Authentications: 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 only authenticates signatures on documents issued in the State of California signed by a notary public or the following public officials and their deputies:
- County Clerks or Recorders
- Court Administrators of the Superior Court
- Executive Clerks of the Superior Court
- Officers whose authority is not limited to any particular county
- Executive Officers of the Superior Court
- Judges of the Superior Court
- State Officials
- Some examples of documents submitted for signature authentication are:
- Birth Certificates
- 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
- Documents submitted to the Secretary of State for signature authentication must have a current certification date by the appropriate public official or their deputy or must be notarized by a California Notary Public.
Customers requiring authentication of any school records (e.g., transcript or diploma) 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 State's regional office, located in Los Angeles, only authenticates public official signatures. Notary public signatures must be certified by the county clerk/recorder (on the notary public stamp) before submitting the document to the regional office for authentication. The regional office only processes documents dropped off in person.
- 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 self-addressed envelope.
- Documents can be dropped off in person to the Sacramento office or to the Los Angeles regional office for processing between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) or can be mailed to the Sacramento office. Note: The Los Angeles regional office only processes documents dropped off in person. Please refer to Contact Information for office locations and mailing address.
- When dropping off documents in person to any of our offices for processing, no appointment is necessary. Customers are served on a "first come first serve" basis.
- 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:
Checks or money orders should be made payable to the Secretary of State.
- by mail to Sacramento can be made by check or money order;
- dropped off in person in Sacramento can be made by check, money order, cash, or credit card (Visa or MasterCard); or
- dropped off in person in Los Angeles can be made by check, money order, or credit card (Visa or MasterCard). The Los Angeles regional office is not able to accept cash.
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 state's public official at the state level, will need to be transmitted to the Office of Authentications of the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. for the authentication of the State Official's signature if requested by the receiving country.