How to Get an Apostille (And Why You Need One)

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. I’m assuring you that this document you see before you was, in fact, legally issued from the issuing country. And now, you can rely on its authenticity for use in your country too.”

Birth certificates and other documents for your visa application require an Apostille

What Kind of Documents Get an Apostille?

Only government issued documents get an Apostille. For visa purposes and international moves, you’ll likely be dealing with the following kinds of documents: birth certificates, marriage certificates and criminal background checks. Only government issued documents get an Apostille. Any other

How to Get An Apostille from State and Federal Authorities

If your document was issued by a state or county — this will be true of all birth and marriage certificates — then you order the Apostille from that same state. The government body that issues it will be that individual state’s Secretary of State. Each State has its own procedures for ordering one. Here’s a link to find authorized authorities to contact for this authentication service.

If your document came from the federal government, such as the FBI, then you get your Apostille from the federal government. Specifically, 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.

Example of Apostille from state of Wyoming
Apostille from Wyoming

This one, from the US Department of State, authenticates our FBI criminal background check!.

Example of Federal Apostille
Apostille from Federal Government

You can’t necessarily tell from the picture, but the Apostille certificate is fastened to the is fastened to the document it authenticates. Don’t mess with that! The certificate must remain attached.

Ordering Documents Through Private Agencies

Finally, as in any good capitalist society, there are private agency alternatives that can get your document authenticated in a hurry. Many of these companies offer services to get both the document itself as well as the Apostille.

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 $65 for an FBI report, versus $18. Or $200 for an Apostille, 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 this process easier.

To find one of these private companies, enter “Apostille rush service” or “Order birth certificate fast” into any search engine.

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.

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