Apostilles are a form of authentication of a document originating in one country for use in another according to the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (also known as the Apostille Treaty or the Hague Convention). A document issued in one country may not be recognized in another country as a result of differences in language, certification, and legal effect of the document without proper certification, an Apostille. The Apostille Treaty created a process to allow all of the countries signing the Treaty to recognize legal documents generated by other signatory countries.
To be eligible for an Apostille, a document must first be authenticated by an officer recognized by the New York Department of State (if the document originated officially in New York State). For example, in New York, the Secretary of State maintains specimen signatures of all officers of a certain level of government, such as County Clerks, so documents that have been executed and certified by the Clerks are eligible for Apostilles without further authentication.
If not directly eligible for issuance of the Apostille, intermediate certifications may be required before the document will be eligible. Therefore, before presentment to the New York Department of State, the document will be required to be notarized and the notary’s signature authenticated by the County Clerk where the notary was commissioned or where the signature card or Certificate of Official Character has been filed.
Information regarding the types of documents that require notarization prior to issuance of the Apostille may be found at https://www.dos.ny.gov/licensing/apostille.html.
A list of the participating countries to the Apostille Treaty may be found at https://www.hcch.net/en/states/hcch-members
Instructions on obtaining an Apostille seal:
- The document must have an original signature of a Notary Public, stamped signature of a Registrar of Vital Statistics with a raised seal, or signature and seal of an official recognized by the New York State Department of State. (Commissioner of Deeds may not sign documents for use outside of the County in which the Commissioner is commissioned.)
- If required, (and this is the usual case), the document is then to be presented to the County Clerk's Office for an Authentication. An Authentication certifies that the signature of the notary or public official is genuine. The Authentication can only be obtained from the County Clerk with whom that particular signature is filed. There is a $3 fee per Authentication.
- A representative of New York State Department of State then will attach an Apostille to the document.
After authentication by the County Clerk, the original document with the Apostille Request Form required by the State (available at https://www.dos.ny.gov/licensing/apostille.html) and payment of the fee* may be mailed to:
New York Department of State
Division of Licensing Services
Apostille and Authentication Unit
PO Box 22001
Albany, NY 12201-2001
The document(s) may also be processed in person at the Albany Office between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
*The customer must also include a certified check, bank draft, money order, attorney check (no personal checks) of $10.00 made payable to “New York Department of State.” Payment may also be made by credit card when completing the Request Form.
Additional Instructions: If a customer gives the County Clerk’s Office the original document and includes with it a postage-paid envelope to the Department of State, the $10.00 fee, the Request Form to the Department of State and a return envelope to the customer’s address, the County Clerk’s Office will deposit in the mail or make accessible for overnight pick-up (Fed-Ex or UPS) to the Department of State on their behalf.
Regarding FEDERAL DOCUMENTS:
Documents issued by an official of the federal government, i.e., FBI reports, must be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office. Instructions for authentication may be found at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/judicial/authentication-of-documents.html or by going to the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Authentications.
NOTE: Documents requiring certifications with an Apostille by the U.S. Department of State are those that have been signed by a federal official with the official Seal of that agency, American Consular Officer, Military Notary (10 USC 1044a) or Foreign Consul (Diplomat Officials must be registered with the Office of Protocol). Note: These documents must include the official's title and his/her signature must be legible. Please also note that the U.S. Department of State will not issue an Apostille for State-issued documents.