What's the difference between Apostille vs. Notary What's the difference between Apostille vs. Notary

What is Apostille vs Notary?

So you’ve got some important documents you need to get authenticated for use abroad. Do you go the apostille route or find a notary public? or both? It can be confusing to understand the difference and determine which is the right choice for your needs.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Apostille – a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document like a birth certificate, so it can be used in another country that participates in the Hague Convention.

Notary Public –  an official authorized to administer oaths and authenticate signatures, their authority is given to them by the state in which they are commissioned.

Read on to learn more details about these two options and figure out if you need an apostille vs notary public to get your documents ready for international use. The choice is easier than you might think!

What Is an Apostille?

An apostille is an official certification that authenticates the origin of a public document so it can be used in another country that is party to the Hague Convention.

If you need to submit official records like birth, marriage or death certificates in a foreign country, an apostille ensures the documents will be accepted as legitimate. To get an apostille, you first need to obtain certified copies of your public documents. Then, take the certified copies to your state’s Secretary of State office or a designated apostille service that is authorized to issue apostilles for that state.

They will review your documents to verify the authenticity and affix a red-ribboned seal that contains an identification number and expiration date. Now your papers can be used abroad for legal purposes like getting married, adopting a child or settling an estate.

Compared to a notary public, an apostille has more legal clout for international use. A notary merely verifies the identity of the person signing the document and that the signature is authentic. An apostille certifies the origin and validity of the actual document itself.

If you need to use personal or business documents internationally, an apostille is usually required. It’s a relatively simple process, so don’t get overwhelmed. With the proper apostille, your important papers will be accepted wherever you need them.

What is a Notarization?

A notarization is when a notary public officially verifies your signature on a document. Unlike an apostille, which is used for international use, a notarization is for documents that will be used domestically.

To get a document notarized, you’ll need to sign it in front of the notary and provide government-issued ID like a driver’s license or passport to prove your identity. The notary will compare your signature on the document to your ID to ensure it’s really you signing.

Once your ID is checked and signature verified, the notary will stamp or seal the document and sign and date it themselves. This notarized document can now be used for important purposes where signature verification is required, like real estate transactions, affidavits or loans.

Notarizations typically cost between $2 to $10 per document. While notarizations aren’t legally required for most documents, they do provide an extra level of fraud prevention and authenticity. If there’s ever a dispute over the validity of your signature in the future, the notarization proves it was really you who signed.

For certain documents like wills, living wills or power of attorney forms, a notarization may be mandatory to make the document legally valid and binding. It’s a good idea to check with your state’s requirements whenever you need an important document notarized.

Apostille vs Notary
Apostille vs Notary

Key Differences Between an Apostille and Notary Public


An apostille certifies the authenticity of an official signature on public documents for use in foreign countries that are members of the Hague Convention. A notary public, on the other hand, is authorized to administer oaths and take acknowledgments within the state they are commissioned.

Legal Power

An apostille carries legal weight in foreign courts and government agencies. It verifies the authenticity of the signature, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, and the identity of any seal or stamp on the document. A notary public has much less legal power. They can only authenticate signatures and take oaths or affidavits. Their power is limited to the state they are commissioned in.


Obtaining an apostille typically has higher fees than notarization. Apostille fees are set by the state and can range from $20 to $200 per document. Notary public fees are usually start at $25 per signature. Some notaries charge higher rates for more complex documents like living wills.

In summary, while an apostille and notary public are both used to authenticate documents, an apostille has significantly more legal authority for use in international affairs. A notary public is better suited for standard local authentication needs within their home state at a lower cost. Knowing the differences will help you choose the right type of certification for your important documents.

What are typical Apostille Requirements?

To get an apostille seal for a document, there are a few requirements you’ll need to meet.


The first step is to get your document authenticated, meaning verified as legitimate and officially certified. This is done through a notary public, who will check your ID and notarize the document. Notarization confirms the identity of the person signing the document and the fact that they signed it willingly.


Next, the notarized document needs to be certified by the Secretary of State in your state. The notary will generally be required to be in the same state as the Apostille is. If you are getting your document notarized online, we recommend reaching out to your SoS as to acceptance from their clerk.  You may need to email the document, or they may not quite be up with the times.

They will review the notarization to ensure it’s valid and attach a certification to the document, which verifies the notary’s commission and authority. This step establishes the document as official for international use.

Apostille seal

Finally, the certified document is ready to receive an apostille seal from the Secretary of State. The apostille seal is placed on the certification and confirms the origin of the document. It contains information like the Secretary of State’s signature, state seal, document type, and registration number.

With an apostille seal, most countries will consider your document to be legally valid and acceptable for official purposes like business, education or adoption. The apostille process streamlines authentication for international use by replacing the traditional “chain of authentication” with a single step at the Secretary of State’s office.

Apostille vs. Notarization Conclusions

So there you have it. Apostille and notarization offer two different ways to authenticate your documents, with some key differences to keep in mind. An apostille is typically used for international use, while a notary public can be used for documents in the US.
The apostille process is a bit more complex, but provides a higher level of certification.

If you need to get documents authenticated for business or personal reasons, now you understand the options and can determine which route is right for your specific needs. The most important thing is finding a process that gives you the verification and peace of mind you require.

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