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How to Have Your Education Documents Certified, Notarized or Apostilled

How to Have Your Education Documents Certified, Notarized or Apostilled

As an international student, you may be asked by a foreign university to provide copies of your education documents. These documents may include diplomas from a school that you previously attended as well as copies of your academic transcripts. However, because these documents could be forged by unscrupulous students seeking to provide false information to admission counselors, a formalized system must be followed when academic records are prepared and sent to an international university a student hopes to attend.

While different schools and countries may utilize different  terms for the formal process of documentation regarding academic records, perhaps the most common terms utilized to substantiate the accuracy of  your transcript and/or diploma include the process of having your records “notarized”, “certified”, or “apostilled”.

In this article, we will walk you through the often tedious process of obtaining the necessary records as well as the required academic documentation that provides assurance that the required documentation has been certified, notarized or apostilled as may be required by your prospective academic institution.


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Essentially, if the university, agency or employer is in a country that is a member of the Hague Apostille Convention, your documents only require a Notarization and an Apostille from the Secretary of State. However, if the university is in a country that is not a member of the Hague Apostille Convention, then your documents may require further authentication through the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. and legalization through the Embassy / Consulate office.

What’s the difference between a “notarized”, “certified” or “apostilled” document?

A certified document is usually issued to the custodian of the document and certifies that the document is genuine, such as a birth or marriage certificate. This can also include any documents issued by a court clerk. Certified documents usually have some type of seal on the document rather than a notary seal.

A notarized document is completed by a notary and includes a certificate certifying that the signer made an oath or affirmation that the statements in the document are true and correct. A notary public seal on a document indicates that the document has been Notarized.

Some states in the U.S.  also allow notaries to make a certified copy of an original document. However, the requestor must be the custodian of the original. The notary will make a copy of the original, then attach a notary certificate certifying that it is a true copy of the original document. You can find a list of the 15 states where notaries are authorized to make a certified or attested copy of an original document, here.

An apostille is the authentication of a document by the State Department. If you are an international student and/or plan to work outside the United States, you may need to have your documents legally recognized by a foreign country in order to be used there. In many countries, this is done by acquiring an apostille.

How to Request a Certification, Notarization or Apostille

To request a certified copy of a document you will most likely need to go through the official authority that issues the document, such as the Department of Vital Records, Secretary of State, or through your university.

To have a document notarized, you will need to find a licensed Notary Public to notarize the document. You can do this by doing a quick search online in your area. You can also go to your local bank branch. Alternatively, you may also be able to request that your education documents be notarized through your university or school.  Many universities have licensed Notary Public’s on site.

To request an Apostilled document you will need to determine if your country is a member of the Hague Apostille Convention.

Countries that are members of the convention.

Non-member Countries of the convention.

From a Member Hague Apostille Convention Country

If you live in a country that is a member of the Hague Apostille Convention, you can go directly to your Secretary of State to request an Apostille for your education documents. A simple online search using the following terms  (name of state + Apostille + Certified documents) will most likely provide you with a link to the department where you can request an Apostille.

It is highly recommended that before you submit your request, that you confirm what documents need to be Apostilled.  Moreover, you will most likely need to have all of your documents Notarized before you can request an Apostille for your documents.

The following documents are a list of examples that may require an Apostille from an international university:

  • Diploma – From the most recent school you attended that you used for purposes of applying to the university.
  • Transcripts – From the most recent school you attended that you used for purposes of applying to the university.
  • Birth Certificate – You will need to show your own birth certificate as well as your children’s if you will be bringing your family.
  • Marriage Certificate – If you are married and have children you will need to show your marriage license/certificate for visa approval.

From a Non- Member Hague Apostille Convention Country

If you are from a non-apostille member country, legalizing and certifying your documents will require additional steps.  Your documents may require a State certification, as well as US Department of State certification (if required), and an Embassy or Consulate legalization.  Essentially, the process of legalizing your documents will depend largely on the type of document, where the document originates from and the Country requesting the documents.

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