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Apostille or Certification

The California Secretary of State provides authentication of public official signatures on documents to be used outside the United States of America. The country of destination determines whether the authentication is an Apostille or Certification. Apostilles and certifications only certify to the authenticity of the signature of the official who signed the document, the capacity in which that official acted, and when appropriate, the identity of the seal or stamp which the document bears. The apostille or certification does not validate the contents of the document. The California Secretary of State can only authenticate signatures on documents issued in the State of California signed by the following public officials and their deputies:
County Clerks or Recorders Court Administrators Executive Clerks Officers whose authority is not limited to any particular county Executive Officers Judges of the Superior Court Notaries Public State Officials

Some examples of documents submitted for signature authentication are:


Birth Certificates Bylaws Certificates of Non-Marital Status Corporate documents such as articles, mergers, amendments, etc. Deeds of Assignment Distributorship Agreements Marriage Licenses Papers for adoption purposes Powers of Attorney School records such as diplomas, transcripts, letters relating to degrees, etc. References and Job Certification Trademarks

Documents submitted to the Secretary of State for signature authentication must be currently certified by the appropriate public official or must be notarized by a California Notary Public. Customers requiring authentication of any school records (e.g., college transcripts) must obtain a notarized copy of the record from the high school, university, etc., before submitting the documents for authentication. Any document executed by County Health Officers and County Local Registrars can be authenticated only if the document is first certified by the county clerk/recorder. Note: The Secretary of States four regional offices (Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco) can only authenticate a California notary publics signature if the county clerk/recorder (on the notary publics stamp) first authenticates the signature. The customer must take the document with the notarized signature to the county clerk/recorder for certification and then submit the certified document to one of the four regional offices for authentication. Having a document certified at the county level is only required for authentication at our regional offices. The Secretary of State's Sacramento office can authenticate a California notary public signature on a document without the notary public's signature being certified at the county level.

To avoid delays that may result from out-of-date documents, a document certified by a county official (e.g. county clerk) should have a certification date within the last five years or a new certified copy should be obtained from the appropriate county official. The customer must identify the country of destination when the documents are submitted to the Secretary of State. If documents are submitted by mail to the Sacramento office, a letter identifying the country of destination must accompany the documents. To facilitate the processing of documents submitted by mail, please include a selfaddressed envelope. Documents can be hand delivered to any office location for over-the-counter processing between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) or mailed to the Sacramento office. Regional offices do not process mailed in documents. Office locations are as follows:

Sacramento Office
Street Address: Notary Public Section 1500 11th Street, 2nd Floor Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 653-3595 Mailing Address: Notary Public Section Post Office Box 942877 Sacramento, CA 94277-0001

Regional Offices
Fresno: 1315 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 203 Fresno, CA 93721 (559) 445-6900 San Diego: 1350 Front Street, Suite 2060 San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 525-4113 Los Angeles: 300 South Spring Street, Room 12513 Los Angeles, CA 90013 (213) 897-3062 San Francisco: 455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14500 San Francisco, CA 94102-7007 (415) 557-8000

When submitting documents to any of our offices for over-the-counter processing, no appointment is necessary. Customers are served on a first come first serve basis. Documents submitted for over-the-counter processing are normally processed within an hour. The average processing time for documents submitted by mail is approximately two weeks. There is a $20.00 processing fee (per signature authenticated) and a $6.00 special handling fee (per public official for documents submitted over the counter). Payments for documents submitted: - by mail to Sacramento can be made by check or money order. - over-the-counter in Sacramento can be made by check, money order, cash, or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). - over-the-counter in any of the four regional offices can be made by check, money order, or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). Regional offices are not able to accept cash.

Checks or money orders should be made payable to the Secretary of State.

General Information In 1961 many nations joined together to create a simplified method of "legalizing" documents for universal recognition in each other's countries. Members of the conference, referred to as the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents (33 U.S.T 883), adopted a document referred to as an Apostille that would be recognized by all member nations. Documents sent to member nations, completed with an Apostille at the state level, may be submitted directly to the member nation without further action. Documents sent to non-member nations requiring a Certification of the signature of the states public official at the state level, then must be transmitted to the Authentication Office of the Department of State in Washington, D.C. for the Authentication of the State Officials signature.