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Chinese Embassy Makes Legalization Update

The Chinese Embassy recently added a new requirement to their legalization process requiring a Certificate of Incorporation or Certificate of Good Standing for the legalization of all corporate documents.  

If you have any questions, please contact us at info@washingtonexpressvisas.com.

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What Type of Documents Need to Be Authenticated for Export?

Did you know that United States exports are worth more than $528,000 million?

However, standard documentation is needed for exporting when selling and transporting your goods outside of the United States. Knowing which documents need to be legalized or authenticated is the best way to ensure the export process is fast, smooth, and simple.

If you are unsure of what documents are needed, keep on reading this guide to learn more about document legalization and authentication.

What is Document Legalization or Authentication? 

The legalization or authentication of documents allows them to be used in other countries. There are usually several steps involved in the process. There are several types of documents that can be legalized, including civil status documents, court orders, diplomas, and manufacturing certificates.

When it comes to exporting purposes, there are a few documents that will need to be legalized to ensure your product is not held up in an international port.

But what kind of documents would you need to get legalized? We’ll get to that in a moment

Document Legalization With an Apostille Service

An apostille is a simplified and official way to legalize a document for use in countries who are part of the Hague Convention. Apostilles are stamps or stickers affixed to official documents that declare that document authenticate and valid. There is no need to take any further steps after this. 

For document legalization or apostille services, check out this link!

Document Legalization Without an Apostille

Getting a document authenticated is a bit harder and more complicated without an apostille.

In cases where one or both of the countries involved in your legalization are not parties to the Apostille Convention, legalization often requires two steps. 

The first step goes typically goes as follows. It is usually the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Country A that checks that the document has been signed by the relevant official authority.

In the event that the document has been approved, a stamp or sticker is applied. This demonstrates to Country B that a legitimate authority in Country A issued the paper.

The second step then goes as follows. A stamp or sticker from Country B verifies the document and legalizes it. Typically, an embassy, consulate general, or honorary consul of Country B in Country A performs this. You can use the document in Country B once it has been legalized.

Pro Forma Invoice

Before an export shipment, a pro forma invoice is a crucial document used as a negotiation tool between the seller and the buyer.

The seller should use this document to quote at the start of an export transaction; later, when the products are cleared by customs in the importing nation, it will be utilized as the final commercial invoice. The document is a promise by the seller to give the customer the goods and services at the time and price stated and includes a description of the goods.

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is a legal document that identifies the items being sold and the price that the customer is expected to pay between the exporter and the buyer.

One of the primary papers used by customs to calculate customs charges is the commercial invoice. A commercial invoice is a statement from the seller to the customer for the goods.

Governments frequently utilize these records to calculate the actual value of products for determining customs charges. Governments that employ the commercial invoice to regulate imports will frequently impose restrictions on its format, content, number of copies, acceptable languages, and other elements.

Export Packing List

An export packing list is much more thorough and detailed than a typical domestic packing list. It includes a lot of information, such as the following:

  • the seller/buyer
  • the shipper
  • invoice number
  • shipment date
  • carrier
  • type of package
  • number of packages
  • total package weight/dimensions

Packing list templates are available from both commercial stationers and freight forwarders. You could use a packing list as a compliant document. It does not serve as a replacement for a business invoice.

The packing list may also be used by foreign and American customs officers to inspect the goods; thus the commercial invoice should accurately mirror the information on the packing list.

Transportation Documents

Airway bills are necessary for air freight shipments. The paperwork gives comprehensive details about the shipment and makes it possible to track it. Unlike “order” bills of lading used for ship shipments, air waybills are shipper-specific and non-negotiable papers.

A bill of lading is a legal agreement between the carrier and the owner of the goods. A straight bill of lading, which is non-negotiable, and a negotiable bill of lading, also known as a shipper’s order bill of lading, are the two most prevalent varieties for ocean shipments.

With the latter, you can trade, buy, or sell things while they’re on the road. To confirm ownership, customers often need an original bill of lading to acquire the goods from the carrier.

Export Compliance Documents

Data filed electronically via the Automated Export System (AES) is known as Electronic Export Information Filing (EEI). Shipper’s Export Declaration (SED) information is the electronic equivalent of export data previously collected. 

Census and Customs offers a free service called the Automated Export System online, where you can file your EEI electronically. Export licenses are required for shipments of any value exceeding $2,500 per Schedule B number or for any shipments of any value that require one. 

Now You Know All About Document Legalization

Document legalization is often a necessary step when exporting goods to foreign countries. When you are shipping products overseas, always make sure that you have the right documents authenticated so that the package ends up where it needs to be.

Learn more about our document authentication services so that you can make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible!

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10 Most Common Mistakes In Document Legalization

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.

