What is an Apostille?

Patricia A. Viverto, Business Services Director

An "Apostille" (pronounced a-pos-TEE and derived from the French word "postille" meaning annotation) is an authentication certificate issued under the Apostille Convention (a treaty adopted by the Hague Conference) authenticating the origin of a public document.]

In the early 1950s, persons or businesses needing to use public documents for transactions between states were unable to do so due to the "legalisation" procedure in place at the time.  Legalisation was the process of certification by a series of officials familiar with a document and who were able to verify the authenticity of that document.  That process involved a number of cumbersome, time consuming and costly steps. 

The Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 abolished the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents and replaced it with a single formality, the issuance of an authentication certificate, an "Apostille", by a "Competent Authority".  Thus, an Apostille can only be issued if both the country where the public document was issued and the country where the public document is to be used are parties to the Convention.  Visit the following website link for the listing of participating countries: 


In Arizona, the Secretary of State serves as the Competent Authority and in any given month, between 2000 and 2500 Apostilles are issued.  It is important to understand that an Apostille only authenticates the origin of the underlying public document, not its content.  Additionally, Arizona does not authenticate documents from other states or countries or federal documents.  Some documents that are routinely brought in for Apostilling are birth and death certificates, recorded documents, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees. Ultimately, Apostilling has become a valuable tool in fighting fraud and ensuring consumer document integrity.

To learn more about Apostilles, visit our website at: