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Beginning Monday, May 7, 2012, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office will use a new format when issuing an Apostille.

The purpose of an authentication by our office is to verify to foreign governments that certain Virginia officials are in good standing.  Depending on the destination country, the authentication is issued either as a Great Seal or an Apostille. The authentication only verifies that the Virginia Notary, Virginia Clerk of Court, or Virginia Deputy State Registrar is listed in our system, and they have notarized or issued your document correctly. Authentication at the state level is not required for documents to be used within the United States or its territories. The Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth does not regulate what documents are required by the foreign government. Documents issued by the FBI would be authenticated by the US State Department, not by the Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Documents must be properly notarized by a Virginia notary (as allowed by law) within the past 12 months prior to presenting to our office for authentication.  If the document is not properly notarized by a Virginia notary, it will be returned for correction/completion. Please review the exceptions below.

Exceptions –

If your document is:

  • Vital Record (birth, death, marriage or divorce certificate), the document cannot be notarized and must be issued from the Department of Health - Vital Records Division within the past 12 months. Marriage certificates issued by the circuit court must contain a triple seal.
  • Court Record, the document cannot be notarized and must be issued from the appropriate Virginia Circuit Court within the past 12 months. This date must be reflected on the document in addition to the signature of the (Deputy) Clerk of Court.
  • issued by the State Corporation Commission, the document must be issued by the State Corporation Commission within the past 12 months.

Our office does not require the document be translated before submitting for authentication.


How do I prepare the documents?

Before documents are sent to the Authentication Office, they must have the proper signatures (original signatures only) and/or certificates attached. All correspondence being sent to the Authentication Office must include a Cover Letter (PDF, 71kb | Word, 32kb) and the appropriate fee.

What are the fees?

The fee for authentication of documents is $ 10.00 per document, payable to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. If there are several documents signed by the same public official (notary public, deputy clerk, etc…) on the same date for the same country; the fee is $ 10.00 for the first document and $ 5.00 for each additional document.

Can I mail the documents or do I need to make an appointment?

So that we can accommodate our customers’ requests in a timely manner, we ask that you mail the documents . If documents must be dropped off for processing, the Drop-off/Pick –up schedule is below. Make sure to include the cover letter and the appropriate fee with all documents.

MAIL-IN Instructions 
The general turnaround time for mail-in documents is 5 business days - please plan accordingly. Include a cover letter with contact name, daytime telephone number, the country where the document will be used, and a self-addressed, prepaid return mailer to return documents. Documents submitted without a return envelope and/or postage will be returned by the United States Postal Service regular delivery to the person submitting the documents. If the return postage exceeds $2 in mailing fees, the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth may contact the requestor to obtain postage prior to returning documents. The Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth is not responsible for envelopes or packages lost in shipping to and from our office.

Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office
Authentication Division
1111 East Broad Street, 1st  Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

DROP OFF Instructions 
A cover letter with daytime phone number must accompany documents to be authenticated. ***8:45 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday – Friday except Federal and State Holidays. 

Pick Up Schedule

Drop-off Day


Pick-Up Day


Monday – Friday

Before 10 a.m. - less than 20 documents

Same Day

By 3:30 p.m.

Monday – Friday

Before 10 a.m. - 21 or more  documents

Next business day

After 11 a.m.

Monday – Friday

After 10 a.m. - less than 20 documents

Next business day

After 11 a.m.

Monday – Friday

After 10 a.m. - 21 or more  documents

Next business day

 Call for status after 11 a.m.


Where is the Authentication Office Located?

Our office is located in downtown Richmond at 1111 East Broad Street, 1st Floor, Richmond, VA 23219 across from MCV Hospital in the Patrick Henry Building. The public entrance is on the back side of the building. You must have a valid photo-id to enter the building.

Is an Apostille the same as an Authentication/Certification?

An Apostille is a form of Authentication/Certification to be used in countries who are signed as a part of the Hague Convention.

Why would a document be rejected?

