Adoption Certificate Legalization & Apostille
Documents, such as birth certificates and adoption decrees, must be more than just "originals" to be regarded "genuine" by foreign governments, and the appropriate authentication method differs based on the country or countries you would be visiting.
Member countries of the 1961 Hague Convention, for example, require a "document apostille," or authenticity stamp, intended specifically for Hague Convention countries (currently 80 countries, 79 states, and one Regional Economic Integration Organization). Other countries want a Certificate of Authenticity from the United States Office of Authentications or the United States Department of State.
Apostilles are required for state-issued documents, such as birth certificates, from the approved Competent Authority in the state where the document was issued. A "certified true copy" of a court document, such as an adoption decree, must be validated in the state where the decree was issued. Apostilles are not required for originals. If the adoption and new birth certificate are not from the same state, this is especially significant because a state cannot apostille a document issued by another state, and the US Department of State virtually never issues an apostille for a state-issued document. If your document is not traveling to a Hague Convention country, they will give a Certificate of Authenticity. This necessitates obtaining an apostille from the state in which the birth certificate was issued.
Adoption Decree & Apostille Process
Complicating matters, each U.S. state, as well as the federal government, has its own apostille method, fees, and regulations. Some states require documents to be sent directly from a court or county vital records office, while others have deadlines (for example, a document must have been issued within the last six months), others require lengthy forms and an exemplification letter, and still others require different documents and forms for each type of authentication (needed if you are going to both a Hague Convention country and non-convention country).
Adoption Decree Translation
Most countries will not consider documents “legal” unless they are written in the language of the country to which they will be given, even if they have an apostille. As a result, in addition to obtaining an apostille for an adoption decree, you should also have it formally translated into a foreign language. Keep in mind that acceptable translations must comply with strict certification and notarization criteria.
People living outside of the United States may desire to move, travel, transact business, or do any number of other things that require an apostille for an adoption decree. Unfortunately, time zones, mailing expenses, and other roadblocks can thwart your best efforts. If you find yourself in this circumstance, a document recovery service might be useful.
Because of the tight deadlines, variable application procedures, and varying requirements depending on your destination country or countries, you should seriously consider using a professional apostille business. After all, they navigate these waters many times a month, and these are services you can't afford to have done incorrectly.