Legalization & Apostille

Support members with cross-border document legalization

Legalization & Apostille for Chamber members

What is the legalization of documents?

In a globalized world, the movement of commercial and legal documents across international borders has become common in international business. From Certificates of Origin, corporate contracts, agency agreements, health certificates, Certificates of Free Sale, government documents, and many more, the requirement for legalization is often essential for their legal acceptance in a foreign country. Documents are legalized so that they are recognized by the legal system of another country.

The legalization process takes two basic forms. 1) Embassy Legalization, a multi-step process culminating in authentication by an Embassy or Consulate in the United States, and 2) Apostille, a much more simplified process (basically, Authentication by the U.S. or local state Department of State). Apostilles are governed by an international treaty – The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of [Embassy] Legalization of Foreign Public Documents (sometimes called the Hague Apostille Convention) – of which the United States has been a signatory since 1980. There are over 125 countries that have ratified the Hague Apostille Convention (out of the 193 member countries of the United Nations). While the Apostille process is generally fairly straightforward, those countries that have not ratified the Hague Apostille Convention require legalization by the more complicated Embassy Legalization process.

General types of documents that may require Legalization for business purposes

There are several categories of documents that may require legalization. Please note that the AWTCC specializes in only business-related Commercial, Corporate, and Government-Issued documents.

1. Commercial documents: these are documents used to support the movement of goods and clearance through Customs across national borders. The most common of these are Certificates of Origin and Commercial Invoices.

2. Corporate Documents: this refers to documents issued by a company entity, including corporations, LLCs, partnerships, and registered trade names. While this could include a virtually unlimited number of documents, the most common would include Agent or Distributor Authorizations, Analysis Certificates, Certificates of Conformity, Certificates of Free Sale, GMP Certificates, Health, Veterinary or Phytosanitary Certificates (privately issued), Ingredient Lists, Manufacturers Authorizations, and many others.

3. Government-Issued Business-Related Documents: these are any documents issued directly by a government entity at a local, state, or Federal level. Documents would include FDA Certificates, Patent and Trademark Registrations, Health, Veterinary or Phytosanitary Certificates (government entity issued), EPA documents, and many others.

4. Civil and Personal Documents: this refers to documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, university transcripts, licensing documents, and many others that are related to a person (rather than a business). Because we are laser-focused on international business, the AWTCC does not process Civil and Personal documents for legalization, but our service partner CIBT can assist with these.

When is Legalization required?

The requirement for Legalized documents varies greatly by country, by product, and by purpose. However, the AWTCC can provide the required assistance to your shippers and can help them understand whether Embassy Legalization is required or an Apostille is required, and at which level of government an Apostille must be issued.

A new service for your members

Local Chambers rarely have the scope to provide Legalization services, especially since the most effective provision of this service involves highly skilled Legalization experts, as well as locations in Washington, DC and New York, where Embassies and Consulates are found. By joining our Online Certificate of Origin affinity program, your members automatically gain access to AWTCC legalization services. Our Legalization team understands Embassy and Consulate requirements and the intricacies of the Hague Apostille Convention, providing your members involved in international trade a valuable resource.

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