Everyone seeking Italian dual citizenship will come across the word “apostille” at some point during the process of collecting documents. At first glance, this French word seems confusing--what exactly is an apostille, what does it do and why do you need one? With this post, I hope to clear up some of the confusion.
What is an apostille?
An apostille is an internationally recognized form of authentication. Its only function is to identity any stamp or seal affixed to an official document, certify the authenticity of the signature on the document, and the capacity in which the person signing the document acted. In order for your American documents to be considered valid in Italy, they must bear an attached apostille issued by the relevant Secretary of State.
In the United States, an apostille is a separate sheet of paper in which the details of the original document are summarized and authenticated by the Secretary of State of the state in which the original was issued. For example, a document issued in California must be apostilled by the Secretary of State in California.
The history of the apostille
The apostille was first instituted at the Hague Convention of 1961 which did away with the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. Under the Hague Convention, participating countries agreed to recognize public documents issued by other signatory countries as long as those public documents are authenticated by an apostille. In other words, the apostille guarantees that public documents issued in one signatory country will be recognized as valid in another signatory country without further documentation.
Apostilles in different countries
In some countries like Spain, the apostille may be obtained electronically (e-app), replacing the holographic signature in accordance with internationally standards. In these cases, there is also usually an electronic record of apostilles (e-register) which replaces the traditional card catalog. In others like the United States, the apostille is a separate document which gets attached to the original, and must be issued by the Secretary of State of each state and his or her deputies as competent authorities. In the United Kingdom, all apostilles are issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes.
How do you get an apostille?
To be eligible for an apostille, a document must be issued or certified by an officer recognized by the authority issuing the apostille. This sounds more complicated than it is: for example, in the state of Vermont, the Secretary of State maintains a registry of all notaries public—this means that all documents that have been notarized within Vermont are eligible for apostilles.
In some places, intermediate certifications may be required in the county where the document originated before it can be apostilled. For example, in New York City, the Office of Vital Records—the office which issues birth certificates—is notdirectly recognized by the New York Secretary of State. This means that as a consequence, the signature of the City Clerk must be certified by the County Clerk (which is recognized by the Secretary of State) to make the birth certificate eligible for an apostille.
Confused yet? Don’t be! Here is a list of information regarding rules for apostilles in each U.S. state. Use the drop down menu to select your state and follow the directions in order to obtain your apostille.
Audra de Falco is a certified freelance Italian, Spanish and French translator and interpreter. She loves writing about the profession and dual Italian citizenship. Her free time is spent mostly learning Dutch, reading and exploring New York. Contact.