Apostille, Authentication, and Legalization FAQs | Call: +1 (415) 655-9455

Apostille FAQs

Not sure what an apostille is or how the process works? Scroll down for our apostille FAQs or call +1 (415) 655-9455 to ask a human.

What is an apostille?

Every country has different requirements for certifying documents. As a result, this can cause delays in international transactions because the receiving country has different requirements than the submitting country.

For the purpose of speeding up the process, countries at the 1961 Hague Conference on International Law signed the the Apostille Convention, which makes any document with an apostille attached acceptable in any other member country. (Apostille is French for “marginal note.”)

Which countries have signed the Hague Apostille Convention?

As of July 2022, 122 countries have joined the Hague Apostille Convention. Accordingly, any of these countries will accept the apostille on your document:

🇦🇱 Albania
🇦🇩 Andorra
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda
🇦🇷 Argentina
🇦🇲 Armenia
🇦🇺 Australia
🇦🇹 Austria
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan
🇧🇸 Bahamas
🇧🇭 Bahrain
🇧🇧 Barbados
🇧🇾 Belarus
🇧🇪 Belgium
🇧🇿 Belize
🇧🇴 Bolivia
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina
🇧🇼 Botswana
🇧🇷 Brazil
🇧🇳 Brunei
🇧🇬 Bulgaria
🇧🇮 Burundi
🇨🇻 Cape Verde
🇨🇱 Chile
🇨🇴 Colombia
🇨🇰 Cook Islands
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
🇭🇷 Croatia
🇨🇾 Cyprus
🇨🇿 Czech Republic
🇩🇰 Denmark
🇩🇲 Dominica

🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
🇪🇨 Ecuador
🇸🇻 El Salvador
🇪🇪 Estonia
🇫🇯 Fiji
🇫🇮 Finland
🇫🇷 France
🇬🇪 Georgia
🇩🇪 Germany
🇬🇷 Greece
🇬🇩 Grenada
🇬🇹 Guatemala
🇬🇾 Guyana
🇭🇳 Honduras
🇭🇰 Hong Kong
🇭🇺 Hungary
🇮🇸 Iceland
🇮🇳 India*
🇮🇩 Indonesia**
🇮🇪 Ireland
🇮🇱 Israel
🇮🇹 Italy
🇯🇲 Jamaica
🇯🇵 Japan
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
🇽🇰 Kosovo
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan
🇱🇻 Latvia
🇱🇸 Lesotho
🇱🇷 Liberia
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein

🇱🇹 Lithuania
🇱🇺 Luxembourg
🇲🇴 Macau
🇲🇰 Macedonia
🇲🇼 Malawi
🇲🇹 Malta
🇲🇭 Marshall Islands
🇲🇺 Mauritius
🇲🇽 Mexico
🇲🇩 Moldova
🇲🇨 Monaco
🇲🇳 Mongolia
🇲🇪 Montenegro
🇲🇦 Morocco
🇳🇦 Namibia
🇳🇱 Netherlands
🇳🇿 New Zealand
🇳🇮 Nicaragua
🇳🇺 Niue
🇳🇴 Norway
🇴🇲 Oman
🇵🇼 Palau
🇵🇦 Panama
🇵🇾 Paraguay
🇵🇭 Philippines***
🇵🇪 Peru
🇵🇱 Poland
🇵🇹 Portugal
🇷🇴 Romania
🇷🇺 Russia
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis

🇱🇨 Saint Lucia
🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
🇼🇸 Samoa
🇸🇲 San Marino
🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia**
🇷🇸 Serbia
🇸🇨 Seychelles
🇸🇬 Singapore
🇸🇰 Slovakia
🇸🇮 Slovenia
🇿🇦 South Africa
🇰🇷 South Korea
🇪🇸 Spain
🇸🇷 Suriname
🇸🇿 Swaziland (Eswatini)
🇸🇪 Sweden
🇨🇭 Switzerland
🇹🇯 Tajikistan
🇹🇴 Tonga
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago
🇹🇳 Tunisia
🇹🇷 Turkey
🇺🇦 Ukraine
🇬🇧 United Kingdom
🇺🇸 United States
🇺🇾 Uruguay
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan
🇻🇺 Vanuatu
🇻🇪 Venezuela

*India may require additional processing for certain documents

**Indonesia and Saudi Arabia just joined the Hague Convention in 2022. At the present time, some receiving parties 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, this may still be possible.

