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U.S. states, territories, and commonwealths

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

Some clients are wondering whether their documents need to be notarized or apostilled/authenticated. A very important criterion is whether the document will be used in or outside the United States. If it is in the United States, only notarization is required. An Apostille or Authentication may never be used for the recognition of a document in the country where that document was issued – Apostilles or Authentications are strictly for use of public documents abroad. For example, if a document is issued in the United States and is intended to be used in the United States, the relevant government agency will not issue Apostille or Authentication for that document.

According to the Geographic Names Information System, U.S. states, territories, and commonwealths are designated as follows.

States and DC

  • 50 States plus the Federal District known as District of Columbia


  • Puerto Rico (Caribbean)

  • Northern Marianas Islands (Pacific) (former Trust Territory of the United Nations elected by plebiscite to join the U.S.)

Territories (various types)

  • Guam (Pacific) (physically part of the Marianas Islands but politically separate)

  • American Samoa (Pacific)

  • U.S. Virgin Islands (Caribbean) (uses “U.S.” in name to distinguish from neighboring British Virgin Islands)

Miscellaneous Insular or Outlying Areas - No permanent population. Periodically inhabited by military personnel or scientists, otherwise uninhabited.

  • Baker Island (Pacific)

  • Howland Island (Pacific)

  • Jarvis Island (Pacific)

  • Palmyra Atoll (an atoll is a coral reef) (Pacific)

  • Johnston Island (Pacific)

  • Kingman Reef (Pacific)

  • Midway Islands (Pacific)

  • Wake Island (Pacific)

  • Navassa Island (Caribbean)

Freely Associated States – The word “State” is used here in the international sense as an independent country with the exception that the United States is responsible for their defense.

  • Federated States of Micronesia (Pacific) (Former United Nations Trust Territory elected by plebiscite to become "independent")

  • Republic of the Marshall Islands (Pacific) (Former United Nations Trust Territory elected by plebiscite to become "independent")

  • Republic of Palau (Pacific) (Former portion of a United Nations Trust Territory elected by plebiscite to become "independent")


Corn Islands and Swan Islands were formerly U.S. but were ceded to Nicaragua and Honduras, respectively. Also, Serrana Bank and Roncador Bank were ceded by the U.S. to Colombia. All of these are in the Caribbean.

Source: the Geographic Names Information System


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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