Viacheslav S. Kutuzov
How to verify the authenticity of New York Apostille certificate
In this article we will discuss how to check the validity of the Apostille issued in the State of New York.
Dealing with the apostillized documents you have yo remember that not all countries have ratified the Apostille Convention, so the first thing you have to do while dealing with foreign documents is to check whether the country of issue of Apostille is the member of Apostille convention. You may do it on the website of the convention, which you see right now.
Let me reiterate, the Apostille may be in two formats: a stamp and a separate certificate. All states of the U.S. issue Apostille in form of a certificate, although each state has its own design of the document.
Now, let’s look at the Apostille issued in the State of New York. Normally it consists of three parts:
the document that has to be legalized,
the county clerk certificate, which confirms the license of the notary, and
the certificate of Apostille.
We have a document, a written authorization which was issued by my friend and notarized by me. After I had notarized the document, I submitted it to the county clerk of Manhattan county who confirmed my the validity of notary license and issued a certificate of authentication (the red paper). Thereafter I submitted the document to the secretary of state, who issued the Apostille.
Our antifraud analysis will be limited to the formalities of the document. This means that we will not discuss whether document is drafted legally or not, does it have all requisites, etc.
After you ascertained that the country of issue and the country where the document shall be used are the members of the Apostille convention, you have to check the dates of the document. In many cases the document may have several dates, which might differ. In our template we have a document that has a date when it was composed and the date when the notary certified it.
FIRST STEP in your verification you have to pay your attention on is the date. The document may contain several dates. The first date is usually adduced in the beginning of the document and shows when the document has been executed. “Executed” means signed or authenticated in any other way. The other date is adduced in the certificate of notarization and show the date when the document was notarized. The date of execution may differ from the date of notarization. Under the laws of the State of New York and some other states the so-called “affiant” (the person who signs the affidavit or another document in presence of notary public) has to swear that the document is true and correct in presence of a notary. The affiant doesn’t have to sign the document in presence of notary. He or she may submit already signed document. Not all notaries agree to notarize the signed documents, but, again, the law requires mere swear or affirmation.
The most important aspect here is that the date of notarization should be the latest one, because you may notarize only completed document. After notarization affiant is not allowed to make any modifications to the document. If there are any dates late than the date of notarization, it might be evidence that the document has been modified after notarization.
SECOND STEP you have to verify is the notarial certification. There are two main types of notarial certification in the United States. The first one is called “jurat”. It looks like this “Sworn to before me this ........ day of ........, 20 ......”. Jurat is used for certification affidavits. An affidavit is a signed statement, duly sworn to, by the maker thereof, before a notary public or other officer authorized to administer oaths.
The other form of notarial certification is certificate of acknowledgment. Acknowledgement is a formal declaration before a notary or another duly authorized officer by a person who has executed an instrument that such execution is his act and deed. New York Notary Public License Law Brochure provides the following statement in regard to differentiation of jurat and certificate of acknowledgement: In the case of an acknowledgment, the notary public certifies as to the identity and execution of a document; the affidavit involves the administration of an oath to the affiant.
The examples of the certificates of an acknowledgment are provided on the website of the New York State Department of State. It is important to know that notaries may modify the notarial certification to the extent that such modification preserves the essential elements of jurat or certificate of acknowledgement.
THIRD STEPyou need to check is the venue of notarization. Venue is the place where the act of notarization was made. Normally, it consists of the listing of the state and the county of notarization. And it looks like this:
State of New York )
County of New York )
The abbreviation “SS.:” is the short form of a Latin term “scilicet” which means “namely” or “in particular.”
Sometime notaries also include the name of the country, like this:
United States of America )
State of New York ) SS.:
County of New York )
A notary is allowed to notarize the documents only within the state of his commission (or “licensed” in another words). If the notary is licensed only in Florida she may not authenticate documents in the State of New York.
FOURTH STEP is confirmation of legitimacy of venue. To check whether the notary made notarization within his territorial jurisdiction, you have to examine the stamp and/or seal of the notary. It should contain the information about the state of commission. In our case it is the State of New York. Once you confirmed that the venue of notarization lies within the jurisdiction of the notary, you will have to verify the validity of the notary’s license on the date of notarization. Let me reiterate, this date should be provided in the jurat or in the certificate of acknowledgement. All other dates are irrelevant for this purpose.
