Saturday, April 3, 2010

Citizenship Saturday: The Quest for the Apostille

So you're applying for dual citizenship, and you've got some questions. Well, you've come to the right place! A critical part for applying for dual citizenship is the apostille. Without the apostille, you would not be able to use your documents internationally. At this point you can either close the little 'x' box to this web page, or continue to read if you're interested and need help with the application process.

What is an apostille, and why is it important?

An apostille is the final step in verifying the authenticity of a document which will be used for international purposes, such as dual citizenship.

How does one acquire an apostille?

There are actually a total of four steps in receiving an apostille for your document, and I've outlined them and provided information on how to start the process. Most of my experience is from dealing with New York City. All of my documents, except for my great-great grandparents birth and marriage and my grandmother's death certificate, are coming out of the city. Please stay tuned at a later date for information on applying through Massachusetts, which is where my grandmother passed away.

Step 1: Procure your document. Those of you who may already have all the documents are lucky, and are one step ahead. However, if you don't have a certain document, google 'Department of Health' and your state. Since mine is through New York City, which differs from New York State, I will use it as my example. You can access the page by clicking here.

Say for example, you want to get a birth certificate. Click on the link 'Birth Certificate Information' in the right-hand side bar. You can apply in three ways: (a) online, (b) by mail, or (c) in-person. I have been applying for most of my documents online and faxing in all the information they require in order to verify who you say you are. But, it can sometimes be helpful to go in-person if you have the time. Please note that it is also more and more difficult to procure documents the further you go back in your family tree. It takes fifty years for a death certificate to become a public record, therefore New York City makes it difficult for people, including family members to obtain such documents. For birth certificates, it takes seventy-five years for it to become a public record. If possible, it is best for the person whose name is on the document to apply for it. If this is not an option, your next best bet is to have the child of said person apply.

While applying for your document, you should request a 'Letter of Exemplification' in order to save time and have two steps accomplished in one step.

Step 2: If you have the document already, but don't have a  'Letter of Exemplification', you can simply mail the document and a money order to the Vital Records office. The 'Letter of Exemplification' will accompany your document in order to receive an apostille. The letter basically says that the person who signs the document in the office has identified the document as a true copy of the original. The letter is then stamped with a seal, and both are mailed back to you. Be sure to check with the Vital Records office as to how much this process costs. Prices can be found online or you can call the office itself.

Step 3: After receiving the certificate and the letter in the mail, your document is now ready to be sent to the County Clerk's office to be notarized. Make sure you send both the certificate AND the 'Letter of Exemplification'. The notary then determines if the signature is a true signature or false. Upon the authentication of the signature, it is notarized. Currently, the price for notarization is $4. The county clerk's address is shown below at the bottom of this post.

Step 4: Your document can now be sent to the Department of State for its apostille. The cost, as of now, is $10, and must be received as a money order. In this step, anything the county clerk's office has sent you, plus the certificate and letter of exemplification must be sent to this office.

Yesterday I sent out four of my documents to be notarized. I will be sure to keep you informed as to how long it took for me to get the documents back.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail at I am at no means an expert on the process, however, I will try my best to answer your questions if you have any. If you are seeking more information, please visit the Italian Dual Citizenship Message Board. There are hundreds of applicants who post on this forum to give details on personal experience, as well as provid valuable information about the process. Please also feel free to share any information if you feel it could be helpful for another applicant.

County Clerk's Office:

The New York County Clerk
60 Centre Street, Notary Division
New York, New York 10007

For an apostille:

NYS Dept. of State
123 Williams Street
New York, NY 10038

You can also contact the Department of State at (212) 417-5801

Please stay tuned for next week's 'Do I Qualify?'

Note: This process applies only to New York City. Please check the government posted website of your state in order to follow the correct procedures for obtaining an apostille.

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