Parviz Malakouti, Esq.
How To Get an Apostille in the United States
Updated: Apr 19
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
If you’re an American applying for citizenship or residency abroad, you may be asked to “apostille” certain vital documents. This can be a bit confusing for many of us Americans because apostilles are rarely required for official business in the United States.
In this article, we’ll go over what apostilles are, what they look like, and of course how to get them.
An apostille is a form of additional authentication of some official documents. Prior to the apostille convention of 1961, authenticating documents in one country for use in a foreign country could be a long, drawn-out affair requiring signatures from multiple government bodies.
Now, countries that are party to the apostille convention just require documents to be “apostilled” in order to have legal effect in the foreign country. An apostille has the effect of certifying the authenticity of the signature and capacity of the person who has signed the public document.
This is a much simpler process than other, previous forms of authentication.
Even if you legally qualify, missing key documents is kryptonite to the pursuit of second citizenship. If you are an American interested in second citizenship and don't want to figure it out on your own, book a consultation with Malakouti Law and have us take you all the way.
Related: Unlocking 3 Top Countries for Americans Seeking Plan B
What Do Different Apostilles Look Like?
An apostille is a simple one page document, affixed to the front of the document being authenticated. The documents most often apostilled for second citizenship applications are birth certificates, marriage certificates, FBI identity history summaries (“background checks”), and death certificates.
Note: some foreign countries will use “notarized” and “apostilled” interchangeably. In the United States, an apostille is not the same as a notarization.
Here’s an example of a California state apostille of a birth certificate, below.
And here’s an example of an Ohio state apostille of a birth certificate.
And here’s an example of an Oklahoma state apostille of a marriage certificate.
Here is an example of a Pennsylvania state apostille of a death certificate.
Here is an example of a Nevada state apostille of a birth certificate.
Finally, below is a U.S. federal apostille of an FBI background check from the state department’s office of authentications.
Documents That Can Be Apostilled
There many kinds of vital records and official documents that can be apostilled in the United States. For citizenship by descent and citizenship by investment cases, the following types of documents are ones that need to be most often apostilled:
There are also other types of official documents that can be apostilled. However, privately created documents, such as a resume generally cannot be apostilled.
Tip: As a general rule, do not detach the apostille from the underlying document, even to scan it. as many countries will no longer recognize the apostille as valid if it has been separated from the document being authenticated.
How to Get The Apostille
Once you have the document you want to apostille, you must find the government entity to send the apostille request to. For most U.S. state issued documents, the apostilling entity will be the “secretary of state” of that state.
For example, a California birth certificate would be apostilled by the California secretary of state. Similarly, an Ohio birth certificate would be apostilled by the Ohio secretary of state.
For federal apostilles, the department of state’s office of authentications is the entity that issues the apostilles.
Use google to find the relevant government agency that should apostille your document, and follow their instructions carefully.
The vast majority of apostille requests in the United States require four items:
Original or certified copy of document you want apostilled (ex. Birth certificate)
The completed apostille application/cover letter (usually one page)
The apostille fee (which ranges from $2-$20 depending on the state!)
A stamped self-addressed envelope
When preparing your apostille request, remember: “read twice; submit once!”
Tip: If you are in a hurry to get the document apostilled, check to see if the state agency allows “walk-in” apostille requests, or if you can submit an expedited return postage envelope.
Related: 8 European Citizenships by Descent You May Qualify For [Updated for 2023]
Consult with Malakouti Law
If you are considering pursuing second citizenship, and would like professional help, book a consultation with Malakouti Law. We are experts in citizenship by descent and citizenship by investment cases for Americans.
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The information in this page could become outdated. 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. Each immigration and citizenship case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.