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Difference between Notarization and Apostille/Authentication

Updated: May 18, 2022

Notarization means a Notary Public, the public official commissioned by the State, serves as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official acts related to verifying the identities of the signers and their signing of important documents. Then the notary will sign and stamp the document with a seal. Documents that are notarized are usually used in the US.

Apostille or Authentication usually refers to a higher-level agency's recognition and verification of the legality and authenticity of the signature and seal on the document, so that a document from one country can be legally recognized in another country. This will usually involve some form of certification from the country the document originates that is recognizable in the country the document will be used.

An apostille is a form of authentication that seeks to simplify the process of legalizing and authenticating public documents so that they can be recognized internationally in foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

Apostille and Authentication do not verify the specific contents of the documents but verify the signature and stamp of the public official who signed or issued the document.

Take a multi-step authentication as an example, the Secretary of State (SOS) at the state level certifies the signature and seal of the notary on the original document, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) certifies the signature and seal of the SOS, and the foreign embassies and consulates in the United States verify the signature and seal of the DOS on the document, etc.

Depending on the document type, issuing authority, and recipient, a document may require both notarization and apostille (authentication), or one of the two.


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