Apostille Canada - The Definitive Guide (2021)

In this guide, we’ll learn everything you need to know about getting an apostille in Canada: document preparation, steps in the process, and when you need an apostille.

We’ll also explain why apostille, authentication, legalization, and attestation are not just fancy words to describe the same process.

The examples included in this guide will help you decide which of these you need.

Go directly to Chapter 3 if you want to quickly know the 3 easy steps to apostille your Canadian documents.

Apostille Guide

Table of Contents

What is an apostille?
What is the apostille equivalent in Canada?

3 easy steps on how you can get an apostille in Canada

Difference between apostille, authentication and legalization, and attestation?
Which states are party to the Hague Apostille Convention?
How do I know if I need an apostille, authentication and legalization, or an attestation?
Eligible Documents
How long is an apostille valid for?

How can I speed up the Canada apostille process?

Your apostille Checklist

CHAPTER 1

What is an apostille and can I get one in Canada?​

An apostille is a certificate that is attached to your document. The country that issued the document places this certificate on your document, authenticating its origin. In most cases, you need an apostille before you can use your document abroad.

Public documents include birth certificates, judgments, patents, and notarial attestations of signatures. Chances are that at some point in your life you’ll need to use these documents abroad, be it for study, business or an international move.

However, before apostilles became a thing, countries used another process. This process is called legalization, and some still use it today.

But legalization is far more cumbersome than a simple apostille.

It involves a chain of individual authentications of a single document. Basically, you first have to prepare your document by translating and notarizing it. Officials in the country that issued the document then authenticate it. Once this is done, the foreign embassy or consulate where you will use your document legalizes it.

Apostille Guide

In the 60s, to make this process more efficient, many countries all over the world joined a treaty called the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents.

Since that’s quite a mouthful, we’ll refer to it by its more common name: the Hague Apostille Convention.

The Hague Apostille Convention streamlines the slow legalization process to a single formality. The country that issued the public document attaches a certificate to the document. This certificate is called an Apostille stamp.

But – and this is where it gets interesting – Canada did not join this Treaty.

So, in simple terms: An apostille stamp is an easier way to get your documents authenticated for use abroad, but you cannot get your Canada documents apostilled because it’s not a signatory state to this Convention.

But – and before you get too worried – you can still get your Canadian documents authenticated and legalized, and this prepares them for use abroad. There is also a faster and more efficient way to do this – but we’ll get into this later.

Apostille Guide

Looking for a Faster Apostille?

We offer fast, easy document authentication and legalization at a great price. Learn More

CHAPTER 2

What is the apostille equivalent in Canada?​

Now that we’ve determined a Canadian apostille doesn’t exist, it’s time to look into the Canadian equivalents.

These are authentication and legalization and we’ll be explaining each so you’ll have a better idea of the overall process.

Countries that are not party to the Hague Apostille Convention use authentication and legalization, so it’s not only Canada that makes use of this process.

What is Authentication?

Authentication is a stamp that confirms that the signature or seal in your documents is genuine, valid, and recognized.

Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa is the body responsible for authenticating documents in Canada. They verify the signatures on the document and issue a certificate of authentication.

But authentication is not enough if you want to use your documents abroad. Another step is necessary: legalization.

What is a Legalization?

A legalization is a stamp that confirms the document’s validity, clearing it for use abroad. The embassy or consulate of the foreign country where you intend to use your document legalizes the document.

Now that we’ve explained these two terms, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide on the entire process in Canada.

Apostille Guide

CHAPTER 3

The 3 easy steps on how you can get an apostille in Canada.

Getting your documents apostilled – or more accurately – legalized in Canada is a three-step process.

STEP 1: You have to prepare your documents for authentication, and this may in itself require two steps: notarization and a translation.

STEP 2: Global Affairs Canada authenticates the document.

STEP 3: The embassy or consulate of the foreign country where the document will be used legalizes the document.

Let’s go into these in more detail to help you follow the correct process when preparing your documents.

Apostille Guide

STEP 1: Preparing Your Document

Depending on the nature of your document, you may need to get it translated and notarized before submitting it to Global Affairs Canada.

Not sure if you need to authenticate your document? we’ll get to this soon.

For now, let’s explain the process.

Translating your documents​

If all or part of your document is written in a language other than English or French (in the case of Canada), you must first get it translated.

Global Affairs Canada only accepts certified and notarized translations for authentication purposes. So you cannot translate the document yourself or get a friend to do it.

A certified translation is a translation completed by a translator who has the title of “certified translator”. Provincial regulatory bodies grant this title in Canada.

Certified translations include the translator’s declaration, signature, and seal. The translator accepts responsibility for the translation’s accuracy.

The Canadian Translators, Terminologists, and Interpreters Council provides a directory of provincial associations of translators. You can use this directory to find a certified translator close to you.

