How To Certify Company Documents For Use Abroad
If you need to use a document issued in the U.S. (such as Articles of Incorporation) abroad, that document needs to be certified for foreign use, either by having an apostille affixed to it, or by certifying it at the embassy of the country where it will be used. Examples of such use are opening a bank account in the foreign country in the name of your U.S. company, registering your U.S. company with foreign government authorities, or even when proof of existence of a U.S. company is required to enter in to a contract abroad.
In all of the cases above an American document, even a copy certified for use in the U.S., will not be acceptable. An apostille must be attached to the U.S. document to authenticate that document for use in countries that are Hague Convention signatories, and embassy certification for countries that aren't.
What Is an Apostille?
An apostille (french for certification) is a special seal applied by a government authority to certify that a document is a true copy of an original.
Apostilles are available in countries, which signed the 1961 Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization of Foreign Public Documents, popularly known as The Hague Convention. This convention replaces the previously used time-consuming chain certification process, where you had to go to four different authorities to get a document certified. The Hague Convention provides for the simplified certification of public (including notarized) documents to be used in countries and territories that have joined the convention.
Documents destined for use in participating countries and their territories should be certified by one of the officials in the jurisdiction in which the document has been executed. With this certification by the Hague Convention Apostille, the document is entitled to recognition in the country of intended use, and no certification by the U.S. Department of State, Authentications Office or legalization by the embassy or consulate is required.
Note, while the apostille is an official certification that the document is a true copy of the original, it does not certify that the original document's content is correct.
Who Can Get an Apostille?
Since October 15, 1981, the United States has been part of the 1961 Hague Convention abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. Anyone who needs to use a U.S. public document (such as Articles of Organization or Incorporation issued by a Secretary of State) in one of the Hague Convention countries may request and obtain an apostille for that specific country.
How to Get an Apostille?
Obtaining an apostille can be a complex process. In most American states, the process entails obtaining an original, certified copy of the document you seek to confirm with an apostille from the issuing agency and then forwarding it to a Secretary of State (or equivalent) of the state in question with a request for apostille.
In countries which are not signatories to the 1961 convention and do not recognize the apostille, a foreign public document must be legalized by a consular officer in the country which issued the document. In lieu of an apostille, documents in the U.S. usually will receive a Certificate of Authentication.
Legalization is usually accomplished by sending a certified copy of the document to U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., for authentication, and then legalizing the authenticated copy with the consular authority for the country where the document is intended to be used.
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