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How are Legal Documents Authenticated?

Document “Authentication” Explained

What does it mean to have a document “authenticated”?

When a legal document is considered to be “authenticated”, that means it is considered to be genuine (such as the signature or seal/stamp on that document has been proved to be authentic). 

So why do documents need to be authenticated? 

Legal documents are required to go through strict procedures to verify their authenticity. This is required in order to prevent any possible complications involved in related legal proceedings (such as delaying them). 

Many different industries will often need to have legal documents authenticated. 

For example: 

  • Law Firms
  • Tax Firms
  • Accounting Firms
  • Adoption Agencies
  • Government Agencies
  • Trademark Offices
  • Commercial Businesses
  • Import/Export
  • Wholesale Distribution

If you are affiliated with any of these types of organizations (or somewhere not listed above) and need to have legal documents authenticated, reach out to our professionals at Encore Legal Process today! 

We pride ourselves in returning phone calls extremely quickly because your needs are very important to us. We want to make the entire process of getting your papers served as simple as possible.  

The Hague Convention of 1961 (Apostille Convention)

Often, a legal proceeding will involve the need to present a document that originated in one area (local, state, or country) that needs to be used in another area (local, state, or country). In such a case, the receiving party will often require that legal documents presented from the other party are verified as being “authentic”. 

For example: The receiving party will need authentication proven for the public official who was responsible for issuing or certifying a copy (or copies) of the presented documents involved in their legal proceeding.

This process becomes more complicated when dealing with the authentication of documents that originated in one country for use in another country

Thankfully, though, on October 5, 1961, a convention commenced that simplified this process altogether. This was called the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. 

This is often referred to as the “Apostille Convention” since it created a document named an “apostille”. Want to know more about apostilles? Keep reading! 

Apostilles v. Authentication Certificates

A legal document can be authenticated either by means of an apostille or an authentication certificate. It is important to note that these two things are not interchangeable. 

So how do you find out which form of authentication you will need in order to have your legal documents authenticated? First, let’s discuss what each of these authentication methods mean: 

Apostille - a form of authentication that removes the need for consular legalization or an embassy, when dealing with authenticating documents from one country to another. An apostille helps documents to be recognized in other countries. 

Authentication Certificate - a form of authentication that requires the documents you are dealing with to be notarized (a sealed area that must be visible on the certificate in question to prove the authority of the person doing the notarizing), then reviewed by officials (either by state or county), then certified by officials (of the state). After authentication has been established, you will then need to seek the needed certification in the country you intend to send documents to. 

The country you intend to use the document(s) in will determine which of these two authentication methods you will need to use. 

  • Use an apostille when: the country you intend to use the document(s) in is(are) on the 1961 Hague Convention members list. 
  • Use an authentication certificate when: the country you intend to use the document(s) in is(are) NOT on the 1961 Hague Convention members list. 

Want to know if the country you need to get documents to is on the members list or not? There are currently 92 members on the Hague Convention Members List

Want to know more about what is needed in order to obtain either an apostille or an authentication certificate? Keep reading for more information. 

Which Documents Commonly Need to be Authenticated

A person will likely encounter many instances in their lifetime where they will need to have a legal document authenticated. 

These particular documents usually will fall into one of the following categories: 

  1. Local & State Documents: 
    • Birth Certificates
    • Marriage Certificates
    • Divorce Decrees
    • Probate Wills
    • Judgments
    • Death Certificates
  1. Federally-Issued Documents:
    • U.S. Federal Court Documents Check (from DoJ)
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Check (from DoJ)
    • FBI Background Check (DoJ)
    • Trademark (Patent & Trademark Office)
    • Immigration Certifications (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
    • Certificate of Foreign Governments (HHS)
    • Certificate of Pharmaceutical/Export (HHS)
    • Plant/Animal Certifications (USDA)
    • Animal Health Certifications (USDA)
    • Any Other Documents (Social Security Administration, Office of Personnel Management, or Environmental Protection Agency)
  1. Other Documents:
    • Income Verification
    • Bylaws
    • Agreements
    • Affidavits
    • Home Study
    • Transcripts
    • Diplomas
    • Single Status
    • Copy of U.S. Passport
    • Powers-of-Attorney
    • Commercial Invoices
    • Articles of Incorporation
    • Deeds of Assignment

In the legal world, there are many types of documents that are dealt with on a regular basis. So many, in fact, that it can often be overwhelming to deal with in the midst of the stress that already comes with having to appear in court. 

Let a process serving company alleviate this stress from you, by handling the process of getting your documents served properly and quickly. To learn more about what process servers do and what types of documents they often deal with serving, check out our blog What Types of Papers Does A Process Server Serve & What Is The Process.

How to Obtain Apostilles & Authentication Certificates

As aforementioned, in order to have a legal document authenticated, you will need to obtain either an apostille or an authentication certificate. Here’s how to do so: 

To obtain an apostille in the state of Texas, you will need to: 

  1. Request a copy (it must be certified) of the document you are in need of. These documents can be requested from contacting the Department of Health and Human Services in Texas. 
  2. Indicate the reason for your request as “apostille”. 
  3. When you have received the certified document you requested, you will then need to send it to the Secretary of State’s office (be sure to include the fee associated with obtaining an apostille). To find out the cost of obtaining an apostille, visit the Texas Secretary of State's Website.

To obtain an authentication certificate, you will need to: 

  1. Make sure all document(s) you are needing to have authenticated have been notarized in front of a notary public.
    • If the notary you are using is commissioned by the county, you will need to certify the document(s) with the clerk of court, followed by the secretary of state. 
    • If the notary you are using is commissioned by the state, you will need to certify the document(s) with the secretary of state. 
  1. Ensure that all seals/signatures on the document(s) are original and not copies. 
  2. If any documents are written in a foreign language, you will need to have them translated into English by a certified and notarized translator. 

Local & State Documents: How Are They Authenticated

In order to get any local and state documents authenticated: 

  • It must be the original (or) certified document. 
  • It must include either a stamped or raised seal from either the court or department of vital records. 
  • It must be certified by the Secretary of State from the state that the document was issued. 

Federally-Issued Documents: How Are They Authenticated

In order to get any federally-issued documents authenticated:

  • It must have been executed by a federal agency. 
  • It must include a legible signature of the issuer. 
  • It must include the issuer’s printed name. 
  • It must include the issuer’s printed title. 
  • It must include a seal from the agency. 
  • It must be printed on an official agency letterhead. 

Other Documents: How Are They Authenticated

In order to get any other documents authenticated: 

  • It must be certified (containing either a stamp or seal from a notary public). 
  • It must be certified (from the county clerk where that notary is commissioned, unless the Secretary of State certifies directly to the notary). 
  • It must be certified (from the Secretary of state in which that document was executed). 

After Authentication

Regardless of what type of documents you need or what industry you are affiliated with, you can always benefit from document authentication. Document authentication benefits anyone in need of having personal, legal and commercial documents verified as being “authentic” for purposes of having those documents verified from one country to another. 

After your legal document(s) have been authenticated, the next step is to deliver the document(s) to the intended recipient. Your best bet is to hire a process server to handle this step for you. 

At Encore Legal Process, we have a network of proven, quality process servers throughout the nation. We will make this process extremely simple for you. Regardless of where you need to have your papers served, we will get the job done for you. So just send us your papers and we’ll take care of the rest so you don’t have to! 

Contact Encore Legal Process Today!

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