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The worst words you can hear when trying to legalize your document is “We are unable to process your document because…” Unfortunately, this saying is all too common when it comes to trying to get your documents legalized. We have compiled 10 of the most common mistakes when legalizing documents for use overseas.

*As a reminder, Document Legalization is a process during which documents are navigated through an assembly line of notarizations, certifications, and authentications so that these documents can be used in foreign countries to transact business.

  1. The notarization is missing the full notary acknowledgement statement or Jurat. Without the full notary statement, most State Secretary of State offices will not accept the document.
  2. Providing the wrong type of payment or incorrect amount to the embassy. Accepted payment types vary by embassy and type of document being processed. Be sure to confirm you are submitting the correct payment type or use a third-party vendor who will outlay all fees on your behalf.
  3. Document has been apostilled when it should have been authenticated. Apostilles can only be used in countries that are members of the Hauge Convention. Be sure to indicate what country the document is intended for when submitting documents to the Secretary of State.
  4. Documents sent to US Department of State without a return label or sent to US Department of State without the proper service request form. US Department of State requires form DS 4194 to be included with all authentication requests. Along with the form, you must include a pre-paid return label.
  5. Sending documents to the wrong embassy/consulate district. Most embassies are jurisdictional, meaning the document should be processed at the embassy/consulate serving the state in which the document originated.
  6. Missing and/or wrong notary acknowledgement/statement. All Secretary of State have a specific acknowledgement statement to be used when performing a notary on documents that will be used internationally. Often a notary will just sign their name and stamp the document, which will not be accepted.
  7. Notary public signs true and correct copies of documents, instead of the witness. A notary cannot sign the document and be the witness at the same time. Therefore, someone else must attest that the document is true and correct, then the notary can sign.
  8. Notarizing a copy of the document instead of a gold sealed or certified copy (issued by the Office of the Secretary of State).
  9. Notary performed on federal documents. Documents issued by a federal agency (FBI, FDA, USDA, etc.) cannot be notarized because they are official documents issued by the Federal Government.
  10. Documents that have been notarized outside the US. Only documents that have been notarized within the U.S. can be authenticated by the United States Department of State.

If you have questions regarding your specific document needs or if you’re interested in letting the experts at Washington Express Visas handle your document legalization for you, contact us at info@washingtonexpressvisas.com or call (202) 393-3030.