or if a federal document, to the document issued by the federal agency.  After this is done, the document can be sent to the embassy of the destination country which will then provide signatures, stamps, and/or seals deeming the document duly legalized.  For more information on embassy hours, contact information, etc.,, is a great resource with links to all foreign embassies in the District of Columbia – or just reach out to us!  Some embassies have additional steps or special requirements that must be met before submitting the document to the embassy. We will touch on these in part three of the series.

Until next time, should you require assistance or have questions, please feel free to reach out to an Incserv Representative.  Thanks for reading!

Deirdre Davis-Washington, Assistant Vice President