Viacheslav S. Kutuzov
Viacheslav Kutuzov LLC. International Law Firm
55 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, New York 10006
Phone +1.646. 8374669 (connected to Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp)
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What is Apostille?
Every public document has some legal power within a particular territory (also called 'jurisdiction'). It may entitle a person to do something (normally such documents are power of attorney and court decisions), or it may inform other people about some legal facts. Say, birth certificate informs general public that a particular person is a child of particular parents. Usually, there is no problem to enforce a document within a territory, where the document has been issued. For instance, if you have a power of attorney duly issued in the state of New York, which entitles you to manage somebody's bank account, you may freely use it in any New York bank.
The problem may occur when you need to use a document in another jurisdiction. Suppose you need to withdraw funds from Canadian bank account, opened in Toronto bank by means of a power of attorney, issued in New York. Canadian bank officers may not be familiar with New York laws governing proxy relationship. As a result, your request may be declined.
In order to prevent such situations, international law community developed universal mechanism of transferring legal power of a document to the foreign jurisdictions. Such mechanism is called Apostille (from the French verb “apostiller”, which derives from the old French word postille meaning “annotation”, and before it the Latin word "postilla", a variation of the word "postea", which means “thereafter, afterwards, next”). Colloquially, Apostille is a stamp or a certificate attached to a document by state authority in accordance with the provisions of the Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (hereinafter - "Apostille Convention").
Limitations. Apostille legal effect has limitations. Firstly, it only authenticates the origin of the underlying public document. It does so by certifying the authenticity of the signature on the document, the capacity in which the person signing the document acted and, where appropriate, the identity of the seal or stamp which the document bears (Art. 5(2)). An Apostille does not certify the content of a public document, nor that all requirements of domestic law for proper execution of the underlying public document are met. And finally, an Apostille does not affect the acceptance, admissibility or probative value of the underlying public document.
The Apostille Convention only applies if both the State in whose territory the public document was executed (the “State of origin”) and the State in whose territory the public document is to be produced (the “State of destination”) are State Parties to the Apostille Convention. It means that if you have a public document issued in the State of New York, and you plan to use it in the United Arab Emirates, which are not a State Party to the Apostille Convention. To find out which States are Contracting States, check the list of Contracting States.
The Convention gives no effect to Apostilles when they are produced in a State non-Party or a State Party, but the Convention is not in force as between that State and the State of origin as a result of an objection to accession. However, an Apostille may be issued in a State Party for a public document that was issued before the entry into force of the Convention for the State of origin.
Convention only applies to public documents. The term “public document” extends to all documents other than those issued by persons in their private capacity (i.e., not private documents) (see the Explanatory Report under Section B, I. Article 1). Accordingly, any document executed by an authority or a person in an official capacity (i.e., acting in the capacity of an officer endowed with power to execute the document by the State) is a public document. An Apostille may not be rejected on the basis that the underlying document is not considered to be a public document under the law of the State of destination, although that law may determine what legal effect to give to the underlying document. Private documents such as power of attorney, contracts etc. may be apostillized, if they are authenticated by a notary public or similar official.
Different countries treat differently the issue whether a copy of a document may be authenticated over the mechanism of Apostille Convention. In most cases the copy has to be certified by an official in order to be apostillized.
The expiration of a validity period, although it may terminate the effect of the public document in the State of origin, does not ordinarily deprive the document of its public nature unless otherwise provided for under the law of the State of origin. As long as the expired document is still a public document, it may be apostillised.
An Apostille only authenticates the signature / seal of a single official or authority. As a result, one Apostille may not be issued for multiple documents that are executed by different officials. In the interests of expediency, some Competent Authorities do issue a single Apostille for multiple documents that have been bundled together where each document in the bundle is executed by the same official or authority.
Case law as well as explanatory materials on the Apostille Convention may be found on the web-site of Hague Conference on Private International Law. Our firm provides legal opinion services in regard to the application of the Apostille Convention.
Apostille for U.S. Federal Documents
If a document is issued by the U.S. Federal Authorities, U.S. Consulates or a military notary, judge advocate (10 USC 1044a), or a foreign consul diplomatic official registered with the U.S. Department of State's Office of Protocol, then the Apostille shall be requested from the U.S. Department of State, Authentication Department. If the document is issued not by the Federal Authorities, but by the U.S. State or localities, then the Apostille has to be requested from a State, where the document has been issued ("State of issue").
