Free Information Re: Notarization, Authentication, Legalization and Apostille of Documents. What is it? What's the procedure? DIY - How To:
  • How to Authenticate a Notary Public in Toronto, Ontario?
  • What is Legalization?
  • What is an Apostille procedure?

Apostille of a document is to certify the document with a special Apostille stamp or by way of issuing a certificate so that the document could be used or be recognized in foreign countries. The Apostille procedure is meant to eliminate the chain of cumbersome and costly process of:
  • notarization (by a notary public);
  • authentication (by the government agency that holds records of registered notaries public); and 
  • legalization (by the foreign consulate or embassy where the document is to be used)

Many countries around the world wanted to eliminate the above required procedures to a single formality called Apostille. Hence, they agreed to be signatories to a treaty called the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents, it is also known as the Apostille Convention. Unfortunately, Canada decided not to sign the said treaty. As a result, in order for public documents in Canada to be recognized in foreign jurisdictions, the traditional certification procedures mentioned above must be employed.  

More information about the Apostille Convention can be found through the following links: Wiki and Hague Conference on Private International Law

Many lawyers, notaries public, commissioners of oaths, and various agencies will often charge you a fee to have the notarized documents authenticated and legalized. However, both the authentication and legalization processes are not as complicated as these individuals would like to have you believe. In fact, you can do it all on your own and save yourself a lot of money. Why pay someone ridiculous sum of money to mail your documents on your behalf? They cannot expedite the processing of your documents any faster than you personally attending at the governmental offices and embassies yourself. 

The most important step is to verify the credential of the person who claims to be a lawyer, notary public, and commissioner of oaths. One of the easiest ways to verify the credential of these professionals is through the Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Directory. Unless you are able to confidently confirm the person's name, contact information, and credential as found on the directory, do not use such services for notarization. In short, any delays or impediments to the processing time of your documents are usually due to the fact that the government agencies and embassies cannot quickly and easily verify the legal authority of the lawyer/notary public.

The second step is notarization. You will need to find a qualified and verifiable lawyer, notary public, and commissioner of oaths to notarize your documents. The notarization process requires the lawyer/notary to either witness you sign a document or to compare your original document with a photocopy of the same and issuing a notarial certificate or placing a seal and a signature on the photocopy verifying it to be a certified true copy of the original copy. In many provinces, particularly in Ontario, if you intend to submit the document for authentication and legalization procedures, then the issuing statement, signature and seal of the the lawyer/notary must be on the same photocopy document. Government agencies will not accept a notarial certificate from lawyer/notary attached to the photocopy document. This policy is enforced to ensure that a person could not replace the photocopy document and using a notarial certificate which was issued for another photocopy document.

The third step is authentication, the process of verifying the legal authority and registration of the lawyer/notary public/ commissioner of oaths, who officiated, notarized, and/or commissioned your documents to ensure that the person is not a fraudster and the documents he/she notarized is not rendered invalid. To authenticate, you will need to consult with the receiving embassy or consulate whether they wanted your documents to be authenticated federally or provincially. You will be required to submit your notarized documents (including the name and contact information of the notary public), your identifications and a fee to have your documents authenticated by one of the following Canadian Government Authorities:

a) Federally, through the office of the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Additional information can be found on that link in respect to authenticating your documents federally. It is very important to click on the mentioned link as it is will advise you ways to save money and time by asking the department to forward your authenticated documents to the embassy of your choice for completion of the legalization process.

b) Provincially, through the office of the Ontario Ministry of Government Services, the Official Documents Services Branch. Additional information can be found on that link in respect to authenticating your documents provincially. In Toronto, the fee to authenticate the registration of your notary public's signature and seal is $16 (this is a fraction of the cost that many lawyers and notaries public and various agencies try to get from you. On average they are charging over $180 plus the $16 fee disbursement): 
            
Official Documents Services
Jarvis Street and Dundas Street in downtown Toronto:
222 Jarvis Street, Main Floor, Toronto, M7A 0B6
The entrance for Official Documents Services is located on the north side of the building            
Telephone: (416) 325-8416
Facsimile: (416) 325-8434
Email: official.documents@mgs.gov.on.ca

Once the Canadian Government Authority is satisfied that the signature and seal of the notary public on the document is not fraudulent, they will issue a certificate or another seal to confirm the authenticity of the document and the notary public's registration and credential. 

The final step is legalization, or sometimes called superlegalization, which is done through the receiving embassy or foreign consulate located in Canada. Most consular offices will require that you contact them to make an appointment in advance. You will be required to submit your Canadian government authenticated documents, your identifications and a fee, to the receiving embassy who will place yet another seal or stamp and legalize your documents to be used and recognized in its country.

I hope I have clarified the procedures of getting your documents Apostille: credential verification, notarization, authentication, and legalization. Most importantly, I hope that you will be able to do it all on your own and saving yourself time and money.
 


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