Legalization International Law

Legalization is a process of authenticating documents for use in a country that is not a member of the Hague Apostille Convention.   This is a more complex process than the simple California Apostille.  Apostilles are issued for countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention.  If the destination country is not a member, then a certification will be applied at the State and the U.S. Department of State level.

The chart to your right helps clarify the steps involved.  Please keep in mind that not all documents require notarization and not every country will ask you to complete all the steps.  Birth, Death, and Marriage certified originals are issued by the local County Clerk’s office.  A Divorce Decree is issued by the Superior Court.  These kind of documents do not require notarization and can be sent to our office for immediate processing with the California Secretary of State.

The California Secretary of State authenticates signatures only on documents issued in the State of California signed by a notary public or the following public officials and their deputies:

  • County Clerks, Registrar-Recorder
  • Court Administrators of the Superior Court
  • Executive Clerks of the Superior Court
  • Officers whose authority is not limited to any particular county
  • Executive Officers of the Superior Court
  • Judges of the Superior Court
  • Notaries Public
  • State Officials

Once your documents have been certified at the California Secretary of State’s Office, the next step is to have your documents certified at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.  Our affiliate office is located in this district allowing us to process your documents quickly (1-3 business days).

The U.S. Department of State will authenticate the signature of the California Secretary of State and a certificate will be attached.  Once complete, your documents are now ready to be legalized at the Embassy or Consulate office.

Every industry has their own special lingo.  Some of the following words are used interchangeably by others so we’ll help clarify the real meaning.

1. Apostille – A document issued by the Secretary of State which is destined to a country who is a member of the Hague Apostille Convention.

2. Certification – A document issued by the Secretary of State which is destined to a country who is NOT a member of the Hague Apostille convention.

3. Authentication – This is what the California Secretary of State and the US Department of State does.  They authenticate the signature of the person who signed the document.

4. Legalization – Refers to what the Consul or Embassy does.

5. Attestation – Refers to being sworn in that everything is true and correct written on the document.  Basically taking an oath.

Click to download our California Apostille order form. Our Apostille service is fast, convenient, and saves you time and money.