Do I need to translate Apostille?

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Do I need to translate Apostille?

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Do I need to translate Apostille?


One of the common questions we get when working with various certificates that are used overseas as vital documents, is about translating the Apostille: “Do I need to translate Apostille” – is a typical query from the customer.

The answer is: it depends.

What is Apostille?

First, let’s do a quick knowledge dump on what is apostille and what it is not: apostille is a type of a certificate, used by the countries who are members of the Hague Convention titled “Abolishing the Requirement of Consular Legalization for Foreign Public Documents of 1961”. Under this Convention, member countries agree to facilitate the exchange and verification of documents, and one such instrument is an apostille – essentially an international certification of a notarized document in any country that participates in the convention.

Do I need Apostille?

If you are translating and notarizing a document in the USA that is going overseas to the country that is part of the convention, you do need the apostille. If the destination country is not a member of the convention, you don’t need to obtain the apostille certification, because it is not going to be recognized anyway. You would have to work with the Secretary of State in the destination country to recognize your notarized document.

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How do I get it?

For California specifically, as of this writing, there are several ways to obtain apostille. First, you notarize your translated document with any California notary. We perform this service as part of our translation package. Now that your translation is certified and notarized, you can:

  1. Mail the document to the Secretary of State and include all required information (processing times are about two weeks)
  2. Visit the Secretary of State directly in Sacramento office and receive the authentication on the first-come, first-serve basis (usually takes about twenty minutes, but you have to do the drive)

Do I need to translate it?

And now the trickiest part. At this point what you have is:

  • A set of documents translated into the destination language
  • Certification of translation – in the destination language
  • Notarization page in English
  • Apostille from the Secretary of State, also in English

Technically, under the Hague convention – this should be enough. The notarization affirms the identity of the translation certification statement signer, and the Secretary of State apostille makes it internationally recognizable.

However, in practice, lots of smaller agencies in destination countries, particularly those outside of major metropolitan areas, aren’t familiar with the concept of the apostille, or do know about it, but apply the concept incorrectly. We have seen quite a few customers being rejected by the destination country authorities for having “English language text” on the document.

Too often the local law that states “no document shall be accepted having foreign language that is not translated” trumps the Hague convention and the apostille instrument. So, what do you do? You attach translation of the apostille to the document.

You may ask: but isn’t it catch-22? Now that you have attached another translation, doesn’t it need to be notarized? What happens is that officials just want to have everything on the document translated, so they don’t carry any liability for accepting the document with non-translated contents. And it already has a certification on it – both from the agency, the notary and the Secretary of State of the USA. So now, you are all set.

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Even though technically you don’t need to translate apostille, be aware of the destination country and agency it is going to – and set the expectations accordingly. To stay on the safe side, we always recommend having a single-page apostille certificate translated and loosely attached to the main translation package.

Questions? Contact us today, and our translation specialists will be happy to assist you.