Each Virginia Notary Public has taken an oath of office, in part, stating they will follow a specific set of guidelines when notarizing documents. A Notary acknowledgement can be rejected for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to:

  1. not having a proper acknowledgement on each document presented (notarial statement must reflect what is being notarized. i.e. – signature(s) or true copy of an original);
  2. the State and city/county where the document is being executed is not indicated;
  3. the notary’s registration number is either missing or incorrect;
  4. the notary’s expiration date is either missing or incorrect;
  5. the notary stamp or seal is either missing or incorrect;
  6. the notary did not sign his/her name on notarized document;
  7. notarization or issue date on the document is more than 12 months old;
  8. document is not dated; and
  9. the acknowledgement must be in English.

To avoid delay in processing, be sure to look over your documents before submitting them to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office to verify all information is accurate and present.

How do I get a Vital Record (Birth, Death, Marriage, or Divorce Certificate) authenticated?

In order for your vital record to be authenticated, it must have been issued by the Virginia Department of Vital Records within the past 12 months. For information on obtaining a copy of a birth, death, marriage or divorce certificate, call Vital Records at (804) 662-6200.  Vital Record documents should only be signed by a State Registrar or Deputy State Registrar.  Virginia law prohibits notarization of vital record (original or certified copy.)

Marriage certificates can also be obtained from the Circuit Court in the city/county where the marriage was recorded. These black and white certificates must be accompanied by a Triple Seal Page, also called an Authentication of Record. This is a separate sheet of paper from the Court with the signatures and seals of the Court Clerk and Judge. This additional page must be attached to your document prior to submitting for authentication.

A Death Certificate issued from the Department of Health (black and white copy) may be submitted for authentications if the death has occurred within four weeks of the authentication processing date. After this time, the certificate must be issued through Vital Records.

How do I get business documents (i.e. Certificates of Good Standing) authenticated?

Contact the State Corporation Commission at 804-371-9733 and tell the Specialist you need to order a document to be authenticated. Once issued, the document, cover letter, fee(s), and return mailer will need to be submitted to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office for authentication. Documents issued by the State Corporation Commission do not need to be notarized.

Can you authenticate or certify by Apostille a birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificate from another state or country?

No. We can only authenticate or certify those certificates issued by the Virginia Department of Vital Records.

Can you authenticate or certify by Apostille a document signed by a Notary or Clerk of Court from a state other than Virginia?

No. We can only authenticate or certify documents signed by a Virginia Notary or Clerk of Court.

What are the requirements for courier overnight envelopes?

  1. The Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office is a scheduled “Air Delivery” pick-up location for FedEx and UPS. The office is also a scheduled “Ground Delivery” pick-up for UPS.
  2. If you wish to use “Ground Delivery” for FedEx, you must provide a prepaid, computer generated FedEx Ground shipping label (not the handwritten Ground label.) Once the documents are processed, we will contact FedEx Ground for pick-up.
  3. Either way you choose to have your document(s) returned (Air or Ground) you will need to supply this office with a pre-paid shipping label to have the document(s) returned via a courier service.
  4. If you do not supply a pre-paid shipping label, the document(s) will be returned via regular mail.

Why does the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office affix the Apostille by stapling?

A Special Commission met from October 28 to November 4, 2003 to discuss many issues regarding practical operation of the Hague in connection to Apostille, evidence and service conventions. The formal requirements of the Apostille were discussed and the Special Commission concluded that there are a variety of means of affixing an Apostille to a public document. These means may include rubber stamp, glue, (multi-colored) ribbons, wax seals, impressed seals, self-adhesive stickers, grommets, staples, etc.  It is noted by the Special Commission that all these means are acceptable under the Convention, and that, therefore, these variations cannot be a basis for the rejection of Apostilles. Virginia has chosen the staple method of affixing the Apostille to the document.

Can you authenticate a document that has been signed by a Virginia Electronic Notary Public (eNotary)?

At this time, we cannot authenticate an electronic notarization with an Apostille or Great Seal authentication.


For further information/mailing address:

Authentications Director 
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
1111 East Broad Street, 1st Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219