In most cases, the Apostille is requested for the following documents:
FBI Background Check;
Judgements of Federal Courts;
Certificate of Naturalization.
To obtain an Apostille from the U.S. Department of State, you need to:
complete form DS-4194
enclose U.S. postal money order of bank check of $8.00, payable to "U.S. Department of State"
enclose self-addressed return envelope. Currently, U.S. Department of State does not accept FedEx as return mail.
The Apostille request has to be mailed to U.S. Department of State, Office of Authentications, CA/PPT/S/TO/AUT, 44132 Mercure Cir., P.O. Box 1206, Sterling, VA 20166-1206.
Walk-in requests can be made at 600 19th St NW, Washington, DC 20006. This office accepts debit/credit card as a method of payment. Unfortunately, this office is temporary closed due to COVID-19.
Our office provides Apostille services for all federally issued documents. We also assist clients in requesting FBI Background Check, judgements of federal, state and local courts, USCIS documents. We may ship your documents domestically and worldwide.
Apostille from New York
If a document is issued by New York State or New York City officials, such as the Secretary of State of New York, courts of law, vital records registrars, city hall clerks, police, educational establishments, or if the document has been notarized by a New York notary public, then the Apostille has to be requested from New York State Department of State, Division of Licensing Services.
There are two steps for obtaining the Apostille. But the procedure may differ for some type of document, which shall be explained below.
Step 1. County Clerk Authentication
As a first step, the document has to be provided to a county clerk of a county where the document was issued or notarized. For notarized documents the document also may be submitted to the county clerk of a county where the notary filed his certificate of official character (the list of such counties is provided on notary's stamp). The Clerk will examine the document, compare the signatures of the officials with clerk's records and attache certificate of authentication.
Currently the county clerk authentication fee is $3. If the request is mailed, please attach self-addressed envelope and check or money order, payable to "County Clerk of XXX County".
Step 2. Secretary of State Authentication
After the document is authenticated by a county clerk, it shall be submitted to the New York State Department of State, Division of Licensing Services. To make an order you need to:
Complete form DOS-19-17-f
enclose U.S. postal money order of bank check of $10.00, payable to "New York State Department of State"
enclose self-addressed return envelope. Please make your address as both the address of recipient and address of sender on the return envelope.
The documents shall be mailed to Division of Licensing Services Apostille and Authentication Unit, P.O. Box 22001, Albany, NY 12201-2001.
There is also walk in office in Downtown Manhattan at 123 William Street, 2nd Floor New York, NY 10038. It provides the same-day services. Unfortunately, this office is currently closed due to COVID-19.
Educational documents. In order to obtain an Apostille the educational documents (diploma, transcripts, certificates, etc.) have to be authenticated by an authorized official of the educational organization and notarized by a notary public. Normally, the diploma and transcript to it are two separate documents. We may contact your school on your behalf for retrieving and notarization of your credentials.
Power of attorney. In order to obtain an Apostille the power of attorney has to be notarized by a notary public and authenticated by a county clerk (step 1). Normally, the diploma and transcript to it are two separate documents. We may contact your school on your behalf for retrieving and notarization of your credentials. Please note, that simple attachment of notary stamp to a document does not result in proper notarization. The notary has to complete the notarial Jurat or Certificate of Acknowledgment to make the document eligible for further authentications.
Vital Records. Birth, death, and marriage certificates issued by the New York State Department of Health and signed by the Director of Vital Statistics may be submitted directly for Apostille/Authentication without prior authentication by a county clerk.
Birth, death, and marriage certificates issued by the New York City Department of Health must first be certified by the county clerk. Additionally, birth and death certificates must be accompanied by a Letter of Exemplification prior to being submitted to the New York County Clerk’s office.
Birth, death, and marriage certificates issued and signed by a local official (i.e. city/town/village clerk) must first be certified by the County Clerk in the county where the document was issued.
Divorce judgement has to be certified by a court's clerk.
Corporate Documents bearing a seal of the Secretary of New York State, such as a certificate of incorporation, articles of association, or certificate of good standing may be filed for Apostille directly to the Department of State. No county clerk authentication necessary. Other corporate documents, such as bylaws, minutes of shareholders/members, or the resolutions of the corporate officers shall be notarized and authenticated by county clerk before filing for Apostille.
Police Background Check. In order to obtain an Apostille background checks from Division of Criminal Justice Services are required to be accompanied by a letter, signed by the Commissioner or designee, verifying the fingerprint results and notarized under the laws of the State of issue.
