Business Travel Document Apostille vs Authentication. What’s The Difference?

It’s inevitable that most international relocations and business travel will require some form of supporting documentation to be presented — this could be a birth certificate, a marriage certificate, or even a diploma. 


After obtaining the necessary documents, they often need to be authenticated with an apostille or authentication certificate in order for the country to accept them as part of the individual’s visa (or other) application. 


For example, for those who are traveling from the US to another country that requires an authenticated document, the US Department of State has an entire page on authentication requirements as well as one on apostille requirements. Many other countries have the same resources. 


But this begs the question – what’s the difference between a document certification and an apostille? It’s important to be aware of the correct option as your documents could be rejected thus significantly slowing down any immigration process. 


This article will outline the key differences between the two and how outsourcing this complex process to a document management company can significantly speed up processing times.



What is document apostille? 


Whether you are relocating or carrying out business abroad, there are many reasons why you may need a document apostilled. An apostille is a single stamp or certificate that’s attached to a required document after it has been notarized. This means it has been signed by a notary in order to make it legal, and the apostille confirms the authenticity of the signature, stamp, or seal of the public official on the document.


Once the document has been certified with the apostille, it can be recognized in foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty, a coalition set up after World War II with the aim to protect cultural heritage and foster a high level of legal security despite differences between judicial systems. 


The Apostille of The Hague (or simply, apostille) is a simplified method of the legalization of documents in an attempt to expedite the otherwise lengthy authentication process that exists between other countries. Today there are currently 124 contracting parties to the Hague Convention. 


Typically, copies of documents will not be accepted, though in some cases true certified copies from a notary public, where the notary made the copies themselves, may be accepted. If a document also needs to be translated this should be carried out after the apostille.


In general, there’s a list of documents that can be apostilled. This list includes:

  • Public documents
  • Legal documents
  • Documents issued by an authority or official from the State (including those that come from the Public Ministry or a secretary, an officer, or a judicial agent).
  • Administrative documents 
  • Official certifications on private documents such as the certification of the registration of a document, the certification on the certainty of date, and the official and notarial authentication of signatures in private documents


Additionally, there are documents that cannot be apostilled:

  • Documents issued by diplomatic or consular agents
  • Administrative documents directly related to commercial or customs operations.
  • Documents that, in the application of other International Agreements, are exempt from being legalized or apostilled


So, if apostille is the specific authentication process for countries included in Hague Convention Treaty, what’s the process for countries that are not part of the treaty? Here the apostille is invalid, and instead you need to get your documents authenticated in other ways. 



What is broader document authentication and is it the same as Apostille?

While general authentication applies to the same documents as the apostille, it’s not the same process, and they’re not interchangeable. Indeed, authentication applies to countries that are not part of the Hague Convention Treaty, and apostilled documents will be rejected from these countries, including major trading partners like Canada, Dubai, and China.


Instead of a single apostille, the notarized document will require several authentication certificates which can vary by the destination country. These will typically be from the commissioning agency, ministries of foreign affairs (e.g. the Department of State for US applicants), the consul of the destination country, and potentially another government official in the destination country.


Similarly to an apostille, authentication certificates certify the authenticity of a public official’s signature and any corresponding stamps or seals. And since these processes vary by country, requirements and processing times vary as well – some even requiring in-person visits to local consuls, All of this makes the document authentication process even more complex and lengthy, especially compared to the apostille.


Lex Documents can help you manage global authentication and apostille of documents 

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