Why Your Immigration Documents May Need An Apostille

Recently, we assisted an immigration client in Oklahoma with obtaining identity documents needed to meet the legal requirements to marry his fiancée in another country.  The country required each of the documents, which included the U.S. citizen’s birth certificate and divorce decree, be authenticated by an apostille.  While the process was not overly burdensome, it brought up some questions as to what exactly it was and why it was needed.  An apostille is “an official certificate from a government that makes a document from one country acceptable in another . . . .”  This requirement often is confused with a notary public’s “true certified copies,” which is not the equivalent or an alternative to an apostille.  It also may seem redundant when documents obtained from a government agency or office or through a clerk of court typically contain official seals and other certifications attesting to their authenticity.  An apostille of a state or federal document, however, provides it with the requisite recognition to be accepted as true and authentic by one of over 110 nation signatories to the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty on legalization of foreign public documents.  A country that is a member of the 1961 Hague Convention agrees to recognize another member’s official documents containing seals and signatures of its public officials when accompanied by the authenticating apostille.  Although it means an extra step, providing an apostille for a foreign document streamlines what was once a long and complicated process of authenticating a document for acceptance by another country.  In Alaska, official documents can be apostilled through the Office of the Lt. Governor for $5.00 per certificate.  Commercial businesses also offer this service, but the fees may vary. If you have questions or need advice about authenticating documents through the apostille process for acceptance by another country or the U.S. Department of State, contact our office for assistance.

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