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Document Legalization is a Four Step Process

11 August 2010 | News

Document Legalization is a Four Step Process

Document Legalization refers to the four-step process in which documents are certified as authentic/genuine prior to being used in countries that are not signatory to the 1961 Hague Convention (Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents). These steps are mandatory for having the document recognized as legally binding and bona fide by foreign governments, agencies and corporations.

The four steps are as follows:

  • 1st step: the document must be notarized by a notary public
    2nd step: the document must be certified by the Secretary of State that the document was notarized in
    3rd step: the document must be authenticated by the U.S. State Department Authentication Office
    4th step: the document must be legalized by the consular office of the embassy of the country that the document will be used in

Wikipedia defines Document Legalization:

In international law, legalization is the process of certifying a document so a foreign country’s legal system will recognize it. The process is used routinely in international commerce.

The procedure for legalizing a foreign document varies from country to country. The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents has supplanted this procedure with the use of an apostille for countries that are signatories to that convention.

For purposes of document legalization, countries are divided into two groups: those that are signatories to the Hague Convention and those that are not. Signatories of the Convention have agreed that Consular authentication of documents is no longer required and in most cases, execution of the documents by a Notary Public is sufficient.

Countries that have opted to not participate in the Hague Convention of 1961 typically require that documents be authenticated by the foreign affairs ministry of the originating country (eg in the United States, the Department of State, in Washington DC). Once authenticated by the foreign ministry the documents then need to be reviewed and approved by the consular staff of the country in which the transaction is to occur. Typically, this process must be completed before an international shipment of goods will be allowed entry into a non-participating country.

Paul C. Hofford
Operations Manager
Washington Express, LLC
12240 Indian Creek Court
Beltsville, MD 20705