Document Apostille (Certification)

Last Update 13 July 2011

What is an apostille (pronounced ah-poh-steel)?

The Hague Convention of 1954 established an international system for verifying the authenticity of official documents that might travel from one country to another.  This guarantee of authenticity is called an apostille - a French word meaning "certification."  It is a governmental act by which a designated public official certifies to the genuineness of the signature, seal and the position of the official who has executed, issued, or notarized a document.  

For many years the apostille was largely ignored, but with the rise of international terrorism, and especially since 9/11, many countries, including Mexico, are now requiring official documents to have an apostille.

Typically after a document has been notarized, it is sent to a state office where the signature and seal of the notary are verified, and the apostille is issued.  The apostille may be attached as an annex to the document or placed on the document itself by means of a stamp.

Some states have a requirement for an "exemplification" to be applied to the document before it is sent for the apostille.  This will be done by the notary.

Some states have requirements that the document be recently issued.  This means that your perfectly valid certificate may have to be reissued to meet the timeliness requirement.  Yes, it's crazy, but this is just one more fallout from 9/11.

A friend offered this hypothetical scenario:

If you were born in Alabama, married in New Jersey, divorced in California, and your ex-mate subsequently died in Alaska, you will have to apply to the Secretary of State's offices of Alabama (birth certificate), New Jersey (marriage license), California (divorce decree), and Alaska (death certificate) for apostilles of each of the documents recording your history.

It's not hard and it's not expensive, it's just time consuming.

What documents need or don't need an apostille?

You and your children need to have an apostille for birth certificates for use in Mexico -- such as visa applications and  applying for IMSS health insurance. Just about any other document will need an apostille -- certificates of marriage, death, divorce, adoption; diplomas, college grade transcripts, professional licenses, etc.

You don't need an apostille for your passport or for your driver's license.  You don't need one for the letter of permission to bring into Mexico a car owned by someone else. 

Where to get an apostille

When you need to have an apostille for a document,  ask at your county clerk's office; they will know the procedure for your state.  And your notary may be able to direct you.


In Canada the procedure is different.  Canada is not a signatory of the Hague Convention; thus it does not issue apostilles.  You will need to take your Canadian documents to a Mexican consulate in Canada where they will issue the necessary papers for you.

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