Once a translator translates your foreign language, the translation has to be notarized. A notarized translation goes one step further. A notary public signs and places an official seal on the document. Unlike the translator, the notary does not check the accuracy of the translation. The notary simply confirms the identity of the translator.

You may also need to translate your document for the legalization step of the process.

So, while for authentication purposes, your document must be in either English or French, some embassies require a translation to legalize a document that is not in that country’s official language.

This depends on which country you’re using your documents in, so it’s best to contact the embassy to learn more about their requirements. Or, you can opt for a more straightforward way and outsource the process. We’ll get to this later.

Notarizing documents in English or French​

Even if your document is already in the right language, you must still prepare it for authentication.

This part of the process is called notarization and, depending on the nature of your document, you may need to notarize your document before Global Affairs Canada can accept it.

In a notarization:

  1. A Notary Public witnesses the signing of the document and verifies the identity of the persons involved.
  2. The Notary Public then places their signature and stamp on the document.

 

With this step completed, your document is now ready for authentication!

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STEP 2: Authenticating your document

We’re getting closer – hang in there.

As we’ve seen earlier, an authentication confirms that the signature or seal in your documents is genuine, valid, and recognized.

For this step, you must send your documents to Global Affairs Canada. Your document must be an original document with a recognized signature and, if applicable, a seal.

Global Affairs Canada studies the document to confirm that the signature or seal on your document is genuine. If all’s well, they issue a certificate of authenticity.

This authentication validates the Canadian document for the next step – legalization.

STEP 3: Legalizing your document

Legalization is the final step and is done by the embassy or consulate of the country where you will be using your documents.

Global Affairs Canada provides a full list of foreign embassies and consulates in Canada. You can check this list for contact information of the embassy or consulate of the country where you will be using your documents.

Once you’ve communicated with the embassy, you submit your documents to them. Then, they issue a legalization stamp that confirms that the document is valid in their country.

Congratulations! You can now use your document abroad.

Additional Resource: View Your Apostille Checklist

CHAPTER 4

Why should I know the difference between apostille, authentication and legalization, and attestation?

All of these terms refer to processes where documents issued in one country are prepared for use in another.

But, they’re not the same.

And you should know the difference because:

  1. They are not interchangeable
  2. Making the wrong choice can result in the foreign country rejecting your document
  3. Following the wrong process is time-consuming and expensive

 

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s a quick overview of what each of these is:

Apostille Authentication & Legalization​ Attestation​
Issued in countries that have signed the Hague Apostille Convention
Applicable in countries that have not signed the Hague Apostille Convention.
Issued in countries that have signed the Hague Apostille Convention
Issued in countries that have signed the Hague Apostille Convention

Applicable in countries that have not signed the Hague Apostille Convention. Requires TWO stamps:

  1. Global Affair determines if a signature or seal is authentic
  2. The embassy or consulate of the country where the document will be used, confirms the document’s validity
Issued in countries that have signed the Hague Apostille Convention
Validates the document for use in another country signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention
Issued in countries that have signed the Hague Apostille Convention
Validates the document for use in countries that ask for attestations, including: UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia
Canada does not issue an apostille stamp
Global Affairs Canada authenticates documents and each embassy legalize them
Global Affairs Canada authenticates documents and each embassy attest them
Apostille Guide
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Apostille Guide
Photo Credit: https://assets.hcch.net/docs/6dd54368-bebd-4b10-a078-0a92e5bca40a.pdf
Apostille Guide
Apostille Guide

Looking for a Faster Apostille?

We offer fast, easy document authentication and legalization at a great price. Learn More

CHAPTER 5

Apostille Guide
Photo Credit: https://assets.hcch.net/docs/6dd54368-bebd-4b10-a078-0a92e5bca40a.pdf

Which states are party to the Hague Apostille Convention?​

The Hague Apostille Convention only applies if both the country which issued the document and the country where the document will be used are parties to the Convention.

It’s important that you check if the country that issued your document and the country where you will use your document is in the Hague Conference’s (HccH) list.

You should also check the list for updates, especially if the two countries you’re dealing with accepted each others’ accession to the Convention. Basically, if Country A refuses to recognize Country B’s participation in the Convention, then they won’t recognize the apostille either.

We know – relations between states are sometimes tricky to understand.

With that (somewhat) sorted, let’s go into some practical examples…

CHAPTER 6

How do I know if I need an apostille, authentication, and legalization, or an attestation?​

As we’ve noted earlier, making the wrong choice when it comes to apostille, authentication, legalization, and attestation can lead to your document being rejected, as well as unnecessary expenses and delays.

In this chapter, we’ll go over some examples to help you determine which of these processes you should follow for your documents.

Example 1 - When do I need an Apostille?

