Authentication of Documents for International Use
What is authentication for international use?
When a document from West Virginia needs to be filed in another country, those countries require proof that the document is a true and proper document. The Secretary of State provides a certification which the other country then relies on to accept the document. These procedures help prevent forgeries.
What documents can be certified?
Many kinds of documents must be sent to other countries. Only documents which are attested to by a proper West Virginia officer, such as a notary public, county clerk, or the State Registrar of Vital Statistics can be certified* by the West Virginia Secretary of State.
Important Information Regarding FBI Background Checks!!!
FBI Background Checks that need to have an apostille or certification affixed to the document must go through the U.S. Department of State. To find out more information on how to obtain apostilles through the U.S. Department of State you may visit their website at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/internl-judicial-asst/authentications-and-apostilles/office-of-authentications.html
or through the mail at:
U.S. Department of State
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20431
To avoid delays in getting an apostille or certification affixed to your FBI Background Check do not
send it to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. You must send it the U.S. Department of State.
How do I avoid delays and returned documents?
Most delays are caused by improperly prepared documents. You can avoid rejected requests by checking your documents carefully before sending or bringing them for certification. Follow these tips:
- Documents must be originals or certified copies -- plain copies cannot be certified.
- If a certified copy can be obtained from an officer in West Virginia (such as a birth, marriage or death certificate, deed, will, or license), a notary is not authorized to certify a copy.
- A certified copy from a County Clerk, Circuit Clerk or Registrar must have an original signature of the clerk or a deputy and a raised impression seal.
- A notarized document must include the proper notary affidavit (acknowledgment statement), the notary's original signature, and the notary's rubber stamp seal. A document with only the notary's signature and seal cannot be certified. View examples of notary acknowledgement statements that should accompany the notary seal and signature.
What are the procedures and fees for certification?
By mail: Mail to the Secretary of State the following:
- The original document with proper official signature & seal.
- Completed Apostille and Certification Request form (form AC-1).
- $10 for each certification required, unless the order includes multiple documents certified by the same public official. In that case, the first document to be certified by one official is $10, and all additional documents are $5 each (see Ordering & Payment).
- The name of the country to which the document is to be sent.
- Your return address.
- If you need express mail services, enclose a prepaid return Express Mail packet or a FedEx, UPS or other shipping service packet with your account number.
In person: Services are available 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
What will you receive?
The type of authentication provided depends on the country which will receive the document.
An apostille (ă pŏs tēēl') is provided when the country is a signatory to the Hague Convention. This is a simplified certification in a standard format with the West Virginia State seal stamped in RED ink. The U. S. Department of State posts a list of Hague Convention countries. (See a sample!)
A certificate is provided when the country is not a signatory to the Hague Convention. It includes more detailed information about the official certificate as well as the West Virginia State seal stamped in RED ink. (See a sample!)
All apostilles and certificates certifying other officers have either an original signature of the Secretary of State, or his/her stamped signature with an original countersignature of an authorized staff member. The U.S. Department of State has these signatures on file.
Search the online database of Apostilles and Certifcate of Authentications.
How long will it take to get certifications?
We make every attempt to process filings within 48 business hours. However, please be aware the actual time required to process filings may be extended due to various factors.
Walk-in customers are served as soon as possible, usually within a matter of minutes.
Who can answer questions about certification services?
Call (304) 558-6000 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.