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!


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!


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!


Why You Should Hire Professionals to Legalize Your Documents

We know you’ve heard it before, but we promise once you try to get your documents legalized yourself, you will know why we tell our clients to outsource the document legalization process! The process is incredibly complicated and confusing for someone who only has one set of documents to legalize. There will likely always be an obstacle that comes up along the way that will have you thinking to yourself “I should have had this outsourced.” And unfortunately, at that point, you’ve already wasted time trying to do it for yourself!

Let’s start at the beginning. 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. From that list alone, you can see where all the hiccups can come up along the way.

There are a few simple reasons as to why we recommend having this process outsourced.

  • It’s a waste of your time. It can take hours to figure out the right process for document legalization based on what country you are working with. The worst part is not every country has the same process so if you are doing this for multiple countries…multiply those hours! It will always be better time spent for team members to spend time on the core responsibilities of their job vs. the difficult one-off process of document legalization.
  • It takes longer. This is often the BIGGEST reason companies and people outsource this process. For outsiders where this isn’t their full time job, the process can often take 2-3 weeks at least. When working with the right service providers, the process can be cut down significantly! On average it will only take up to 4 business days for an outsourced service to get the same documents legalized.
  • Better tracking abilities. One of the biggest complaints we hear when companies and people try to do this themselves is they have no idea how to track what the status is of their documents being legalized. Good news about using an outsourced service is that the service provider is going through those doors daily and can easily be the boots-on-the-ground to know what’s going on with your documents.
  • Process is always changing. One of the benefits about using an outsourced provider is they can stay-up-to-date on the ever-evolving process of document legalization. This process can change frequently and without warning. You don’t want to have to monitor this on your own.

We hope this helps you think through whether it makes sense to outsource this process before you go down the lengthy and twisty road of trying to do it yourself!

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


Four Tips for Successful Document Processing

We thought we’d spend time in our blog this week discussing all the advice and tips we’ve put together based on our experiences with Apostilles and Document Legalization. We recommend following our easy 4 steps below to ensure a successful process for your documents.

  • Figure out if you need an apostille. The tricky thing about this is not all documents need an Apostille but if you request an Apostille, they will give you one regardless of if you actually need one for your specific situation. All of this depends on what country the documents are for. Check out our blog on this topic to learn more.
  • Avoid last minute requests. We often have customers that reach out to us in a real time crunch when it comes to legalizing their documents or getting an Apostille. Unfortunately, this can make the process MUCH more stressful because processing the documents from the secretary of state or state department is not always quick. We recommend using a professional service like Washington Express Visas if you find yourself in a bind like this.
  • Understand Country Status & Research Requirements. The majority of this goes back to our #1 piece of advice about understanding whether you need an Apostille or not. This all comes back to whether the country you need the documents for a part of the Hague Convention of 1961. Given that not all countries are part of the Hague Convention Agreement, not all countries have the same process and requirements for their documents. Apostille countries will go by the same requirements but countries not part of the Hague Convention Agreement will have different guidelines that are different for each of those countries.
  • Identify Fee and Payment Options. All of these will depend on the above because the forms and fees are based on what type of document you are getting legalized or apostilled. We recommend making sure you’ve identified the correct fee based on the destination country and document type. Keep in mind that you will may need a money order or cashier’s check for certain embassies. Important to look in to this for your document(s)! Unfortunately, some of the process such as requirements and fees can change based on the embassies so important that you stay up to date.

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


Do You Need An Apostille?

Do you need an apostille? This can be a very tricky question! It is not always straightforward and based on different requirements in different countries, whether or not you need an apostille will vary. One important thing to remember is even if you do not need an apostille based on your documents, if you request one from the regulatory agency, they will give you one! They do not check whether it’s required based on your request that’s why it’s important to understand the guidelines as well as engage a service like Washington Express Visas to make sure you have everything you need and are not wasting time, money or energy. 

 It is important to understand the definition of apostille and the 1961 Hague Convention to know whether or not you need an apostille for your document. An apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document. And all countries that signed on to the 1961 Hague Convention agreed to accept an “apostilled” document from other countries part of the Hague Convention. Therefore, if you need to use a non-federal document in a Hague Country, you are able to use the apostille certification process. 

 As part of the apostille  process you will need to work with your state’s Secretary of State if they are non-federal documents and if they are federal documents you will work with the U.S. Department of State. This process can be made easy by Washington Express Visas. Contact us directly for more information!

 So now back to our original question…do you need an apostille? Well the answer to that goes back to the Hague Convention of 1961. If you are sending documents to a country part of the Hague Convention, then the answer is yes! You will need to apostille your document. However, if you are sending documents to a country that is NOT part of the Hague Convention…then you do NOT need an apostille. Instead you need to authenticate your document(s). The process of authentication looks very similar to apostille but is not actually the same. For authenticated documents for countries not part of the Hague Convention, you must first send your document to the Secretary of State before it gets authenticated by the U.S. State Department. Again, keep in mind that if you are not aware of the difference in this process and you send your documents to the Secretary of State and ask for an apostille, they will give that to you! Regardless of if your documents are for a country not part of the Hague Convention of 1961. 

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


Common Documents For Legalization

There are many different types of documents out there that have parameters around certifications and apostilles. It is important you do your research to understand what type of documentation you will need and what the apostille process looks like based on the documents you needs.

Marriage Certificates: These documents will need to be apostilled to be accepted overseas. Washington Express Visas can help you with that service. We are able to support you in apostille service for marriage certificates in all 50 states of the United States. It is important that you have a certified copy from the state you were married in before trying to get this apostilled. There are many reasons why someone may need to have their marriage certificate apostilled, including applying for dual citizenship, divorce or death of a spouse, or requirements of a new employer.

International Student Documents: It is important that international students have all their documents organized and apostilled when planning to go to a school internationally. We recognize there is a lot going on when students are making this transition to a new country for school, however, the paperwork cannot be overlooked. When going through the admission process as well as the graduation process, international students need to get documents such as transcripts and diplomas certified through the apostille process. This is important to make sure these documents are recognized in the country they are returning to or moving to. The great news is that getting these documents apostilled will ensure they are recognized internationally. Washington Express Visas can help with this process that is often difficult for students who don’t speak the language of the country they are applying to. It is also important to remember that different countries have different processes for this.

Corporate Documents for doing Business Abroad: While this process may seem simple for companies, it is actually incredibly complicated. Companies that are doing business in other countries will often need to get many documents apostilled to authenticate the documents they are using. This will ensure their documents are accepted overseas. It is important for companies to do their research or partner with a service like Washington Express Visas to know which documents need to be apostilled. These types of documents are often items like powers of attorney, contracts, letters of incorporation, etc. It is also important companies are checking with which country they are doing business in to ensure they know that process for that particular country as it can vary country by country.

Washington Express Visas is here for all your apostille service needs. We would love to help you through this process! Reach out to us today at 202-393-3030.



Does An Apostille Expire?

We often receive questions about whether apostilles expire after a certain amount of time. We thought it would be beneficial to first explain what an apostille means before defining expiration requirements. Apostille means to certify or authenticate a document. It aims to simplify the legalization of documents to verify their authenticity in order to be valid internationally.

If you have questions around what type of apostille you need, please check out our blog.

The short answer to the question “does an apostille expire?” is no. An apostille does not have an expiration date. However, there are some additional details you must know about this question. Please keep in mind, in order to follow these guidelines, the countries you are using your apostille for must be part of the Hague Apostille Convention. The countries part of the Hague Apostille Convention may request your documents be recently issued with an apostille. For example, they may request it was issued in the past 30 to 90 days which is why you need more detail even though technically an apostille does not expire.

