AUTHENTICATION OF DOCUMENTS FOR USE ABROAD
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR RELATING TO THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN COUNTRIES IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO FOREIGN COUNSEL.
Summary: Documents issued in one country which need to be used in another country must be “authenticated” or “legalized” before they can be recognized as valid in the foreign country. This is a process in which various seals are placed on the document. Such documents range from powers of attorney, affidavits, birth, death and marriages records, incorporation papers, deeds, patent applications, home studies and other legal papers. The number and type of authentication certificates you will need to obtain depend on the nature of the document and whether or not the foreign country is a party to the multilateral treaty on “legalization” of documents. (A) If your document is intended for use in a country which is a party to a treaty called the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents (“Hague Legalization Convention”) (countries listed below), obtaining a special “apostille” certificate is generally all that is required. The procedure is explained in detail in our separate information flyer available via our home page on the Internet or through our automated fax service. See “Additional Information” below. (B) If the country where the document will be used is not a party to the Convention, you will have to begin the cumbersome, time-consuming process of obtaining a series of certifications known as the “chain authentication method”. This is literally a paper chase in which authorities will have to attest to the validity of a succession of seals beginning with your document and ending with the seal of the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States.
Article 5(f) and (m) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, 21 U.S.T. 77; TIAS 6820; 596 U.N.T.S. 261;
Applicable bilateral consular conventions;
Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, TIAS 10072; 33 U.S.T. 883, 527 U.N.T.S. 189; 28 U.S.C.A., appended to Rule 44; U.S. Senate Executive L., 94th Cong., 2d Sess. (1976).
Notarial/authentication function of consuls: 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4215; 4221; 22 C.F.R. Section 92.36 – 92.41;
Consular refusal to perform notarial/authentication function: 22 C.F.R. Section 92.9 – 92.10; Attorney General’s Opinion August 1, 1866, Vol. XII, Official Opinions of the Attorneys General.
Certification of documents: 22 C.F.R. Sec. 131.1;
Refusal of certification for unlawful purpose: 22 C.F.R. 131.2;
Authentication of official records of sister-states: Art. IV, Sec. 1 of the Constitution; 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1739; Rule 44(a)(1), F.R.Civ. P. and Rule 902(1) and (2), F.R. Evid.;
Admissibility of authenticated copies of consular papers: 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1740;
Admissibility of authenticated copies of foreign official documents as evidence: 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1741;
Proof of official record; authentication of foreign record: Rule 44(a)(2) Fed. R. Civ. P., 28 U.S.C. Appendix.
Self-Authentication – foreign public documents: Rule 902(3), Fed. R. Evid., 28 U.S.C. Appendix.
1. Foreign Embassy: This is the last step in the authentication chain. Usually, foreign embassies or consulates in the U.S. can only authenticate the seal of the U.S. Department of State. Check with the embassy or consulate of the foreign country to see if some of the steps can be avoided. Some foreign embassies and consulates maintain sample seals of state authorities. Remember that what is needed is only the foreign consul’s authentication on the document for the document to be “self-proving” in the foreign country. If a foreign consul will authenticate the document without the intermediate steps, you will have saved yourself money, time and effort. See our consular information sheets via the internet or autofax for the phone number for foreign embassies in the U.S. under “Entry Requirements” explained under “Additional Information” below. Also ask the foreign embassy or consulate about any fees they may charge. If the foreign embassy informs you that you must also obtain the seal of the U.S. embassy or consulate in the foreign country, which is required very rarely, you will then need to send the document to the Consular Section, American Citizens Services of the U.S. embassy or consulate, enclosing a money order or bank check payable to U.S. Embassy/Consulate (fill in name of city). The addresses of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad are included in the final paragraph of our consular information sheets available via the Internet on our home page or via our autofax service. See “Additional Information” below.
2. U.S. Department of State Authentications Office: The office is located at 518 23rd St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, tel: (202) 647-5002. There is a fee of $5.00 for each authentication payable in the form of a check drawn on a U.S. bank or money order made payable to the Department of State. For additional information, call the Federal Information Center: 1-800-688-9889, and choose option 6 after you press 1 for touch tone phones. Walk-in service is available from the Authentications Office from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Monday-Friday, except holidays. Walk-in service is limited to 15 documents per person per day (documents can be multiple pages). Processing time for authentication requests sent by mail is 5 working days or less. See also, the State Department home page at http://www.state.gov. See also in general, 22 C.F.R. 131.
