Apostille Translation Services

The average person may not know what an Apostille is. According to International Apostille Services, “an apostille (pronounced ah-po-steel) is a French word meaning certification.”

To be more detailed, this is a specialized certificate that is attached to an original document (i.e., a birth certificate) certifying that the document is authentic and legitimate. An apostille is issued by a Secretary of State’s office and it ensures that the document will be accepted in any other country participating in the Hague Apostille Convention. Since this is an international document authentication process, apostille translation will certainly be necessary.

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What is the Hague Apostille Convention?


In 1961 a large group of countries identified a need to establish a hassle-free method of “legalizing” documents so they could be recognized universally. With this in mind, these countries met in a conference known as the Hague Convention. This conference developed a document type they named an “apostille” that would be accepted by all member companies.

Before the invention of the apostille, the process for judging document legitimacy was burdening international courts.

The Apostille Convention has provided an easy way to certify public documents so that they are usable in any country that joined the convention. The United States has been participating in 1961 Hague Convention since October 15, 1981. As a result, its Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents was abolished. Currently, 117 countries participate in the Hague Apostille Convention. These countries require an apostille from a country’s Secretary of State or the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. to accept any document as legitimate.

Officially recognized Apostilles include the following:

  • The seal or stamp of the authority issuing the apostille
  • Printed name of the agency or authority affixing its seal or stamp (if the document is unsigned)
  • Signature of authority issuing the apostille
  • The name of the country where the apostille originates
  • Printed name and title of the person signing the certificate
  • Place of certification
  • Date of certification
  • Certificate number (apostilles must be numbered consecutively with unique numbers assigned to each apostille issued.)

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International Apostille Services also says that verification of an apostille registration is easy to find by requesting information about the apostille from the authority that issued it.

Here are some reasons a person may need an Apostille:

  • Moving to another country
  • Preparing to study abroad
  • Working on a business relationship with someone in a foreign country
  • Sending court documents from one country to another

It is useful, at this stage, to provide a reliable definition for the term “public document”. According to Law Dictionary, this term is defined here.

“A state paper, or other instrument of public importance and interest, issued or published by authority of Congress or a state legislature. Also any document or record evidencing or connecting with the public business or the administration of public affairs, preserved or issued by any department of the government.”

The following documents will most likely require an apostille if you intend to send them to a foreign country.

  • Will
  • Living trust
  • Marriage certificates
  • Divorce papers
  • Any document issued by a government agency for any reason
  • Any documents issued by a notary office of a country participating in the Hague Convention
  • Registration documents such as land or other property titles, business name, personal name changes, etc.

Apostille translation services

If you trying to get an Apostille from an English-speaking country, such as the U.S., and your document is in a foreign language, you need to get your document translated into English. Then that translated document is notarized. However, to perform the notarization, the notary must witness the translation and the translator must sign all the accompanying paperwork to certify the translation. When the document translation is complete and duly notarized, both the untranslated and translated versions of the document must be submitted to receive an apostille.

Since all apostilles must have a legal signature and official seal from any agency that provides them, documents that have gone through this process do not need any further certification upon entering a foreign country. It is important, however, to review guidelines in your state to ensure that you have all the necessary forms and notarized documents for requesting an apostille to avoid unnecessary delays.

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Here are a few more pointers to streamline your apostille process as much as possible.

  • Assemble accurate and complete contact information regarding Secretary of State signature requirements and any requirements from consular agencies if you have any idea that you may need an apostille for any reason.
  • As you are preparing to submit an important document via apostille, we recommend that you find out if the country to which you plan to submit your apostille is a Hague Convention participant. You can find the most current list here. This page also provides a list of countries that do not participate in the convention.
  • If this perceived need may not become a reality for many months or years, check your information regularly to make sure no policy changes have occurred. For example, the U.S. State Department established a new policy in 2012 mandating that all documents be held for as many as three days before they could be released for submission to embassies.
  • Learn how much will you pay in fees for all services, including the possible need for a courier.
  • What form of payment do the agencies your are dealing with accept?
  • What is the customary turnaround time and what could cause delays?

Note: If you are trying to obtain an apostille or other authentication of a document to certain countries that have been the target of sanctions by the U.S., and you will probably not be able to get a document legalized for those countries. None of these countries belong to the Hague Convention.

Those include:

  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Sudan

Depending on which countries you are dealing with, you may need an apostille translation even after you get your original document translated from a foreign language to the language of the country where you are requesting the apostille, you may need to have one more translation performed.

For example, you may have a legal registration of a personal name change from France, but you are now living in the United States and you need an apostille because you are considering a move to Spain. Of course, you probably had to translate that apostille to English when you moved to the U.S. However, in order to move to Spain, you will need to translate the apostille to Spanish for submission to the Spanish authorities.

If the country to which you need to send a document does not participate in the Hague Convention, be sure to contact that embassy to learn about the requirements for your document legalization in that country.

Here is a real-life example of an Apostille that may require apostille translation services.

Suppose your minor child has been invited to travel abroad with another family member or close friends. You will need to sign a travel consent letter verifying that your child has your express permission to travel outside of the United States with people you authorize. If you are planning to write such a letter, you can find a form or template from an airline or travel agency. Formats of this kind are also available online.

A travel consent letter should include the following elements:

  • Parent or legal guardian’s name
  • Child’s name
  • Planned travel dates
  • Name of the person(s) with whom the child will be traveling
  • The country (countries) the child will be visiting
  • Planned return date
  • Airline information

This letter must be signed and notarized by the person(s) giving permission. So, if both parents or legal guardians are permitting the child to travel with the specified person(s), then all those people should sign and notarize the letter.

Then the signatories to the letter will most likely need to obtain an apostille to make the travel permission official to the countries where the child will be traveling. In the case that this apostille applies to foreign-language companies, the apostille should be translated into the language(s) of the countries where the child will be travelling to make everything official and avoid any problems along the way.

In this or any other case, accurate apostille translation is essential to avoid any misunderstandings in the course of the child’s travel.

The Word Point offers the reliable apostille translation you need to make plans to interact with foreign countries trouble-free.

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The process for apostille services

If you need to have a document legally recognized in another country, you will need to obtain an apostille.

Here’s how you do it.

  • Have all the documents for which you need an apostille in order. These must be original copies of state-issued documents. For instance, an official copy of a marriage certificate from the county clerk that issued it.
  • The aforementioned documents must also be notarized within the state where they were issued and made official.
  • Be ready with the name of the country requesting your document(s).
  • Vital records such as birth certificates or marriage documents must come from their country of origin.
  • You have a choice of requesting an apostille online or in-person.
  • Follow your state guidelines to find the right department for getting your apostille. Generally, you will contact your Secretary of State to request your apostille.

Allow a time frame of at least seven days for a completed apostille, but even more time is better. In fact, if you are trying to have one or more documents apostilled, it is wise to expect delays. You will have to deal with government and embassy schedules. Once a document is out of your hands, you have little control over what happens to it. So, this should never be last on your “to do” list, especially if apostille translation will be required.