Not sure what an apostille is or how the process works? Scroll down for our apostille FAQs or call +1 (415) 655-9455 to talk with us directly.
What is an apostille?
An apostille, according to the California Secretary of State, “is a certificate that authenticates the signature of a public official on a document for use in another country. An Apostille certifies:
- the authenticity of the signature of the public official who signed the document,
- the capacity in which that public official acted, and
- when appropriate, the identity of the seal or stamp which the document bears, e.g. a notary public seal.
The Apostille does not validate the contents of the document.”
What is the Hague Apostille Convention?
As the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) explains, “The Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention) facilitates the use of public documents abroad. The purpose of the Convention is to abolish the traditional requirement of legalisation, replacing the often long and costly legalisation process with the issuance of a single Apostille certificate by a Competent Authority in the place where the document originates.”
Which countries have signed the Hague Apostille Convention?
As of May 2023, 127 countries have joined the Hague Apostille Convention. Accordingly, any of these countries should accept the apostille on your document:
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina
🇨🇻 Cape Verde
🇨🇰 Cook Islands
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
🇨🇿 Czech Republic
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
🇸🇻 El Salvador
🇭🇰 Hong Kong
🇲🇭 Marshall Islands
🇳🇿 New Zealand
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis
🇱🇨 Saint Lucia
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
🇸🇲 San Marino
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia****
🇿🇦 South Africa
🇰🇷 South Korea
🇸🇿 Swaziland (Eswatini)
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇺🇸 United States
Please be aware:
* Canada has signed the Hague Convention, but membership will not enter into force until 11 January 2024. In the meantime, additional authentication is required.
** China has signed the Hague Convention, but membership will not enter into force until 07 November 2023. We have paused processing for China until then (see below).
*** India may require additional processing for certain documents
**** Some receiving parties in countries that just joined the Hague Convention in 2021 or 2022 may be unaware of the change. Please ensure your contact is willing to accept a simple apostille. If they still want legalization from the embassy or consulate, we can help you obtain it.
***** Philippines now requires an apostille on Special Powers of Attorney (SPAs) [See next section of apostille FAQs for details.]
What about other countries?
Countries that are not party to the Apostille Convention, and even some that are, have highly specific authentication/legalization requirements. With this in mind, please select a tab below for answers to your apostille FAQs or contact us to learn more.
Many of our apostille FAQs have been about China authentication, which was among the most complicated of any country. The good news is that China finally signed the Hague Apostille Convention, so consulate or embassy authentication will no longer be required. However, the membership does not enter into force until 7 November 2024.
In the meantime, we have paused processing any documents bound for China. The Chinese Consulate has been closed to the public since 2020, and processing times were already extremely delayed. And a man recently drove his car into the lobby of the Consulate and was shot by police, so business has been thoroughly disrupted.
We calculated that it will be much faster (and more affordable) for our clients to wait until the Hague membership takes effect in November than to try to get documents legalized through the former channels.
We have not received guidance from China about whether they will accept documents that were notarized prior to 7 November 2024. As a precaution, we urge you to wait until that date to sign any paperwork.
India is party to the Apostille Convention, but depending on what kind of documents you need apostilled, your recipient in India may require additional documentation. With this in mind, please visit the Ministry of External Affairs prior to shipping us any documents.
SF Notary + Apostille makes authentication of your Special Power of Attorney (SPA) to appoint an agent (aka attorney-in-fact) in the Philippines fast and easy. We can meet you at your home, work, hospital room, or public setting (such as a café) to pick up your SPA or notarize your signature on your document. If you’re outside the Bay Area, you can have your signature on the SPA notarized by a nearby notary and then send us the notarized document using a FedEx label that we can supply to you by email.
Once we have your SPA in hand, we will take it to the California Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento, complete the application, pay the fee, and hand it to the apostille clerk. The Secretary of State will certify your SPA with an apostille and hand it back to us. We will then make a scan (if requested) and ship your document back to you or a third party in the United States, or abroad using FedEx priority service.
Most California documents being legalized for use in Taiwan are processed through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco. Notarized documents must be accompanied by a signed Application Form for Authentication and a notarized copy of your passport or driver’s license. When filling out the application, please leave the content in the red box blank. That’s for us, acting as your agent. TECO charges $15 per document.
Note: The TECO office is presently closed to the public. Given that, we have to submit and receive the apostille by mail, and current turnaround time is one to two weeks. No rush service is currently available.
Note: federal documents (FBI background check, FDA, State Department, etc.) are authenticated at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington, DC. In addition to the above documentation, the embassy requires a signed, notarized power of attorney allowing our agent in DC to act on your behalf for this purpose. Please click here to download a template of this letter.
How long does an apostille take?
Another one of our most common apostille FAQs concerns turnaround time. In truth, the processing time for an apostille varies widely depending on what kind of document needs to be apostilled and what type of authentication it needs. Office closures and staffing shortages have significantly slowed down processing times. Of course, we will do our best to get your document authenticated as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, though, some of the process is simply out of our hands.
- The diploma and transcript printing process at certain schools can have delays. Academic records are printed with a third party, and there are times when orders take longer than expected to process.
- The United States Secretary of State’s apostille processing is delayed at present, often taking up to six weeks.
- The Chinese Consulate in SF and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, are both closed to the public. They are also both experiencing severe delays in processing times. Documents may take weeks or months to process, and rush service is not available.
Please call us at +1 (415) 655-9455 to learn more about delays that may affect your apostille processing time.
Whose signatures can be apostilled?
The California Secretary of State only authenticates signatures on documents that are issued in the State of California and are notarized by a commissioned notary public or any of the following public officials or their deputies:
- County clerks or recorders
- Court administrators of the Superior Court
- Executive clerks of the Superior Court
- Executive officers of the Superior Court
- FBI officials
- Judges of the Superior Court
- State officials
Does an apostille validate the content of a document?
An apostille is not a guarantee of the truthfulness of document content, and it does not guarantee that the receiving country will approve the document. As a matter of fact, it is solely a certification that the official who signed and stamped the document (i.e., a notary public, county clerk, court official, etc.) is properly authorized to do so.
Do I need to be in California to get the apostille?
This is one of the top apostille FAQs we get, and the answer is: sometimes. It is true that certain documents require notarization in order to be apostilled. In this case, you will need to sign in front of a notary public. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, our mobile notaries can come to your location to notarize your document, and then take it to be apostilled.
Contrarily, other documents–such as academic records, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates–do not require your presence. We will let you know whether or not you need to be present once we know the scope of your apostille needs.
Do you offer pickup/shipping services for apostilles and legalizations?
Yes! We can pick up the documents in San Francisco and select Bay Area locations for an additional fee. We will notarize them if needed. After apostille and/or legalization, we can ship them back to you or send them directly to the receiving country.
Thanks for these apostille FAQs. Now how do I schedule an apostille?
Disclaimer: Information on this website is for informational purposes only. SF Notary + Apostille is not a law firm, and its agents are not attorneys. Please contact a licensed attorney or your local bar association for counsel on legal matters.