3. Documents Issued by Federal Courts: Documents issued under the seal of a federal court should be sent to Justice Management Division, Security Program Staff, Physical Security Office, 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue, Room 6531, Washington, D.C. 20530, tel: (202) 514-2314 or 514-4667 for the preliminary authentication. Then forward the document(s) to the U.S. Department of State, Authentications Office as explained above. Finally, send the documents to the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States.
4. Documents Issued by Federal Agencies: Documents issued under the seal of a federal agency can be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office following the instructions above. Then send the documents to the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States as explained above.
5. State Documents: State documents such as documents originating with a state court or agency (birth, death, marriage, etc.) must be authenticated by the appropriate office in the state Secretary of State’s office (listed below). The document may then be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office as explained above. The document may then be authenticated by the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States following the instructions above.
6. Notarized Documents: The procedure for authenticating documents executed before a notary public such as affidavits or acknowledgments varies from state to state. It is advisable to contact the state authentication authority listed below to learn what steps are necessary between the notary’s seal and the state Secretary of State’s seal. In some states, this requires contacting the clerk of the court of the county where the notary is licensed, and obtaining an authentication of the notary’s seal. The state Secretary of State’s office can then authenticate the seal of the clerk of the county court. After the seal of the state Secretary of State or comparable authority listed below is on the document, it may be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office. The final step is to obtain the seal of the foreign embassy or consulate in the United States following the instructions above.
Hague Legalization Convention Procedure
The United States is a party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. The Convention abolishes the requirement of diplomatic and consular legalization for public documents originating in one Convention country and intended for use in another. For the purposes of the Convention, public documents include: (a) documents emanating from a court, (b) documents issued by an administrative authority (such as civil records), and (c) documents executed before a notary. Such documents issued in a Convention country which have been certified by a Convention certificate called an “apostille” are entitled to recognition in any other Convention country without any further authentication. See TIAS 10072; U.N.T.S. 189; 28 U.S.C.A., Fed. R. Civ. P. 44, pp. 323-327 (1992 & West Supp. 1993); Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, Law Digest Volume, Selected International Conventions; 20 Int’l. Leg. Mat. 1405-1414 (November 1981). A detailed information flyer concerning the process is available from our home page on the Internet or via our automated fax service. See “Additional Information” below.
IN FORCE: ANDORRA, ANGOLA, ANGUILLA, ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, ARGENTINA, ARMENIA, ARUBA, AUSTRALIA, AUSTRIA, BAHAMAS, BARBADOS, BELARUS, BELGIUM, BELIZE, BERMUDA, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, BOTSWANA, BRITISH ANTARCTIC TERRITORY, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS, BRUNEI, BULGARIA, CAYMAN ISLANDS, COMOROS ISLANDS (formerly Moroni), CROATIA, CYPRUS, DJIBOUTI (formerly Affars and Issas), DOMINICA, EL SALVADOR, FALKLAND ISLANDS, FIJI, FINLAND, FRANCE, FRENCH GUIANA, FRENCH POLYNESIA, GUADELOUPE, GERMANY, GIBRALTAR, GREECE, GRENADA, GUERNSEY (Bailiwick of), HONG KONG, HUNGARY, ISLE OF MAN, ISRAEL, ITALY, JAPAN, JERSEY (Bailiwick of), KIRIBATI (formerly Gilbert Islands), LATVIA, LESOTHO, LIECHTENSTEIN, LUXEMBOURG, MACAO, MACEDONIA, MALAWI, MALTA, MARSHALL ISLANDS, MARTINIQUE, MAURITIUS, MEXICO, MONTSERRAT, MOZAMBIQUE, NETHERLANDS, NETHERLANDS ANTILLES (Curacao, Bonaire, St. Martin, St. Eustatius and Saba), NEW CALEDONIA, NORWAY, PANAMA, PORTUGAL, REUNION, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, ST. CHRISTOPHER (Kitts) AND NEVIS, ST. GEORGIA AND SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS, ST. HELENA, ST. LUCIA, ST. PIERRE AND MIQUELON, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES, SAN MARINO, SEYCHELLES, SLOVENIA, SOLOMON ISLANDS (formerly British Solomon Islands), SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SURINAME, SWAZILAND, SWITZERLAND, TONGA, TURKEY, TURKS AND CAICOS, TUVALU (formerly Ellice Islands), UNITED KINGDOM, UNITED STATES, VANUATU (formerly New Hebrides), WALLIS AND FUTUNA.