China Abolishes Requirement of Document Legalization

On March 8, 2023, China acceded to the 1961 Hague Convention, abolishing the requirement of Document Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. 

What does this mean? Beginning November 7, 2023, any documents destined for use in China will no longer require consular legalization. An apostille from the appropriate Secretary of State or the U.S. Department of State should be accepted. 

But please note, the completion of the U.S. apostille does not guarantee the acceptance of the public document by the relevant user in China. It is recommended to check in advance with the relevant party in China about specific requirements for format, content, time limit, translation, etc. before going through the relevant procedures. 

If you have any questions, please contact us at


DOS Visa Fee Increases

The Department of State (DOS) recently implemented its fee increase for nonimmigrant visa (NIV) and border crossing card applications. This change took effect on June 17, 2023. NIV fees are set based on the actual cost of providing NIV services and are determined after conducting a study of the cost of these services.

The fee changes implemented are as follows:

  • Non-petition based NIVs ((B, C, D, F, I, J, M, TN/TD, S, T, U) will be raised from $160 to $185.
  • H, L, O, P, Q, and R category NIVs will be raised from $190 to $205.
  • E category NIVs will be raised from $205 to $315.
  • Border Crossing Cards for Mexican citizens aged 15 and over will be raised from $160 to $185.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

*As a reminder, Washington Express Visas can only assist US Citizens with obtaining a visa for travel abroad.


10 Tips For Easier Passport & Visa Processing

1. Sign Your Passport. Make sure your passport is signed! Your passport is not considered valid until it is signed. Check the identification, picture page of your passport. 

2. Ensure extra pages in passport. When applying for a visa, make sure you have visa pages available – the Amendments and Endorsements pages at the end of your passport can not be used for visas. 

3. Photos. Make sure the pictures are standard size pictures and meet standard photo ID requirements. Many passport and visa applications are rejected because they don’t meet the Passport Office requirements. We recommend using a local photo shop or chain pharmacy that specializes in passport photo services. 

4. Extra photos. Include an extra copy of your passport photo in case your original photo is lost or mishandled. This is unfortunately a common issue. 

5. Print Online Visa Applications. If you are submitting an online visa application required by some countries (Brazil or India for example), make sure you print a copy for your records and note your application number on your copy and the copy to be submitted to the Embassy (if applicable). 

6. Receipt of payment. If you are required to submit payment to the embassy via an online consular service, keep a copy of the receipt for your records. 

7. Fill out the application completely. Consular officers review applications thoroughly and will reject an application if it is incomplete or if they feel the application isn’t accurate or was rushed. 

8. Allow enough processing time. Each embassy has a “normal” processing time which varies by country and should be carefully considered in the timing of your application. Some embassies process within days while others can take weeks. Some people are frustrated and surprised when they find out they cannot easily influence or rush a country’s visa application process and timeline. 

9. Include contact information with passport. Make sure to include all relevant contact information both locally and abroad and attach it to your passport. Passports get lost during travel and this will make the process of retrieving your passport much more efficient. 

10. Electronic copy of passport. Copy and scan your passport ID page and keep an electronic copy for your records. 


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


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!


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 or call (202) 393-3030.


European E-Visa 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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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!