Our best advice is to make sure you are always checking with the country that is requesting these documents and their apostille process. It is important you know exactly how recent that country requires the apostille to have been issued. Make sure to do this before you mail your documents in to be processed. We often hear that background checks have the most restrictions when it comes to how recent the apostille service has been completed.

Also, please keep in mind that some states also have restrictions around this in addition to countries having guidelines around this. It is important that you recognize all these limitations when thinking through the apostille service.

Washington Express Visas is here for all your apostille service needs. We would love to help you through this process! Reach out to us today at 202-393-3030.


Office of Authentications

Washington Express Visas provides prompt and reliable document legalization, authentication and certification services.  We will have one of our specially trained document legalization agents hand-carry your legal documents to the DC Notary & Authentication office (if required), the State Department Authentication office and then to the appropriate Embassy.

One of the big questions we receive is “do my documents need to go through the Office of Authentication?” The great news about Washington Express Visas will take all of this off your plate and process these documents for you. Typically the processing time for the Office of Authentication takes 4 business days plus FedEx overnight return shipping at no additional cost.

The fastest way to process your documents through the Office of Authentications – US Department of State is to contact Washington Express Visas.  The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Authentications issues both apostilles and authentication certificates. If you need U.S. Department of State documents to be authenticated, please refer to the Office of Vital Records.

In accordance with 22 CFR, Part 131, the Office of Authentications provides signed certificates of authenticity for a variety of documents to individuals, institutions, and government agencies. Examples of documents that may require authentication for use abroad include:

–          Powers of attorney

–          Diplomas

–          Treaties

–          Warrants

Washington Express Visas will have your documents processed accurately, quickly, and for a price far less than other visa or document services. We also offer same day pick-up and delivery to and from your DC office.  The document legalization process can be confusing and frustrating and we’re here to make that process easier and faster as well. Washington Express Visas will save you time and provide peace of mind by staying in contact with you to let you know the status of any item you have in process with us and will notify you of any issues or delays.

Washington Express Visas offers same day pick-up and expedited service for your document legalization and authentication needs.  We ensure that your documents are processed properly and efficiently, and for an affordable price.  Click here to see our rate schedule for prices.  The Document Legalization process can be confusing and frustrating, so we’re here to make that process easier and faster, to help relieve that burden.   Washington Express Visas can save you time and provide peace of mind by staying in constant contact and letting you know immediately of any problems or delays.

Need a document authenticated for one of these common countries? See our country specific pages for the procedures to follow for these Embassies. 


How To Know Which Type of Apostille You Need

It can be difficult to navigate which type of Apostille is the right one to use. For those who do not know what or why an Apostille would be used…an Apostille is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries that participated in The Hague Convention Treaty of 1961. The Apostille seals and signatures on public documents makes sure they can be recognized in other foreign countries that are also members of the Treaty.

For Non-Federal documents, each individual secretary of state for each respective state has the responsibility of issuing the correct seal. For Federal documents, those Apostille seals need to be issued from the Department of State. It can be complex to figure out whether you need the Apostille seal from the Department of State or if it needs to come from the offices of the secretary of state from an individual state.

Washington Express Visas can be helpful in navigating this process and figuring out the type of Apostille you will need dependent upon your need. The types of documents that require an Apostille from the US Department of State are:

  • Naturalization Certificates
  • FBI Background Checks
  • INS Documents
  • IRS Documents
  • Certificates to Foreign Government

Our services at Washington Express Visas are incredibly valuable as it relates to this process because getting an Apostille from the US Department of State can take lots of time and money. The processing can take up to 3 business days and that is if you are able to be there in person. If you need to travel in, you will need to be able to stay in the area for when your documents are ready for pick up. Expedited process can happen for emergency situations but often require an appointment to be made in advance. The best way to understand processing timeframes is to check with the Office of Authentications in advance. Mailing them in can be even more complicated and lengthen the processing time significantly. There is also not a good system to know exactly where to mail them which is why we would recommend taking advantage of our services. Our professionals will make sure to submit your request in person to the correct office which will expedite your Apostille services.