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European E-Visa Postponed

VISA WAIVER POSTPONED

The European Commission recently announced that the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver is delayed until 2022. If you’re unfamiliar, the visa waiver program, once fully operational, will require all citizens from visa-exempt countries to register for an ETIAS visa waiver in order to travel to any of the Schengen Area countries, which are made up of 22 EU member states and 4 non-EU members who share a common visa policy.

Originally scheduled for 2020 and then 2021, the postponement has been deemed necessary to ensure everyone involved is able to make all the necessary adjustments before the launch date. By extending this time, it is expected that the new European system will have a smoother transition. While it is now scheduled to launch towards the end of 2022, there will still be a 6-month grace period for third-country nationals.

HOW WILL THIS CHANGE TRAVEL?

Following the 6-month grace period, ETIAS will become an obligatory entry requirement to enter the Schengen region. The ETIAS will reinforce EU border security by automatically pre-screening non-Europeans and will cross-check passenger data against several international security databases.

Once the visa waiver comes into effect, eligible applicants will be required to fill out an online form with a a few personal details and passport data. Provided nothing is flagged during the security scan, the ETIAS visa waiver will be approved within minutes and electronically linked to the applicant’s passport.

From 2023 and beyond, an approved ETIAS will be needed to enter the Schengen Area for leisure and tourism, business, transit, as well as short-term medical treatment.

 

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Schengen Visa Requirements To Change February 2020

The Schengen visa allows travelers to travel to 26 European countries, 22 of them being a part of the European Union (EU) and has steadily increased in applicants every year. It has been considered hard to obtain but with the upcoming new rules being made by the EU, the Schengen Visa Code will regulate new visa issuance and benefits.

WHY IS IT CHANGING?

In May 2018, The EU adopted a proposal for the revision of Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 in order to strengthen the common visa policy and better regulate migration and security concerns. They believed the new proposal would facilitate procedures for frequent travelers to the Schengen Area and reward countries that collaborate in readmission of illegal migrants with easier visa procedures. And this past year, the proposal was given the green light.

WHEN DOES IT START?

All Schengen Visa applicants will be subject to the new Schengen Visa Code starting the first Monday of February 2020. Several other countries including Denmark, Belgium, Finland and Germany have confirmed the same start date.

WHAT RULES ARE CHANGING?

The main changes foreseen by the new code include:

  • Higher Visa Fees
  • Extended application submission periods
  • Electronic application forms in most countries
  • Representative authorities of every Schengen Member must be present in every third-country in terms of visa admission
  • Frequent travelers with a positive visa history to benefit from visas with lengthier validity

*For more information, visit schengenvisainfo.com

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European Travel Regulations are Changing

Americans are used to being able to travel to Europe with minimal planning in advance as far as comes to gaining entry. However, all that is changing come 2021. Americans will need to register starting in 2021 to travel to the European Union. Not only will Americans need to register online but they will also have to pay a fee before they enter Europe. The fee is minimal (likely about 7 Euros). Previously, this type of process was not a requirement for Americans when traveling to the EU. This new process will be considered a pre-screening and registration process.

Currently and until 2021, Americans are able to travel for up to 90 days in the 26 European Countries (Schengen area) that allow border-free travel without any sort of visa or permit. However, that will be changing.

Starting in 2021, Americans will need to apply for a European Travel Information and Authorization (ETIAS) permit in addition to having a passport and credit or debit card. Once you have received a travel authorization to enter the European Union, you will be able to enter an unlimited amount of times for 3 years. This process is similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which the U.S. uses for countries that are part of the Visa waiver program.

The ETIAS permit will require American travelers to apply online which will include filling out basic information (name, date of birth, etc.), passport information as well information about the applicant’s health, criminal record and any previous European immigration history. The application will be checked across databases and travelers’ can likely find out within minutes if their application is approved. If it is denied, there will be a reason why.

The ETIAS process will not be nearly as in-depth as a Visa process that involves consular interview and background checks. This new process that goes in to effect in 2021 was first approved in 2016 by the European Commission. However, the European Parliament did not approve it until 2018.

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Legalizing Documents Outside the US

It’s not easy to capture all the complexities that exist with legalizing documents outside the U.S. While we admit that the legalizing documents process inside the U.S. isn’t overly simple, it is definitely more simple than keeping track of all the different rules that often depend on individual countries outside the U.S. We’ve gathered our best advice on confirming you’ve gone through the right process when it comes to legalizing your documents for international business. Follow these steps for legalizing documents outside the U.S.

Be patient. This is not a process you will be able to rush or control. It is up to the embassy on how long this takes and additional hoops they may ask you to jump through. Typically the embassy is only in charge of verifying the authenticity of the seal and signature of the government authority, however, they may actually review the content of the documents. If they go through this process, they can refuse their approval based on something within the content of the documents.

