17 September 2010

APOSTILLES: INTERNATIONAL RECORDS CERTIFICATION

     Sometimes a subject for this blog just hits me on the head. In just one week, three people mentioned apostilles to me. Two fellow researchers needed apostilles for genealogical purposes for use in Ireland and in Ukraine. Then my husband said he needed one for a lawsuit in Guatemala. So, today is Apostille Day!
     Those of us in the USA are familiar with the procedure of notarization, that is, having a notary public certify a record or attest to a signature.  Countries have their own laws and procedures for certifying public records, and most countries do not automatically recognize a certification done by a foreign official or notary. If you have a USA birth certificate you want to use for a purpose in another country, e.g. obtaining dual citizenship, you must certify that document for use in the foreign country.
    Under traditional international law, this certification was accomplished by a chain of individual authentifications. This process was often slow and difficult. This legalisation process was streamlined by the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents, also known as the Apostille Convention.
     An apostille reduces the paperwork to a single formality. However, determining whether an apostille is necessary and where it can be obtained can sometimes be difficult. Not all countries recognize apostilles. The ones who do recognize apostilles are called "signatory States." Each signatory State (i.e.,country)--and in the USA, each individual state--has a designated "competent authority," This competent authority is the government officer who can issue an apostille (often a secretary of state in individual US states).
     Beware the claims of agencies and websites that advertise apostilles. To be sure that you are getting an official apostille, please check the links I have placed below to the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The Conference has a online brochure explaining apostilles and provides links to online sites that can help you navigate the apostille process. The Hague Conference is developing an online source for obtaining apostilles, please check the links below before paying an online site for a questionable apostille.
LINKS TO OFFICIAL APOSTILLE CONVENTION SITES
OFFICIAL APOSTILLE BROCHURE
FULL TEXT OF CONVENTION FOR ALL YOU LEGAL EAGLES
E-APP WEBSITE (OFFICIAL SITE FOR ONLINE APOSTILLES)