Apostille Guide
  1. A state that is party to the Hague Convention issued your document (check this list here)
  2. You will use this document in a country that is also party to the Hague Convention.
  3. Neither country has submitted objections to the others’ accession to the Convention. All territories of both countries recognize apostilles.
  4. Your document is a public document, for example:
    • Birth, marriage, or death certificate
    • Divorce certificate
    • Change of name certificate
    • Diploma, degree, or transcript
    • Non-impediment to marriage certificate or a statement in-lieu of a certificate of non-impediment to marriage abroad
    • Power of Attorney

 

A country can apostille your document if it meets these criteria. They cannot apostille it if:

  • Diplomatic or consular agents issued your document
  • It’s an administrative document related to commercial or customs operations

Example 2 - When do I need an Authentication and Legalization?

Apostille Guide
  1. Your document was issued – or you will be using your document – in a country that is not party to the Hague Convention
  2. The embassy or consulate of the country where you will be using your document confirmed that you need a legalization.
  3. Your document is an original document with a signature recognized by the issuing country.
  4. Your document is a:
    • Birth, marriage, or death certificate
    • Divorce certificate
    • Change of name certificate
    • Diploma, degree, or transcript
    • Non-impediment to marriage certificate or a statement in-lieu of a certificate of non-impediment to marriage abroad
    • Power of Attorney
    • Criminal record check certificate
    • Fingerprints
    • Citizenship and immigration documents
    • Corporate documents
    • Commercial invoices
    • Certificate of Origin
    • Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product Medical Report

Example 3 - When do I need an Authentication and Legalization?

Apostille Guide
  1. The country where you will use your document asks for an attestation, including:
    • UAE
    • Kuwait
    • Qatar
    • Oman
    • Saudi Arabia

  2. Your document is a:
    • Birth, marriage, or death certificate
    • Divorce contract
    • Degree certificate
    • Commercial document, including company registration, memorandum and articles of association, board resolution, etc.
    • Police clearance report
    • Medical report
    • Power of Attorney

CHAPTER 7

Is my document eligible for a Canada apostille?​

Apostille Guide

Global Affairs Canada does not authenticate all documents. They will not authenticate your document if:

  • It’s not an original document
  • It doesn’t contain an original signature or seal
  • Is a plain photocopy
  • All or part of your document is written in a language other than
    French or English
  • The seal is unknown to Global Affairs
  • Canada or they don’t have the signature on file
  • It’s a religious document, such as a baptism certificate, religious marriage certificate, etc. It has been issued by an unrecognized financial institution
  • Is glued, laminated, or covered with something that makes it difficult to put a stamp on.
  • The content of the document is misleading
  • The document is fraudulent or illegal

 

Global Affairs Canada can authenticate your document if it does not tick any of these boxes

CHAPTER 8

How long is an apostille valid for?

Now that we’ve covered all requirements and eligibility criteria, it’s time to address the question: How long is a legalization or apostille valid for?

Apostilles don’t expire. Generally, countries accept apostilles at any time after issue. However, this excludes time-sensitive documents, such as criminal record checks.

Just like apostilles, legalizations do not expire either. However, each state has the authority to ask for a new legalization at its own discretion. Technically though, as long as your document doesn’t have a limited duration, the legalization doesn’t expire.

CHAPTER 9

How to speed up the Canada apostille process?

Apostille Guide

By now you’re probably feeling informed but somewhat overwhelmed. We don’t blame you. There are quite a lot of steps to follow and the legalization process isn’t always straightforward, either.

Add a pandemic to the mix, and everything gets more complicated – and time-consuming.

Luckily, there is an easier route to getting your Canadian documents legalized.

We can take over this process for you. With Document Authentication Canada (DAC), there’s no need for endless googling, and emails and calls to government authorities and embassies. Basically, DAC saves you a lot of hassle, and time and money.

Our Canada translation, apostille, and legalization service is fast, accurate, and safe.

DAC’s expert team is continuously up to date with the latest compliance requirements and will help you prepare your documents for submission, including through our notary and certified translation services. We then submit your documents on your behalf, and you can track progress through our helpful document tracker.

CHAPTER 10

Your Apostille Checklist​

The apostille process in Canada can feel cumbersome, so we’ve created a handy checklist to help you navigate it:
Apostille Guide
Apostille Guide

IN CONCLUSION

We’ve gone over all you need to know about getting your Canada apostille, and more.

We’ve determined that when it comes to preparing your documents for use abroad, there are different processes. And that if you mistake one process for another, countries will reject your documents – that’s an important takeaway.

You should also know that there are experts ready to help you prepare your documents. Getting a document apostilled or legalized shouldn’t be stressful – we’ll see to everything. Our apostille service is fast, easy, and secure.

Get in touch with our team on 1-855-700-5840 to request a quote and a free document review!

Apostille Guide

About The Author

Nidhal Abu, Director of Operations

Nidhal is an expert in the international community in Ottawa and is currently completing his paralegal license. He manages all client relationships and oversees DAC’s daily operations.