The Apostille: Operating in a Global Economy
As technology, media and advances in travel have made our world smaller, opportunities for business and nonprofit organizations have expanded. With a shrinking world comes more integration than ever before. What if Jane Smith wants to participate in a business transaction with her Pennsylvania limited liability company in Great Britain? What if John Smith wants to provide charitable work in India from his American-based nonprofit? They both contact attorneys in Great Britain and India, respectively, but are soon asked for certified documents to prove that their respective entities are registered to conduct business. Jane sends over a certified copy of the Certificate of Organization, just as she would to prove her LLC’s existence in America. Similarly, John Smith sends over his certified charter documents. Both Jane’s and John’s certified documents are rejected. What went wrong?
In order to use the organizational documents of an entity overseas, the documents must first be authenticated. Much like a regular signature would not be accepted when a document calls for notarization, a document needs to be authenticated with an apostille to be used abroad. All countries, currently one hundred twelve (112), that are party to the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (“Hague Convention”) accept the apostille as an authentication method for foreign public documents. Rather than involving multiple individuals in the foreign Embassy or Consulate where the document is meant to be used, an official in the country of origin authenticates the document with an apostille.
An apostille can be used to authenticate all public documents, including certified entity organizational documents, birth, marriage and death certificates, court documents, patents, notarial acts and notarial attestations of signatures, and diplomas, so long as both the country that issued the public document and the country where it is intended to be used are party to the Hague Convention. While it might be overwhelming to expand your business overseas or to start a charity to aid others outside of the United States, understanding the apostille brings you one step closer to achieving your goals.
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