• How to Get an Apostille in California

How to Get an Apostille in California

You have been told you need to get an apostille in California. Like many others, you may not know what that is or what it means. The literal meaning of an apostille is certification. The word stems from the Hague Convention, a treaty between over 100 countries. This treaty allows documents issued in one country to be legal and valid in another. An apostille pertains to public documents. This includes marriage, birth, and death certificates. It also includes court documents and patents.

An apostille does not validate the contents of a document. It simply certifies the authenticity of the signing officer, their capacity and the identity of the seal or stamp on the document.

Apostilles certify:

  • the authenticity of the signature of the official who signed the document
  • the capacity in which the official acted, and
  • the identity of the seal or stamp the document bears

The apostille itself does not validate the contents within the document. Below is an overview of how to get an apostille in California. Contact A People’s Choice for more information about how we can help you get an apostille of state or federal issued documents.

How to Get an Apostille in California

If you need to get an apostille in California, you need to know which state or federal office has the authority to issue the apostille. The U.S. Department of State issues documents destined for use in participating Hague Apostille countries. Documents that need an apostille issued by the U.S. Department of State include those which have been signed by one of the following:

  • A U.S. Federal Official
  • An American Consular Officer
  • A Military Notary, Judge Advocate, or a foreign Consul diplomatic official registered with the State Department Office of Protocol.

First, the document to be apostilled must be signed and include the official’s full name, title, and seal of the issuing agency. Next, the following documents will need to be sent to the U.S. Department of State to have a valid document apostilled:

Apostille By California Secretary of State

On the other hand, the California Secretary of State’s office issues apostilles for state issued documents that are to be used in Hague Apostille countries. This includes birth, marriage, and death certificates. It also includes to articles of incorporation, business bylaws, powers of attorney, and diplomas and transcripts. Keep in mind, the California Secretary of State only authenticates documents that are issued in California. As a rule, the document must be signed by a notary public or one of the following public officials:

  • County Clerks or Recorders
  • Court Administrators of the Superior Court
  • Executive Clerks of the Superior Court
  • Officers whose authority is not restricted to a specific county
  • Judges of the Superior Court
  • State Officials

U.S. citizens and foreign nationals can apply to have their state issued document certified. The following items must be sent to the Secretary of State when requesting an Apostille:

  • The original notarized or certified document.
  • A cover letter stating which country the document will be used in.
  • A check or money order to cover the $20 authentication certificate
  • A self addressed envelope for return mail

For more information about how to get an apostille in California, you can also read the “ABCs of Apostilles”.  It can take several days up to several weeks to have a state issued document certified. Only the California Secretary of State can have a California document officially certified for use in a foreign jurisdiction.

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About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.

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