Apostille Tips – How To Avoid Apostille & Authentication Pitfalls

The apostille or authentication process has two components that must be met in order for your paperwork to work successfully, and both parts are out of our control.  Following the apostille tips below, you will improve your chances.  First, the Secretary of State must approve the notarization of your document. This means that the notary work must pass their standards.

Second, your foreign entity must accept and approve what is generated by the Secretary of State in the apostille process.  Sometimes, what we need to do to get an apostille or authentication completed by the Secretary of State does not mesh with the expectations of your foreign agency.

Make sure the document you want to authenticate is correct before we begin the process with the Apostille Tips below.

From my experience, here are some commonly found problems:

Apostille Tip #1

Apostille Tips - no stamping on a page

  • Make sure your notary verbiage is correct
    Is the notary portion of your document correct to today’s California standards?  If I am notarizing your document, this won’t be a problem, however, if another notary isn’t current and their paperwork isn’t up-to-date, your document will be rejected by the Secretary of State.

Apostille Tip #2

  • Get approval for a “loose notary certificate” first.
    If your document does not have the correct California notary verbiage, I will attach a loose certificate to your document in order to get your apostille or authentication completed by the Secretary of State.  However, some foreign agencies do not allow a loose certificate.  ASK first!

Apostille Tip #3Apostille tips - no rolling stamps by this marin apostille service

  • Make sure your foreign agency doesn’t require “Rolling Stamps.”
    Some foreign agencies want a notary stamp across all page edges of a multi-page document.  CA Notaries are prohibited from using their stamp in this manner and your paperwork will be rejected by the Secretary of State.  Make sure your agency understands that this is not possible.


  • Make sure your foreign agency doesn’t require stamping on each page.
    This is when you ask for the entire notary stamp to be placed on every Apostille Tips - no stamping at the bottom of a page; CA apostille service marin apostillespage of your multi-page document. This is strictly forbidden by the Secretary of State, and your document will most definitely be rejected.  That doesn’t mean that your receiving agency won’t expect it.  Tell them it’s not allowed.

Apostille Tip #4

  • Do NOT remove the staples.
    Removing the staple from your paperwork (either on the notary page to your document OR the stapling from the Secretary of State) invalidates the apostille.  Do not undo your paperwork to feed it through a copier.  Foreign agencies sometimes want the stapling done differently and they pull it apart.

Apostille Tip #5

  • Copy Certifications are not performed by a CA Notary.
    California Notaries cannot legally perform certified copies of paperwork, including passports, diplomas, driver licenses, business records, vital records, etc.  There is a way to deal with copy certification though — please call to discuss.

Apostille Tip #6

  • Formatting your document!
    Is there -or should there be- a place for today’s date?  Is there a line for all the signers?  Are the names correctly spelled?  Foreign countries often make mistakes with names.  Strike-outs and corrections might not be allowed by your foreign entity.
Check with your receiving entity to confirm that what we send is what they can use.

Click here for The ABCs of Apostilles.

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