FIFTH STEP is the verification of the license of the notary who notarized the document. For this you need to visit the website of New York State Department of State. (You may find the link below):
You will need to insert First and Last name of the notary and choose the type of license “Notary Public”. If your notary is duly commissioned, you will find his registration information.
Please compare the ID number in the search results with the number on the stamp and/or seal of the notary. Instead of stamp or seal the notary may write or print all commission requisites. The notary has to use black inks. Also, please note that in the state of New York the commission number normally contains the first two letters of the notary’s last name.
After that, please verify the date of expiration of the notarial commission. In the State of New York the notary license is issued for four years. So, if you deduct four years from this date, you will learn when your notary’s commission began. Unfortunately, the system does not allow us to verify previous commissions.
SIXTH STEP is reviewing the signature of the notary. If you have any other peace of document, authenticated by the same notary, compare the signatures. Notaries have to make identical signatures on all documents. The difference in signature may be the evidence of fraud. In many states, the signature of the notary and the signer of the document should be located on the same page.
SEVENTH STEP. Turn on the page. You will find a certificate of authentication, issued by the county clerk which states that notary has been duly licensed and had provided the template of his signature.
The certificate of authentication also contains venue. The notary may request a certificate of authentication from any county clerk of his state to whom the notary has filed the template of his signature on the certificate of official character. The notary shall include in his stamp and/or seal the information about all county clerks, to whom he has filed the certificate of official character. If you do not see the venue of clerk’s authentications among the counties where the notary has filed his certificate of official character, it might be the reason consider such document as forgery.
If the certificate of official character was duly filed, the county clerk compares the signature on it with the signature on the notarized document, verifies the notary commission, and issues the certificate of authentication.
The form of the certificate of authentication may differ from county to county. In the county of New York (the borough of Manhattan), where was issued our certificate, it is a red sheet of paper of the following size: 10 ½`` x 7 ½``
Please note, that not all states require the certificate of authentication to get the Apostille. In many states you may apply to for the Apostille right after notarization.
EIGHT STEP. After verifying the legitimacy of the venue of county clerk authentication, you need to check the name of the notary. It should match with the spelling on the stamp of the notary and in the search results of the Department of State website.
Also if you have some other documents from the same notary, authenticated by the same clerk, please compare the numbers. The older certificate has to contain the smaller number.
Then take a look on the date of the certificate of authentication. It should be not earlier than the date on the jurat or certificate of acknowledgement.
Finally, the certificate of authentication should bear the raised seal of the county clerk and the seal which partly touch the notarized document. Although not all counties use this protection instrument.
NINTH STEP. Finally, let’s turn to the page of Apostille. In the United States the Apostille may be issued by the Secretary of state pertaining to state documents or the U.S. Department of State in regard to the federal documents. Normally, the Apostille certificate and the other documents are printed on the paper of Letter 8½ × 11 or 215,9 × 279,4 мм, while in Europe and many other countries the standard format is А4 which size is 210 × 297 мм.
In the state of New York, the Apostille certificate is attached to the rest documents with eyelet hole punch pliers. No additional means of protection is provided. The certificate of authentication, issued by county clerk is attached with the stapler.
First thing you need to check on the Apostille certificate is the date of issue. It should not be earlier than the date of notarization, stated in jurat or in the certificate of acknowledgement, and not earlier than the date on the certificate of authentication.
To verify the validity of the Apostille you need to visit the website of the department of state:
You will put the number of your Apostille without letters. Then, please insert the date of issue. If the document is valid, then as a result of the search you will see:
the confirmation of the validity of the Apostille;
the name of the Secretary of State, who has issued the Apostille certificate;
the name of county clerk who issued the authentication certificate;
the name of the county where the certificate of official character has been filed by the notary public or where the notary public has been initially commissioned.
Please, compare this information with your Apostille certificate, the county clerk authentication certificate and the notary certification and notary stamp. If you noticed any discrepancies, do not hesitate to contact the notary, who certified the document and ask explanation.
If you have any other questions or you need assistance in verification your apostille, please contact our office.
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Viacheslav S. Kutuzov