USA – When do I need to stamp with an Apostille?

Using an Apostille in the United States

More often than not, clients who have their documents notarised by us send their documents back to the US without doing anything further. However, on occasions some clients need to have their already notarised documents stamped with an apostille. So how do you know when you need an apostille and when you do not?

What is notarisation?

The act of notarisation is common place in the US. Notarisation or the role of a notary public in the US is similar to what a Justice of the Peace or Commissioner of Oaths is and what they would do in Australia. The act of notarising documents in Australia for use in the US generally means administering oaths or declarations, witnessing signatures or certifying copies of documents (amongst other things).

The US Consulate services lists our notary public on their website for notarising US documents – and sometimes that recognition has been sufficient in the US, however if you are signing documents for property transactions or dealing with the Internal Revenue Service or apparently any other federal government agency, you may need to have your notarised document stamped with an apostille.

What is an apostille?

Effectively, an apostille is a stamp from the Australian Government confirming that the document has been properly notarised. Countries that are member states to the Apostille Convention will recognise an apostille stamp issued by other member countries. In this context both Australia and the US are member countries of the Apostille Convention which means an apostille issued in Australia will be recognised in the US (and the reverse would apply as well).

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is responsible for issuing the apostille, which means if you have been asked to have your document stamped with an apostille it will also need to be submitted to DFAT for approval once it has bee notarised.

How do you get an apostille?

After we have notarised your document for you, and we can also arrange for your document to be stamped with an apostille from DFAT. DFAT have fixed processing times however if you need our assistance then we ask you to allow about 5 business days for notarised documents stamped with an apostille to be available for collection.

Not sure? Ask!

If in doubt, ask whoever you are sending your documents to. If they do not know, ask them to ask whoever they need to ask as well. Most government offices should be able to advise you whether they require an apostille or not – even if this is the first time you are going through this process, be sure those government offices have had to deal with this kind of situation (ie, their documents signed outside of the US) on many occasions before. It sounds simple, but not everyone will ask.

Unfortunately, we have had a number of cases when clients did not know they needed to have their documents stamped with an apostille, and no one was able to tell them until their document was later rejected because it lacked an apostille. In those cases, it was cheaper to have a new set of documents notarised and submitted to DFAT for the apostille than to have the rejected documents returned to Australia. While it can be fixed at a cost, the delay is irreversible. So the advice is to save your time and money and find out whether you need an apostille or not.

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Do you have any questions regarding this article?

Whether you're notarising a document for the first time or the hundreth time, the requirements, processes, and terms can be confusing and daunting - or just a pain and a hassle (especially if you need an apostille, or to authenticate or legalise as well). Don't worry! We're here to simplify it, explain it, and help you with what you need to achieve it.

Contact us or visit our Frequently Asked Questions for more information about our notary public services. We've also created a flowchart to help explain notarisation, apostille, authentication and legalisation.

So, what's next?

Visit our Notary Fees page for a free quote for our notary public services or just call us on +61 2 9687 8885 to speak with our friendly team about your requirements.

Why choose Phang Legal for your notary public services?

We're a leading provider of notary public services in Sydney known for our experience and expertise in notarising documents for other countries, our low-cost fixed fees and service offering, and our availability to help on short notice. With our offices conveniently located in Parramatta, the geographic centre of the Sydney metropolitan area, we help clients from across Sydney and beyond with personal, professional and timely notary public services.

Ern Phang, Notary Public
Ern Phang
Notary Public

This website is maintained by Phang Legal, a boutique law firm in Parramatta and a leading provider of quality notary public services to satisfied clients across Sydney.

Ern Phang is a director of Phang Legal and a notary public (since 2005). Ern regularly writes about his experiences as a notary public and the issues faced by his clients in sending documents to other countries.

All information contained in this article is for general purposes only and correct at the time of publication. Only rely on information and advice specific to your situation and current at the time you wish to rely on it.