Authentication of Documents 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.

Authentication Certificates are issued for documents which are destined for use in countries that are not parties to the Hague Apostille Convention.

Apostille Certificates are issued for documents destined for use in countries that are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention.

Examples of documents that may require authentication for use abroad may include, but are not limited to, company bylaws, powers of attorney, trademarks, diplomas, treaties, warrants, extraditions, agreements, certificates of good standing, and courier letters.

Complete the Apostille and Certification Request (Form AC-1) to request an apostille or certification from this office.

Be sure to review the FAQs below to avoid delays in processing your request and to answer many of your questions regarding authentication of documents.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Answer

Many types 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 may be certified by the West Virginia Secretary of State.

Examples of Documents:


Adoption Documents

Home studies, references, doctor's statements, financial statements

Original documents signed by the person making the document and properly notarized in West Virginia.



Certified Copies of Miscellaneous Documents

If a certified copy of a document can be obtained from the office where it is filed in West Virginia, that certified copy must be used.

If a document cannot be certified by another office, a notary public can certify a true copy, providing they compare the original to the copy and keep a copy of the document they certify. The notary must use special language in preparing the acknowledgment.



Export Documents

Certification of Agricultural Products

Original documents signed by the proper official and properly notarized in West Virginia.



Miscellaneous Original Documents

Any Written Document

Original documents containing an original signature and a proper notary public acknowledgment.



Official Personal Documents

West Virginia Birth or Death Certificates

Certified copies signed by the State Registrar or Clerk of the County Commission where these records are on file and bearing the stamp of the office. Forms for requesting birth and death certificates can be accessed on-line through the State Registrar.

West Virginia Marriage Certificates

Certified copies signed by the Clerk of the County Commission of the county where the marriage was performed and bearing the stamp of the office.

Divorce Decrees

Certified copies signed by the Clerk of the Circuit Court which issued the decree and bearing the stamp of the office.



School Records

Original Transcripts, Attendance Records and Other School Records

Signed by the appropriate school official and properly notarized in West Virginia.

Certified Diplomas

With an original signature by the appropriate school official and properly notarized in West Virginia.


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. DO NOT SEND it to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office as this will only delay your apostille or certification request. To learn more information on how to obtain apostilles visit the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office website or send your request by mail to:

US Department of State
Authentications Office
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (302) 485-8000
Answer

By mail: Mail to the Secretary of State the following:

  • The original document with proper official signature & seal.

  • Completed Apostille and Certification Request (Form AC-1).

  • Fees: $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.

  • 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 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

Answer

Improperly prepared documents are the number one cause of most delays. You can avoid rejected requests by checking your documents carefully before sending or bringing them to our office 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 acknowledgment statements that should accompany the notary seal and signature.

Answer

The type of authentication provided depends on the country receiving 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.

  • 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.

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.

Answer

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, depending on the number of documents to be authenticated. 

 

If we may be of any further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us:  304.558.8000   toll free 866.767.8683  email:   Business@wvsos.gov