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Apostille USA

Getting an Apostille in the USA

United States Authentication Authorities

Q. Who are the U.S. "Competent Authorities" to issue the Apostille certificate?

A. There are three levels of U.S. competent authorities, one for Federal agencies, one for U.S. (federal) courts, and one for state documents, including documents executed before notaries.

1. Federal Executive and Administrative Agencies: Authentications Office, Department of State, 518 23rd St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, (202) 647-5002 Fee: $5.00. For additional information, call the Federal Information Centre: 1-800-688-9889, and choose option 6 after you press 1 for touch tone phones. Walk-in service is available from the Authentications Office from 8 a.m. to 12 noon Monday-Friday, except holidays. Walk-in service is limited to 15 documents per person per day (documents can be multiple pages). Processing time for authentication requests sent by mail is 5 working days or less. See also, the State Department home page: http://www.state.gov. See also in general, 22 C.F.R. 131.

2. U.S. Courts: Clerks and Deputy Clerks of the Federal Court System. Fee: $5.00.

For the purposes of the Convention, clerks and deputy clerks of the U.S. Courts shall include the clerks and deputy clerks of the following: The Supreme Court of the United States, the Courts of Appeals for the First through the Eleventh Circuits and the District of Columbia Circuit, the United States District Courts, the United States Court of Claims, the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, the United States Court of International Trade, the United States District Court for the District of the Canal Zone, the District Court of Guam, the District Court of the Virgin Islands, and the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

West Virginia
Office of Secretary of State
Capitol Building
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
No. 157-K
Charleston, WV 25305-0770
Designated Authority: Secretary of State; Under Secretary of State; any Deputy Secretary of State.

Authentication of Documents for International Use
What is authentication for international use?
When a document from West Virginia needs to be filed in another country, those countries require proof that the document is a true and proper document. The Secretary of State provides a certification which the other country then relies on to accept the document. These procedures help prevent forgeries.

What documents can be certified?
Many kinds of documents must be sent to other countries.  Only documents which are attested to by a proper West Virginia officer, such as a notary public, county clerk, or the State Registrar of Vital Statistics can be certified* by the West Virginia Secretary of State.


Adoption documents
Certified copies of miscellaneous documents
Export documents
Legal documents
Miscellaneous original documents
Official personal records
Other documents
School records
    * Click Here for detailed examples of documents
     that can be certified.


Important Information Regarding FBI Background Checks!!!

FBI Background Checks that need to have an apostille or certification affixed to the document must go through the U.S. Department of State. To find out more information on how to obtain apostilles through the U.S. Department of State you may visit their website at: http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/ or through the mail at:
       U.S. Department of State
       Authentications Office
       518 23rd Street NW.
       Washington, DC 20520

Reminder: To avoid delays in getting an apostille or certification affixed to your FBI Background Check do not send it to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. You must send it the U.S. Department of State.

How do I avoid delays and returned documents?

Most delays are caused by improperly prepared documents.  You can avoid rejected requests by checking your documents carefully before sending or bringing them for certification.  Follow these tips:

Documents must be originals or certified copies -- plain copies cannot be certified.
If a certified copy can be obtained from an officer in West Virginia (such as a birth, marriage or death certificate, deed, will, or license), a notary is not authorized to certify a copy.
A certified copy from a County Clerk, Circuit Clerk or Registrar must have an original signature of the clerk or a deputy and a raised impression seal.
A notarized document must include the proper notary affidavit (acknowledgment statement), the notary's original signature, and the notary's rubber stamp seal.  A document with only the notary's signature and seal cannot be certified. Click here to view examples of notary acknowledgement statements that should accompany the notary seal and signature.
Click here for the authentication form to be used when submitting documents
What are the procedures and fees for certification?  By mail:  Mail to the Secretary of State the following:

The original document with proper official signature & seal.
Completed Authentication Service Request Form
$10 for each certification required, unless the order includes multiple documents certified by the same public official.  In that case, the first document to be certified by one official is $10, and all additional documents are $5 each (see Ordering & Payment).
The name of the country to which the document is to be sent.
Your return address.
If you need express mail services, enclose a prepaid return Express Mail packet or a FedEx, UPS or other shipping service packet with your account number.
In person:  Services are available 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

What will you receive?
The type of authentication provided depends on the country which will receive the document.

An apostille (ă pŏs tēēl') is provided when the country is a signatory to the Hague Convention.  This is a simplified certification in a standard format with the gold seal of the State of West Virginia attached.   The U. S. Department of State posts a list of Hague Convention countries.  (See a sample!)

A certificate is provided when the country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention.  It includes more detailed information about the official certificate.  The gold seal is attached.  (See a sample!)
All apostilles and certificates certifying other officers have either an original signature of the Secretary of State, or his stamped signature with an original countersignature of an authorized staff member.  The U.S. Department of State has these signatures on file.

Click here to search the online database of Apostilles and Certifcate of Authentications.

How long will it take to get certifications?
Complete requests with proper documents received by mail will generally be prepared and mailed back within 24-48 hours.

Complete requests with proper documents received by express delivery will be prepared for the next pick-up, if possible, or within 24 hours.

Walk-in customers are served as soon as possible, usually within a few minutes.

Who can answer questions about certification services?
E-mail:  execrecords@wvsos.com  

Call (304) 558-6000 between 8:30 and 5:00 Eastern Standard Time.

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