Are You Looking for Apostille or for Legalization?

Many important documents executed in one country are not acceptable in other countries without additional proof of genuineness.

Anna Dunaeva DLegal Anna Dunaeva November 15, 2017

Many important documents executed in one country are not acceptable in other countries without additional proof of genuineness. Otherwise, fake powers of attorney, university degrees, as well as ownership, birth, marriage or death certificates would be a huge problem in the modern word of technology. To prevent fraud, foreign recipients of your document may require some official confirmation that seals and signatures in it are real. Here the procedures of legalization or certification of the document with an apostille, as the case may be, come into play.

While legalization and certification with an apostille are similar in purpose, they are two different procedures. The apostille is the creature of the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. As follows from the title, the purpose of the Hague Convention is to use the apostille procedure instead of legalization. In practice, the apostille procedure is easier since one usually has to take two steps instead of three to make a document acceptable abroad. The first step is notarization and the second one is confirmation of the notarization with an apostille certificate issued by a designated agency of the country where the document comes from (such as the Secretary of State in the United States, the Federal Office of Administration in Germany, or the Ministry of Justice in Ukraine). As a result, one can use the document certified with an apostille in any country that is a party to the Hague Convention.

However, Canada is not a party to the Hague Convention and apostille certificates are not available here. Instead, documents executed in Canada may require legalization to become acceptable abroad. The legalization is a more complicated process. Before the document gets legalized, it usually requires notarization and authentication of the notarization.

The notarization is performed by a lawyer, Notary Public or other authorised person, as the case may be. After the document is notarized, it goes to Canadian federal or provincial agency for authentication. The purpose of the authentication procedure is to confirm the genuineness of the seal and signature of the person who performed the notarization with the seal and signature the designated agency has on file for that person. The level and location of the agency responsible for the authentication depends on the situation.

After the authentication is complete and the certificate of authentication is issued, the document can proceed to the legalization stage. At this stage, a consulate or embassy of the country where one intends to use the document verifies the certificate of authentication. As a result, the document is acceptable only in the country which consulate or embassy legalized it.

Please keep in mind that the legalization process varies depending on the situation. For example, notarization may be unnecessary when a document intended for use abroad is the original. However, notarization is required for a copy of the original or for a translation. Please contact the person or agency responsible for notarization, authentication or legalization, as the case may be, regarding your specific situation. You may also want to ask your lawyer or Notary Public to help you with the authentication and/ or legalization process.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and should not be considered as legal or other professional advice. To get detailed information regarding your specific circumstances, please discuss your situation with a lawyer or other professional.


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