Cities and Towns in the United States > Procedures > Authenticating Documents in the US


Traveling abroad is always a tasking activity considering you must provide all necessary documents to be given entry into a foreign country or allowed to do particular activities. For this reason, you must provide authenticated documents to ascertain that you have powers from above to participate in activities taking you to this new country.

If you’re traveling out for one reason or another, here is how to apostille a document in the USA.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Document Authentication

What is Document Authentication, and Why is it Essential?

Document authentication is a process by which a document or signature’s genuineness is verified. Individuals, institutions, and government organizations can obtain authenticated certificates from the Office of Authentications to utilize a range of papers abroad. It typically takes the form of a sealed or stamped certificate that attests to the legitimacy of a signatory or of a public official (such as a judge or a notary public).

Authorization documents are provided for procedures conducted in countries non-members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

The same office provides apostille services. And while both papers serve the same purpose, the difference is in the apostille meaning. Birth certificates, court orders, and documents produced by federal agencies or verified by U.S. or foreign consuls can authenticate their official seals and signatures by an apostille.

An apostilled document is only recognized in countries under the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty. These documents can be used for specific procedures such as:

  • • Court cases

  • • Police searches

  • • Agreements

  • • Extraditions.

You will be allowed to procure the intended procedures with an authorized or apostilled document.

Who Can Apply for Document Authentication?

Authenticating documents is not reserved for particular people, meaning anyone can apply for this procedure. However, only one office is responsible for passport certification and more in America. Persons or institutions interested in getting this certification must visit the Office of Authentications website for help.

Requirements And Documentation Needed

Birth certificate authentication and apostille services for other documents require applicants to fulfill certain requirements before their requests are completed. You will need to provide the following:

  • • A notarized and certified document (Notarization must be done in the presence of a notary public)

  • • Duly filled and signed form DS-4194

  • • Application fees

  • • Original or certified documents with a stamped seal.

Note that documents in foreign languages must be translated into English and certified to be the true translation by the secretary of state.

How To Authenticate a Document

The Office of Authentications is currently closed for in-person authentications. Consequently, all requests must be sent via mail to the US Department of the State Office of Authentication, whether you’re in the US or abroad. Here is what you must do to complete this process:

  1. 1. Download form DS-4194 from the internet and fill out the required information, then mail it to the office of authentication to request the document you want authenticating.

  2. 2. Once you receive your copy, notarize it before a notary public.

  3. 3. Have it certified by a court clerk, if necessary.

  4. 4. You must then take it to the secretary of state for certification and obtain a US department of state authentication.

  5. 5. As the final step, get the consulate authentication of a foreign government. Ascertain that the secretary of state certification date appears to have been done after the clerk of court certification.

Types of Documents that Can Be Certified

You can certify almost any document in the US. However, these must be true certified copies (done by a notary public) or original documents (certified by a secretary of state). Some of the documents that you can certify include the following:

For more information regarding the documents, you can certify, visit the office of authentication website.

Cost, Validity, And Processing Time

You can apply for document authentication all year round, but you should note that it will take up to 12 weeks to complete your request. You must pay a $20 application fee to facilitate this process and cater for the mailing costs when applying. If you want to check the application’s progress, you may have to contact the office of authentications via the status form provided on their website. Authenticated documents are valid for a lifetime or until you are required to provide a new proof.

Round Up

The federal and state governments offer authentication or apostille services for authenticating documents to be used in certain procedures outside the country. However, you should note that the process can be lengthy, so if you have procedures that require an authenticated birth certificate or other documents in and out of the US, start your application process at least 11 weeks earlier to avoid inconveniences.