Be methodical and detail orientated. There are different requirements for documents to presented in the U.S. than other countries. For example, in some countries your document may be accepted if it certified by a solicitor or a notary. However, in other countries, they may only accept a notary or solicitor, not either. It’s incredibly important for you to know these details in advance of starting this process.

Understand the Hague Convention. While you don’t need to know this in-depth, you do need to know the apostille process for the individual country you are preparing documents for. Please check the country the document is being certified in as well as the country the document is for to understand if both are part of the Hague Convention. If they both are, the process will be different than if one is not.

Don’t underestimate the hassle of going to the foreign embassy yourself. There are many agencies out there like Washington Express Visas that can help with this process. Using a company that does this all the time vs. an individual that has never done this before will help with understanding the complexities of working with a foreign embassy. It can be a stressful and long process so get help!

Let Washington Express help you with legalizing your documents. Contact us today for a consultation!

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How To Confirm An Apostille Is Authentic

It is more necessary than ever that you will need an apostille when doing business internationally. The popularity of this type of certification has made it a breeding ground for not properly certified apostilles to be used. It’s important that you always check that you have an authentic apostille. There are lots of clues that could let you know that you should double check (for example, the documents could be in a different order than you sent them and re-stapled).

The first place you can start to make sure your apostille is authentic is the issue office or the Competent Authority. The Competent Authority is the agency that issues apostilles and therefore, has records on all apostilled issued. The agency should have all the required information regarding your documents being apostilled correctly. One important piece to note when confirming your apostille with the Competent Authority this process may tell you the apostille is verified but it does not confirm the content of the original document. Therefore, you can’t rely on this process by itself but it is part of the process of understanding if it authentic.

To contact the Competent Authority you can reach the agency by phone or online. However, some jurisdictions may require you reach them by phone so please make sure to know which process your document requires. The online electronic registries can verify its origin which can make the process less complicated than contacting them by phone.

You may be wondering, how do I find the Competent Authority? Well, in the United States this agency is often the Secretary of State of the individual state. A handful of these states have the electronic process available but the rest you will need to reach by phone or in person.

The next time you are interested in verifying your apostille, have no fear, there is a process! Washington Express Visas is more than happy to help with the process of apostille. Contact us today for a consultation!

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The Most Common Export Documents

There is lots that go in to international sales and how to prepare goods to be shipped to your foreign buyer. First, you need to secure the sale. However, companies often under-prepare when it comes to making sure your goods are ready to ship to a foreign buyer. The second thing that you must do is understand the shipment documents needed in the agreement for the benefit of the various people and organizations that are involved in moving and processing the goods. Making sure that you understand the common documents necessary for this process are a critical part of this process.

Commercial Invoice: This is one of the most critical documents because it provides crucial information. A commercial invoice is the document used to describe the entire export transaction from beginning to end including the shipping terms.

Insurance Certificate: This document shows that you have purchased an insurance policy for cargo on board. An exporter will often not perform the shipping without this.

Inspection Certificate: Inspections often take place if the goods are industrial equipment or perishable like meat and cheese products. It shows the goods were received in good condition and were not effected by the shipment.

Consular Invoice. While this is not required in every country, if you are shipping to a place that requires it make sure you have it! It certifies the shipment of goods and is available through a consular representative.

Bill of Lading. This is the common document used in international shipping and is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. It shows what is being shipped, where the goods are coming from and their final destination. This is often used as the receipt as well.

Washington Express is more than happy to help with the process of understanding and filling out the correct export documents for your foreign shipments. Contact us today for a consultation!

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Avoiding Embassy Document Rejection

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 wanted to help our readers avoid some of the pitfalls that can come up while trying to legalize your documents.

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.

There are many obstacles that can come up along the way because of all the steps and different processes it takes to do this right. Here is a step-by-step guide that can help you avoid some common mistakes:

1. Get your document back from the U.S. Department of state (after likely waiting a 1-3 week period)

2. Figure out what Embassy you need to send your document. Remember! This is not always as easy as picking the closest Embassy to you. There are particular factors that go in to deciding this so make sure to read through thoroughly.

3. Find your Secretary of State. Make sure you know whether the country the document is being legalized for has rules around which Secretary of State is used. For example, certain countries have rules around using the same Secretary of State as where the documents originated. This can often create a complicated path in getting your document legalized promptly and without an “error” letter back in return.

4. Decide whether you need to include a photo ID. Some countries (China for example) require a photo ID be submitted to put on file for any company that is hoping to legalize documents with the Consulate. This can be as simple as including a color copy of your U.S. driver license but again, something you need to check before sending your documents.

Hope you enjoyed hearing about some common mishaps that can happen along the document legalization process.

Washington Express is more than happy to help with the process of apostille or authentication. Contact us today for a consultation!