***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.


China requires an Authentication Application Form, a copy of your driver’s license or DMV-issued ID card, and a copy of your passport. The form must be filled out in ALL CAPS and signed twice in wet black ink.

Sound complicated? SF Notary’s China authentication specialists can complete the application for you as your agent. Just email us a request with the company name (if it’s a commercial document), and attach a copy of your driver license and passport. We then submit everything to the Chinese consulate, and pick it up when it’s authenticated. China charges $25 per document for personal documents and $50 per document for business documents with a five-day turnaround, or $70 for expedited three-day turnaround on personal or business documents.*

*Note: the Chinese Consulate is currently closed to the public due to Covid-19, which is causing major delays in processing times. At this point, we have to submit the document electronically for pre-approval, which generally takes one week but can sometimes take as long as four weeks. Once the document is approved, we have to send and receive it via USPS Priority Mail. The Consulate does not currently offer expedited service, and regular service is currently taking two to six weeks due to inconsistent processing times. Unfortunately, we are unable to speed up the process.

Please call us at +1 (415) 655-9455 before mailing any documents that need to be authenticated for China.


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.

Please call us at +1 (415) 655-9455 before mailing any documents that need to be authenticated for India.

Philippines Special Power of Attorney (SPA)

The Philippine Consulate is currently closed to the public due to Covid-19 precautions. Formerly, the Consulate offered services from Philippines-commissioned notaries who could notarize Special Powers of Attorney (SPA) documents, but that service has been suspended until further notice. At the present time, recipients of SPA documents in the Philippines often require SPA documents notarized by notaries in California or other states and countries to add an additional layer of certification–called an apostille–for the purpose of giving the document the same legal status as if it were notarized by a Philippines-commissioned notary in the Philippines or the Philippine Consulate. We make the process easy for you. We can set an appointment to meet in our Hayes Valley, San Francisco, office to notarize the SPA, bring it to the California Secretary of State, get it apostilled, and return it to you via FedEx Priority Overnight Service for $180.

If you need for us to travel to you, an additional fee may apply. We can also ship your document directly to the recipient in the Philippines via FedEx International Priority Service from Sacramento and send you a scan of the apostilled SPA to save time–for an additional fee. Shipping to the Philippines averages $50, but we require the name, address, and telephone number of the recipient in the Philippines in order to provide a firm shipping quote.

For a price quote, please send us an email message indicating whether you would like to meet in our office or the address of where you would like for our notary to travel to notarize the document and the return shipping information to [email protected]. Or you may also call us at +1 (415) 655-9455 to schedule an appointment to get your SPA apostilled.


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: due to Covid-19, 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.

Please call us at +1 (415) 655-9455 before mailing any documents that need to be authenticated for Taiwan.

How long does an apostille take?

The processing time for an apostille varies depending on what kind of document needs to be apostilled and what type of authentication it needs. Covid-related office closures and staffing shortages have significantly slowed down processing times. We will do our best to get your document authenticated as quickly as possible, but some of the process is simply out of our hands.

Notable delays:

  • 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 California Secretary of State’s apostille processing is currently taking two to five business days, which is the fastest service available.
  • The United States Secretary of State’s apostille processing is extremely delayed at present, often taking up to six weeks. Expedited processing is not available.
  • The Chinese Consulate in SF and the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, are both closed to the public due to Covid-19. They are also both experiencing severe delays in processing times. Documents may take weeks or months to process, and rush service is not available.
  • FedEx documents shipped to China are currently being quarantined for up to two weeks before they are delivered.

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. Certain documents require notarization in order to be apostilled. If this is the 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.

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 your presence is needed when you contact us.

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?

Ready to schedule or still have questions after reading these apostille FAQs? Please call +1 (415) 655-9455 or email [email protected].


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.