If you want certain official documents to be recognized in foreign countries, you may need to obtain an apostille. This type of certificate validates a notarized document, such as a birth or marriage certificate, so that it is accepted in a foreign country. Florida is one of many states that issues apostilles, and the process for getting one is straightforward.
What Is an Apostille?
Apostilles are certificates that authenticate a notary’s seal and signature on a public document so that the document is recognized and upheld in a foreign country. More than 80 countries around the globe that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty use apostilles to authenticate documents from citizens and companies moving between them.
In the state of Florida, only the Florida Secretary of State is authorized to issue apostille certifications. Apostilles are granted after a document is properly notarized and is then attached to the notarized document.
What Documents Need an Apostille?
Not every document needs to be authenticated with an apostille certificate. However, many public documents do need authentication in order to be used and upheld in another country.
Only Florida state-issued documents can be authenticated with an apostille certificate from the Florida Secretary of State. Documents that need an apostille include:
- Marriage and divorce certificates.
- Birth and death certificates.
- Articles of incorporation.
- Powers of attorney.
- State court documents, such as adoption records.
- School transcripts.
- Vehicle titles.
- State criminal background checks.
Without an apostille certificate, these documents need several authentication certificates to be recognized by another country, and the process can often be burdensome. This is especially true in the countries that are not parties to the Hague Convention.
How to Get an Apostille in Florida
Fortunately, getting an apostille in Florida is very straightforward. To get an apostille certificate, you must complete a Florida Department of State Apostille and Notarial Certificate Request Form, which can be found online.
Along with the form, you must also send to the Florida Department of State:
- The notarized document you want authenticated.
- A check or money order for the required fee of either $10 or $20, depending on the document.
- A self-addressed stamped envelope or prepaid, pre-addressed air bill with your name listed as both the sender and recipient.
Once received, it usually takes less than a week to process the request for an apostille in Florida. If you need authentication to happen quicker than that, you can walk into the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations office with the needed information and get same-day authentication in most cases.
If your document was issued or notarized in another state, even if you reside in Florida, you must submit your document to the appropriate office in that state. It should be noted that a notary public cannot issue an apostille certificate.
How Is a Document Authenticated?
In order to get an apostille certificate, the Florida Secretary of State validates the notarization on the document. To do this, the office compares the notary public's information against its database of notary publics to ensure that she exists and is authorized to perform notary services.
The office also verifies the notary public’s commission number, expiration date and name. If the office cannot verify the notarization, you may have to get another one. Once verified, the apostille certificate is issued by the Florida Secretary of State. The certificate is issued on security paper so that it cannot be photocopied and assigned a unique ID number.
After you obtain an apostille certificate for a specific document, you do not need to get another one for that same document in the future. Each document does, however, need its own apostille certificate.