Apostille vs. Notary: What’s the Difference?
In the legal world there is a lot of jargon to keep straight. You may have heard the words “notary” and “apostille” in the same context and wondered if they are one and the same.
The answer is no. While both actions serve to certify and verify documents, they have different functions.
What Is a Notary?
A notary is a person authorized by the government to witness the signing of documents and administer oaths. They verify the identity of the signer and provide a seal guaranteeing authenticity.
Another part of a notary’s job is to guarantee the willingness and understanding of the signing party. In other words, with a notary present, there is no chance of someone being forced to sign something against their will.
A notary is typically needed for important documents such as wills, deeds, contracts, and loans. Notarized documents are used exclusively within the U.S.
What Is an Apostille?
An apostille, on the other hand, is a certificate issued by the state that authenticates the notary’s seal and signature. An apostille by itself does not authenticate the content of the documents, but rather it authenticates the notarization and the authority of the notary.
Most documents that require an apostille will need to be notarized first. Examples include:
- Single Status Affidavit
- Local police and local sheriff background checks
- Power of Attorney (personal or corporate)
- Copies of a passport or driver’s license
- Birth and death certificates
- Marriage and divorce certificates
- Court documents
- Immigration forms
- School diplomas and transcripts
- Authorization letter
- Travel consent letter
- Driving record
- Certification of free sale (Company issued)
- Certification of Origin
- Commercial invoice
The apostille is issued by a government authority, such as the secretary of state, and it is recognized by countries that are members of the Hague Convention. It is used to facilitate international business and legal transactions.
For example, if you are immigrating or conducting legal business in a foreign country, you will need an apostille for every relevant document. Here in the U.S., every state and the U.S. federal government can issue an apostille.
Currently, there are 117 countries that are members of the Hague Apostille Convention. For nations outside of this agreement, documents can be legalized by authorized persons. This is a slightly different purpose with the same ultimate goal: to authenticate the signature and authenticity of important documents.
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