Our office provides Apostille services for all New York issued documents. We may ship your documents domestically and worldwide.
Apostille for other U.S. States
An Apostille certificate shall be requested from the State where the document was issued or notarized. Federal documents (such as FBI background checks, federal court rulings, certificate of naturalization etc.) shall be apostillized by the U.S. Department of State.
Each State has its own requirements to the documents in order to obtain an Apostille. In most states there is one-step procedure. If your document is eligible for an Apostille, you will need to:
1) file an Apostille Request. Most states allow free form of such request, but it has to contain the following information: requestor's name, address, phone, email address, address for delivery (if differs from requestors address), and the country where the Apostille shall be used;
2) enclose payment in form of U.S. postal money order or bank check;
3) enclose self-addressed return envelope.
Some states established two-steps procedure, similar to New York State, where the documents has to be submitted to county clerk before filing it to Apostille authorities.
Notarized documents shall be officiated in accordance with the notary public law of the State of notarization. In most states the notary has to complete the notarial Jurat or Certificate of Acknowledgment to make the document eligible for further authentications.
Educational documents have to be notarized by a dully commissioned notary public to be eligible for Apostille.
Vital records have to be certified by a proper State or local authorities. In most States, the has to have a statement that it has been certified, contain the name of a certifying officer and his/her title. If the document is not certified properly, you will need to request a certified duplicate. Please note, that in many states vital records may be provided only to a limited circle of applicants (a person indicated in the vital records, relatives, attorney-at-law, inheritance administrator etc.).
Divorce decrees have to be certified by the clerk of the court.
Corporate Documents bearing a seal of the Secretary of State or other official responsible for corporate affairs (a certificate of incorporation, articles of association, or certificate of good standing) may be filed directly for Apostille. Usually, no county clerk authentication necessary. Other corporate documents, such as bylaws, minutes of shareholders/members, or the resolutions of the corporate officers shall be notarized (and in some states) authenticated by county clerk before filing for Apostille.
Police Background Check. In order to obtain an Apostille, background checks from Police are required to be accompanied by a letter, signed by the authorized police officer and notarized under the laws of the State of issue.
Before sending your request, make sure that your document qualifies for Apostille. You may contact State authorities using the following links:
Alabama (AL), Alaska (AK), Arizona (AZ), Arkansas (AR), California (CA), Colorado (CO), Connecticut (CT), Delaware (DE), Florida (FL), Georgia (GA), Hawaii (HI), Idaho (ID), Illinois (IL), Indiana (IN), Iowa (IA), Kansas (KS), Kentucky (KY), Louisiana (LA), Maine (ME), Maryland (MD), Massachusetts (MA), Michigan (MI), Minnesota (MN), Mississippi (MS), Missouri (MO), Montana (MT), Nebraska (NE), Nevada (NV), New Hampshire (NH), New Jersey (NJ), New Mexico (NM), New York (NY), North Carolina (NC), North Dakota (ND), Ohio (OH), Oklahoma (OK), Oregon (OR), Pennsylvania (PA), Rhode Island (RI), South Carolina (SC), South Dakota (SD), Tennessee (TN), Texas (TX), Utah (UT), Vermont (VT), Virginia (VA), Washington (WA), West Virginia (WV), Wisconsin (WI), Wyoming (WY).
Apostille from Russia
We may obtain an Apostille for a document issued in Russia or the USSR, if the document is a public document under the definition of the Apostille Convention (i.e. a document issued by a public authority), a notarized document or a notarized copy of a public document. In order to obtain an Apostille for a Soviet document, it may be necessary to request a duplicate of it, certified by a competent Russian authority.
Please note, that Russian documents may be apostillized only in Russia unless otherwise provided in International treaty.
Normally, the Apostille has to be issued in the region of the origin of the document. For instance, vital records and notarized document shall be apostillized in the region of their issue. Educational documents shall be apostillized in the region of residence of the Applicant. Some documents may be apostillized nationwide (criminal records, etc.)
Russian Apostille requirements may be complicated. That is why we assist our clients in obtaining duplicates of Russian/Soviet documents and obtaining an Apostille for it nationwide.
We provide Apostille Services and consulate legalization in 87 Countries. Formalities may differ from country to country. In order to examine an Apostille request we need a scanned copy of the document in PDF format. All requests are confidential and subject to attorney-client privilege.
We also may ship your apostillized document worldwide. If your document does not qualify for Apostille, we may request a duplicate on your behalf. Contact us now for free examination.