Documents requiring an apostille have become commonplace in international business. But have you ever questioned the authenticity of an apostille? Perhaps the staples in the document had been removed and replaced several times or the authentication number appeared to have been altered. How can you begin the process of verifying that the apostille is authentic and valid? One place to start is with the issuing office or Competent Authority.
What Does an Apostille Certify?
The Competent Authorities (the agency issuing the apostille) are required to maintain records of issued apostilles, including the date and number of the apostille and information on the signer of the underlying document. It’s important to note that the apostille certifies the origin of the underlying document to which it relates, including the signature and capacity of the person or authority that signed the document. It does not certify the content of the underlying document.
How to Verify an Apostille
In many jurisdictions it will be necessary to contact the Competent Authority by phone to verify the authenticity of the apostille. However, to simplify the process, many Competent Authorities have implemented online electronic registries (e-registries) that enable holders to verify its origin. Typically it is an easy process requiring the user to enter the apostille number and issue date. An example of a typical data entry screen follows.
In the United States, the Competent Authority is often the Secretary of State of the individual state and at least 11 states have implemented electronic registries. A table of states with online e-registries and the URL of the registry is below. The table also includes a link to a list of e-registries in various foreign countries.
The Delaware and Texas websites can only verify apostilles affixed to documents issued by the Secretary of State, such as status certificates and certified copies. They cannot verify apostilles affixed to powers of attorney and other documents generated by someone outside of the department.
So the next time you have questions about the authenticity of an apostille, keep in mind that there is often a way to verify it online!
This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered, or relied upon, as legal advice.