When presenting a document originating in one country for use in another, often the receiving party requires legalization of the document to verify the authenticity of the signature and seals of the public official who executed, issued, or certified a copy of the document. The October 5th,1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, or Apostille Convention, has simplified the process a great deal through a document called an apostille, which eliminates the need for embassy or consular legalization. Currently 115 countries are parties to the convention.
For documents originating in the U.S. destined for a country that is not a member of this Hague Convention, there are many more steps involved to legalize a document (as outlined below). The process varies depending on whether you are legalizing public documents, such as certified copies or court documents, or private documents, such as corporate bylaws for a U.S. company or a private contract.
Let’s take a look at a few authentication and legalization scenarios.
As what is being legalized is actually the signature and stamp or seal of a public official, the first step for a private document is to notarize an individual’s signature on the document. Since a notary is a public official, their signature and seal can then be authenticated and legalized.
Documents issued by a federal agency, such as the Patent and Trademark Office or the Comptroller of the Currency, follow a slightly different process.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.