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Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

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  • Writer's pictureParviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

How to Get an Apostille in California

By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.

If you’re from California and applying for citizenship or residency abroad, you may be asked to “apostille” certain vital documents such as your birth or marriage certificate.

Real sample of a 2024 California apostille - the real McCoy, Jack.

Article Outline

As we explained in our explainer article on apostilles in the USA, an apostille is a form of additional authentication of official documents. 

The authenticated, i.e. “apostilled” documents can then be used in other countries that are signatories to the Hague apostille convention of 1961. 

Fortunately, California apostilles can be obtained on the same day in-person.  As a citizenship lawyer, I’ve apostilled dozens of documents in California. Here’s our easy step by step guide on getting a California apostille ASAP. 

Types of California Documents That Can Be Apostilled 

There are many different types of documents that can be apostilled in California. For people pursuing mobility assets such as citizenship and residency, the most commonly California issued documents that need to be apostilled tend to be: 

  • Birth Certificates

  • Marriage Certificates

  • Divorce Decrees

  • Death Certificates

Note: Some documents (such as a California university transcript) need a notarization before being apostilled. This is beyond the purview of this article. 

In-person Apostille Requests 

If you’re in a time crunch, you can make an in-person apostille request in Sacramento or Los Angeles. An in-person request is the fastest way to get a California apostille.

For an in-person request, you’ll need: 

  • The certified document you want apostilled 

  • A $20 payment (via check, money order or credit card) made payable to Secretary of State 

  • $6 “handling fee” for each signature to be authenticated in a document 

  • The completed apostille request cover letter for Sacramento or Los Angeles 

First, you waltz into the secretary of state office in either Sacramento or Los Angeles with the document you want to apostille. 

California Secretary of State Building in downtown Los Angeles

Second, go to Secretary of State office on the 12th floor where you fill out the apostille request cover letter, make your payment ($26 by credit card or check) and leave the document you want apostilled at a window. 

12th floor, baby

Third, after playing on your cell phone or reading a book for 10-20 minutes, you’re called up to collect your freshly apostilled document. Voilá - you leave with your documents. 

Mail-in Requests 

Mail-in requests naturally take longer but are more convenient. For a mail-in request, you’ll need:

  1. An original or certified copy of the document you want to apostilled (such as a birth certificate)

  2. A mail request apostille cover sheet found here 

  3. Payment in the form of check or money order made payable to Secretary of State 

  4. A return addressed envelope with postage attached 

Put those four items in a large 9” by 12” envelope and mail it to:

Notary Public

1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor

Sacramento, CA 95814

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

These are the most common mistakes I’ve seen or heard about people making. 

#1 Sending an Unofficial Copy of a Document to be Apostilled

You can only apostille original or certified copies of documents. They usually have a stamp, seal, embossment or some other characteristic on the paper to show that you didn’t just download and print a PDF from your computer. If you send an unofficial copy of a document, your apostille request will be rejected. 

#2 Improper Payment Amount or Payee

Sometimes people make payment in the wrong address of they don’t address it to Secretary of State. Either mistake could result in your apostille request being rejected. 

#3 Not Including a Stamped Return Address Envelope

Failure to include a stamped return address envelope may also result in having your apostille rejected! 

What the Final California Apostille Looks Like 

A mail-in request might take several weeks to a couple months to be processed and arrive to you. Assuming you made the request properly, you’ll receive back your original or certified document with a one page apostille stapled on top. 

You’ll notice that the apostille is not completely neatly overlaid on top of the certified copy. The certified document you requested to be apostilled will have about a half inch margin on the right side extending out beyond the apostille. This is by design. 

Do not separate the apostille from the certified copy underneath it. Many foreign authorities consider the apostille invalid if it has been separated from the document being apostilled. Leave it be! 

Request a Consultation with Malakouti Law 

Interested in pursuing second citizenship by investment or by descent? 

To discuss having Malakouti Law handle the process for you, request a consultation with us here. Let a professional handle obtaining all documents, apostilles, translations, and all the other headache-inducing parts of becoming a dual citizen. 

Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified immigration and citizenship lawyer about your case before taking any steps. The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Attorney marketing. 

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