Legalization and Authentication of Documents
for use in Foreign Countries
By: Barbara A. Hynak. Esq.
If you or your clients do business overseas, you will probably need documents legalized for use in those countries.
Hynak & Associates, P.C. provides legalization services through the local Clerk of Court, the State Secretaries of State, the U.S. State Department and foreign embassies. The following information is a summary of the types of documents that we handle and the procedures to follow.
REGULAR LEGALIZATION PROCESS
For this process, documents are classified based upon the origination of the document; these types are local, state or federal documents. The parties to the documents include the original signatory(ies) to the document, the notary(ies) of the signatory(ies), the local Clerk of the County Court, the Secretary of State of a state, the United States Secretary of State, and the Embassy of the foreign country.
Local documents start at the firm or corporate level. These are typically powers of attorney, assignments, licensing agreements, contracts, merger agreements and the like. These documents are signed and then notarized. At this point, you can send the document to us. We will then obtain the authentication of the notary’s signature through the Clerk of the County Court (if the notary commission is granted by the local Clerk of Court) or by the individual State Secretary of State (if notary commissions are granted by the state). If the document has been authenticated by the local Clerk of Court, then we will obtain the State Secretary of State’s signature, authenticating the local Clerk of Court’s signature. We then take the document to the US Secretary of State, who authenticates the signature of the State Secretary of State. The document then goes to the embassy for the country the document is to be used in. The embassy legalizes the document, authenticating the US Secretary of State’s signature, and the document is ready to be used in that country.
State documents are documents produced by the state, such as certified articles of incorporation, corporate mergers, and corporate certificates of good standing. Since these documents have state signatures on them, they only need to go through the US Secretary of State and embassy, as above.
We also obtain state documents for your use or for further authentication and legalization.
A federal document, such as a certified copy of a trademark registration or application or additional certificates of copyright registrations, go directly to the US Secretary of State and then the embassy, as above.
OBTAINING STATE AND FEDERAL DOCUMENTS WITH AUTHENTICATION
In the case of federal or state corporate documents, you can order the document from us and have it legalized through the proper channels and sent directly to your foreign associate in the respective country by one phone call. We will send you a copy of the document for your records.
Under the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization For Foreign Public Documents in 1961, countries have agreed to streamline the verification process. Local and state documents have to be authenticated up to the state level but do not have to go through the US State Department and the embassy steps. Federal documents have to go through only the US Secretary of State. Most of the European countries are members to this convention. This saves several steps, depending on which type of document you have.
When documents are authenticated for use in a country that is a member of the Hague Convention, an Apostille is applied to the document instead of the usual seal authentication. This Apostille is applied by the State State Department in the case of a local or state document, or by the US Secretary of State in the case of a federal document. The document is then ready to go directly to the foreign country.
States often have two different seals that they apply to documents, one for domestic (US) use and one for foreign use. The State Secretaries of State also know which countries are members of the Convention and therefore will apply the correct legalization certificate or the Apostille. It is extremely important when you send a document to the State Secretary of State that you tell them the document is for use in a specific foreign country so that they can apply the right state seals and the right certification or Apostille.
Note that countries can join or quit the Hague Convention at any time so that the need for Apostilles or legalizations can change. Access the Offical Official Hague Convention List at:
To expedite the process, if you have sent a local document to the state, you can have that office send us the document directly if you include an overnight courier number to be charged.
If you wish us to send the document to your foreign associate, just email us their address and phone number. We will send you a copy of legalized document along with our invoice.
TYPES OF DOCUMENTS WE HANDLE
Typical documents that we handle include, but are not limited to the following:
Power of Attorney
Certificate of Conformity
Assignment of Interest Dcoument
FBI Criminal History Record
FBI Identification Record
All Corporate Documents
Department of Health and Human Services Certificate to Foreign Government