First things first, before we talk about how to get one, let’s address the obvious. Just what is an Apostille anyway? An Apostille is an official certificate that makes government issued documents from one country legally valid for use in a foreign country. Essentially, an Apostille certificate says, “Hey, foreign government official. My presence here assures you that this document attached is, in fact, legally issued from the country that issued it. And that makes it legal for use in your country too.”
What Kind of Documents Get an Apostille?
Only government issued documents get an Apostille. For visa purposes, you’ll likely be dealing with the following kinds of documents:
- birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Criminal background checks
Just remember, only documents issued by a government body — either state government bodies or federal government bodies — can get an Apostille. Other personal or third party documents you’ll need for your visa — bank statements, letter from your doctor, etc. — don’t get Apostilles.
How to Get An Apostille from State and Federal Authorities
The US has two levels of government: state and federal. The same government body that issued the original document is the only one that can issue the Apostille for that document. In other words…
Documents issued by individual states and their county offices — such as birth and marriage certificates — get their Apostille from that state’s secretary of state office. Each state has its own procedures for ordering one. Here’s a link to find authorized authorities for all states nationwide.
If your document came from the federal government, such as an FBI criminal background check, the Apostille comes from the federal government. The one, and only one, office authorized to do that is the US Department of State.
Because the Apostille certificate can be issued by all 50 states as well as the federal government, they can each look different. Here are two of ours.
This is one from the state of Wyoming for our son’s birth certificate.
This one is from the US Department of State, authenticating our FBI report.
You can’t necessarily tell from the picture, but the Apostille certificate is fastened to the document it certifies. Don’t mess with that! Break the seal and the Apostille is no longer valid, essentially invalidating your document as well.
Ordering Documents Through Private Agencies
Finally, as in any good capitalist society, there are private agency alternatives that can get your Apostille in a hurry. Bear in mind, these agencies don’t actually issue the Apostille itself. Rather, you’re authorizing them to obtain it from the issuing government office on your behalf.
The benefit? You get your documents fast. Sometimes in as little as 48 hours. You work with an actual human, so you’re actually getting customer service.
The downside? Cost. Think $200, instead of $8. But, if time is of the essence, they’re there. And if money is no object, regardless of time crunch, these guys will make the process easier.
COVID-19 Alert: Many government offices at both the state and federal level are closed to the public, if not closed entirely. Needless to say, this could result in significant delay or challenge to get your documents, and their Apostille, in a timely manner. This is true for the private agencies as well.
Assistance Preparing Your Spanish Non Lucrative Visa Application
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