Authentication of Documents for Foreign Use
Occasionally a notary public is asked to notarize documents destined for use in foreign countries. Prior to October 15, 1981, there was a cumbersome process in place for legalization of these documents, but on that date the United States formally entered the Hague Convention on Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Documents. Now all documents properly certified by a Vermont notary public or record custodian, will be admissible in those foreign countries that have also entered the Hague Convention, without further certification, by the following process.
The document, with proper notarization, (see A Short Guide for Vermont Notaries Public for more information on notarization) must be brought or sent to the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, a Division of the Secretary of State's Office, in Middlesex. There the notary's signature will be verified by comparing it to the notary appointment form on file and a simple document called an Apostille filled out and attached to the notarized document. A $2.00 fee per document, payable to the VT Secretary of State, should accompany the request. Once the process is completed, the document is then considered legalized in many countries.
For more information on the convention abolishing the requirement of legalization for foreign public documents, visit the Hague Conference of Private International Law (HCCH) website at http://www.hcch.net. A current status listing of member states and countries is available at: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.status&cid=41.
What if the Country I'm Filing in Doesn't Accept The Apostille?
Countries that are not members of the Hague Convention require a more traditional form of legalization called a "Certification" or "Authentication". The purpose of the certification mirrors the purpose of the Apostille but requires one further step of authentication where the Apostille does not. Once documents bound for countries that are not members of The Hague have been certified and signed, the documents must then be forwarded to the Authentication Office in Washington, DC http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/ for further verification/legalization. In this final step, the signature of the VT Secretary of State is verified.
Common Pitfalls in the Authentication/Apostille Process
One obstacle in the process is conflict of interest. In order for the notary public to ethically perform the duties of office, it is essential that the notary public be an impartial party or "disinterested" in the act or transaction. Therefore, you may not take your own acknowledgment or administer an oath or affirmation to yourself. You should neither gain nor lose from the result of the transaction. If you are a party to a transaction or have a financial interest in the transaction, you must decline to officiate.
We highly recommend you avoid performing notarial services for any relative, by blood or marriage, in order to avoid potential, unforeseen conflicts of interest.
Remedy: Please ensure that the notary you choose for your documents is not related to you or would otherwise benefit from the transaction you are filing abroad. If you are a notary filing the document you should appear before another notary, who would administer your oath or take your acknowledgement.
An expired notary commission can also delay the process. All notaries in Vermont are commissioned to four-year terms and expire on the same date. The current commission expires 2/10/11; the next 2/10/15 and so on.
Remedy: Visually check the notarial language on your document and see if your notary has included the expiration date of his/her commission. While not required by law, many notaries include this information, and this could save you valuable time in the authentication process.
Certified copies of vital records from unauthorized sources are not suitable for authentication or filing abroad. Certified copies of vital records (birth, marriage and death) may be obtained only from the custodian of those records. In Vermont, the custodian would be the town or city clerk where the person was born, married or died. Certified copies may also be issued from the VT Department of Health (last five years only) and the Vital Records section of the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration.
Remedy: Vital Records are Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates. You must obtain certified copies of such documents from the custodian of those records as listed above.
Multiple notary signatures may also delay your documents.
Remedy: Should you have a deed or like instrument that requires multiple signatures, please obtain certified copies of the original so that we can authenticate that notary's signature.
How Do You Obtain Authentications/Apostilles?
You may bring your documents to us in person or you may mail them to the address below. Please call our office if you need directions or visit our website's contact section. Kathy Watters can be reached at 802-828-3287. Generally our office has a 1 day turn around on documents and we are open from 7:45 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday excluding state and federal holidays.
Please include a letter or note indicating the country of destination, mailing instructions, if any, and contact information for yourself in the event additional information is needed or we need to contact you.
The fee for Apostilles or Authentications is $2.00 per document, payable to the VT Secretary of State. If you wish us to return your documents via special means such as Federal Express or any other courier service, you must provide a prepaid air bill. Unless otherwise instructed, we will mail documents back to you via first class mail.
Please address your mail to:
Office of the Secretary of State
VT State Archives & Records Administration
1078 U.S. Route 2 - Middlesex
Montpelier, VT 05633-7701
Attn: Kathy Watters
This page was last updated on: 2012-06-13.