Authenticating Documents by Apostille

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An “Apostille” is a certificate authenticating the origin of a public document (e.g. birth, marriage or death certifícate, police report, a court judgment, an extract of a public register, or a notarial attestation). Apostilles are issued in one country to be used by another country where both are parties to the 1961 Hague Convention also known as the Apostille Convention.

The Apostille is to certify that the signature and seal of a public document has been made by a competent authority. This process, like authentication (legalization) only certifies the signature or stamp showing the document was issued by a public official in the exercise of their functions, but does not certify the validity of the content. This allows a national document to be recognized in a foreign country.

Most countries are parties to the 1961 Apostille Convention. There are currently 92 members. However, it you have doubts whether your country or the country you wish to provide with apostilled documents are members, go to the website (hcch.net) in order to see which countries belong.

Apostilles may only be issued by a Competent Authority designated by the State on whose territory the public document has been executed.

The United States of America has three tiers of authorities competent to issue the apostille certificate. The U.S. Department of State Authentication Office affixes apostilles to documents issued by Federal agencies of the United States.

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Passport Services, Vital Records Section affixes apostilles to Consular Reports of Birth, Death and Marriage of U.S. Citizens abroad and certificates of birth and death originally issued by the Panama Canal Zone Government between 1904 and 1979.

The Clerks and Deputy Clerks of the Federal Courts of the United States are authorized to issue apostilles on documents issued by those courts. As an alternative, the U.S. Department of Justice may authenticate the seal of the federal court and the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office will then place an apostille over that seal.

Public documents issued by U.S. states, the District of Columbia and other U.S. jurisdictions may be legalized with an apostille by designated authorities in each jurisdiction, generally the state Secretary of State’s office.

Canada did not sign the 1961 Apostille Convention so you cannot get an apostille in Canada. Therefore, you must use the nearest Panamanian embassy or Panama consulate to get documents authenticated.

The Panama Ministry of Foreign Relations is the competent authority to apostille Panamanian public documents and notarized documents by authenticating the notary public as being legitimate. You can find the Panama Ministry of Foreign Relations located at Edison Plaza in Panama City.


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