The requirement of an Apostille (ah-poh-steel) is an important new development for international travelers. An Apostille is an additional certification that will be required for all notarized documents, including but not limited to birth certificates, death certificates, marriage and divorce certificates. While you may have used original, certified copies of these documents in the past with no problem, that will not continue to be possible.
What is an Apostille? It is a “cover” document that is issued by the Bureau of Notaries in the State where the document was notarized. This branch of the Secretary of State reviews the notarization, checks it against their records, and verifies that the individual who notarized the document was, in fact, legitimately licensed to do so.
Where did the concept of an Apostille come from? The countries who are parties to the Hague Convention agreed many years ago to use this vehicle for verification of identity, but the system was never fully implemented. Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, however, it has become more and more important to ensure correct identification procedures are used, and the apostille is now “in fashion”. If the country where the document was issued was a party to the Hague Convention, you must obtain this additional certification for your documents. The United States was a party; Canada was not.
What if I’m from Canada? You will still need to have your documents additionally certified at a Mexican embassy in Canada, but this extra certification is much easier to obtain and is not called an “apostille”.
When should I have the apostilles done? Now. The process will take a minimum of two to three weeks, and is more likely to take five to six weeks. Then your documents will be ready when you want to apply for immigration documents, purchase property, or take other legal actions here in Mexico or in other countries.
What is the cost? Each State has its own fee schedule, and the average cost is $20.00 USD per document. The costs of mailing are an additional $100 pesos by surface mail (if you use U.S. mailing services, not Mexican mail), or $320 pesos to have the documents sent to the U.S. by Federal Express. If you take care of the matter yourself, contact the Office of the Secretary of State in the state(s) where the document(s) were issued.
What if my documents are not certified or notarized? You can order certified documents from Departments of Vital Statistics, and can also request certified documents such as divorce decrees. The fees are similar to those for acquiring an apostille. Then when the certified or notarized documents are received, you can subsequently send them for apostille. Obtaining these original documents will take an additional three to six weeks.
To summarize: For any legal action here in Mexico, you must have certified or notarized documents. The most common documents needed are birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates and divorce decrees. After the documents have been certified or notarized, they must be additionally verified by an apostille if the document is from the U.S., or by the Mexican government (via a Consulate) if the document is from Canada.