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A Brief Introduction to Notarization, Apostille, Authentication, and Legalization.

Updated: 4 days ago

1. Brief introduction

Anytime you need to submit official documents for use in foreign countries, it oftentimes requires that you have these documents verified here in the US before sending them or taking them to other countries.

The certification process may be called Notarization, Apostille, Authentication (Great Seal), and Legalization. Notaries, county clerks, secretaries of state or equivalent state filing offices, and even some courts, the US Department of State, and embassies/consulates may be involved in the certification process.

Depending on the document type and the destination country, one or more of the above processes could be required.


Notarization is the official fraud-deterrent process that assures the parties of a transaction that a document is authentic and can be trusted. It is a three-part process, performed by a Notary Public, that includes vetting, certifying, and record-keeping. Notarization is the assurance by a duly appointed and impartial Notary Public that a document is authentic, that its signature is genuine, and that its signer acted without duress or intimidation, and intended the terms of the document to be in full force and effect.

  • For documents in languages other than English, we recommend that you attach a notarized English translation.

  • Online or remote notarization is not qualified for apostille or authentication. It must be performed in a traditional way, face-to-face, with wet signatures and stamps/seals on the document.

  • Notaries can be found in these places near you.

  • In most states, notaries are not allowed to notarize vital records (birth, death, marriage, divorce certificates) and court documents (judgments, orders, decrees). Those documents should be certified by the officials like the registrar, recorder, clerks, etc.

Apostille and Authentication

Apostilles and authentication certificates validate the seal and signature of a Notary/Official on a document so that it can be accepted in a foreign country.

Apostille - A Certificate of Apostille is simply the name for a specialized certificate, issued by the Secretary of State or the U.S. Department of State. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in one of the Hague Apostille Countries. Once apostilled, it is ready for use, and there is no need to go through further steps.

Authentication - A Certificate of Authentication is issued to documents going to be used in the Non-Hague Apostille Countries. Depending on the document type, authentication can be obtained from the state office if it's a local/state document, and the U.S. Department of State if it's a federal document. After authentication, a further embassy/consulate legalization is required.

Embassy or Consulate Legalization

For those documents destined for Non-Huage Apostille countries, once they have been authenticated at the state level or the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., the final step is to have your documents legalized at the Consulate or Embassy.

Depending on the foreign country, some embassies/consulates have very strict consular jurisdictions and they only process the documents that originated from states that fall under their jurisdictions. Also, some require all documents to be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State, while others don't.

We're trying to explain the process in a simple and organized way, but there is no general rule that applies to all documents. That's why our staff always assist clients by asking ① the type of the document, ② which state the document is from, and ③ in which country the document will be used. Thus we're able to navigate the fees, time, and process for them. Send inquiries HERE if you have any questions.

2. Process

Service Order Links

3. Time

  • Notarization - get the documents notarized immediately after a notarial act is properly performed by a notary.

  • (50 States) Secretary of State Apostille/Authentication - Check the time here

  • U.S. Department of State Apostille/Authentication - Check the time here

  • Embassy Legalization - Check the time here

4. Required materials

  • Online Order

  • The original document that needs to be apostilled or authenticated.

⚠️Besides the original document, additional materials might be needed, depending on your document type and country of use. Please follow the mailing instructions you received.

Mailing Address

American Notary Service Center

7512 Diplomat Drive, Suite 101,

Manassas, VA 20109

Once an order and document are received, they will be processed based on a first-in-first-out rule.

We provide apostille, authentication, and embassy legalization services for other personal documents and corporate documents issued in 50 states and DC.

Navigating the requirements for obtaining an apostille can be overwhelming, especially for those unfamiliar with the process. Long waiting times, unclear instructions, and complex paperwork can all contribute to delays and frustration. By streamlining the apostille process, we aim to alleviate these challenges and provide a hassle-free experience for our clients.


American Notary Service Center Inc. provides fair, fast, confidential, and professional document notarization and certification services for our clients. We also provide various assistance services to small businesses led by socially and economically disadvantaged groups. Our service helps small businesses obtain federal government contracts, gain a foothold in the market, and boost their sales. For more information, please visit our website at, and contact us by calling 202-599-0777 or by email at


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