How long does it take to get an apostille in Canada?

Published on Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Basic information on the Canadian apostille process can be hard to find. At International Documents Canada we specialize in navigating the apostille process on behalf of our clients. We pride ourselves on providing straightforward information we hope will fill in this gap. This article addresses a question we hear on a daily basis, “How long does it take to get an apostille in Canada?”

Canada does not issue apostilles

The first and most important thing to know is that Canada does not actually issues apostilles. The apostille process is used to certify the authenticity of a document from one country so that this document will be officially recognized in another country. Every country that is a signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention will issue apostilles and recognize apostilles issued by other countries. However, Canada is not a signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention. So Canada does not issue apostilles.

Instead, Canada uses a process called document authentication and legalization. The Canadian document authentication and legalization process is our equivalent to the apostille process. If you have been told you need to apostille your documents, what you will actually be doing is authenticating and legalizing these documents. Here is more information on Canada and the Hague Apostille Convention.

You have two options to apostille your documents

You have two options to apostille (authenticate and legalize) your documents. The first option is to manage the process on your own. The second option is to use a company like us that specializes in document authentication and legalization to navigate the process on your behalf. We’ve just put together a helpful infographic that gives you the information you need to help decide which option is right for you. In this article we discuss how long each of these options takes.

There are three steps to the Canadian apostille process

There are three steps to authenticating and legalizing a document (the Canadian apostille process).

Step 1prepare your documents to be processed. This may involve notarizing your documents, making certified true copies, translating them, and providing required supporting documents.

Step 2 – submit your documents to Global Affairs Canada for authentication.

Step 3 – submit your documents to the relevant embassy or consulate to have your documents legalized.

How long does it take to get an apostille in Canada?

We’ll first discuss how long it takes to get your documents apostilled (authenticated and legalized) if you do it yourself. And then we’ll talk about how long it takes when you use us to navigate the process for you.

Authenticating and legalizing your own documents

When managing the process on your own it hopefully will not take too long to prepare your documents. Notary services are readily available in most Canadian communities. When you are outside of Canada and need to notarize your documents it can be trickier. If this is your situation, contact our friendly staff to discuss your options. If you need to have your documents translated, you will need to locate a certified translator in your province. Make sure to account for the time it will take for the translation.

The biggest potential for eating up your time when preparing your documents is simply finding out what preparation is necessary. Global Affairs Canada publishes information on the authentication process here. Some, but not all embassies and consulates publish information on their websites. But we recommend talking with consular staff directly whenever possible to confirm. So, depending on your situation, it will take you anywhere from several minutes to several weeks to prepare your documents.

If you are in or near Ottawa, you can submit your documents in person to Global Affairs Canada’s JLAC branch. They will confirm your documents meet their requirements, and if satisfied, will authenticate your documents while you wait. If you don’t live in or near Ottawa and want to process your documents yourself, you can mail them to JLAC. Documents that are mailed in to JLAC typically take several weeks to be processed.

The final step requires submitting your authenticated documents to the appropriate embassy or consulate to be legalized. In most, but not all cases, you can submit your documents to the embassy or consulate by mail or courier. The consular staff will confirm your documents have been authenticated and that they meet all requirements, and then will place a stamp or sticker directly on each document, confirming they have been legalized. Every embassy and consulate sets its own requirements and the processing time varies widely. Some embassies and consulates legalize documents in a day or two, while some take several weeks. Note that at certain times of the year some embassies will take considerably longer. For example, during Eid many embassies from Muslim countries take a lot longer to legalize documents.

Putting this all together, if you live in or near Ottawa, your documents don’t require much preparation, and the embassy or consulate will process your documents quickly, you can get your documents processed in a few days. If you need to mail your documents into Global Affairs Canada, you will be waiting several weeks at a minimum. Sometimes much longer. And if anything goes wrong in the authentication and legalization process you will often be forced to correct the mistake and start the process over again.

Having International Documents Canada process your documents

If you choose us to expertly navigate the process on your behalf, we can usually get your processed documents back to you in a few days. We’ll help you prepare your documents correctly the first time. We’ve built a roster of trusted translators that work quickly, and we’ll work with you to avoid potential issues before they delay the process. We present our clients’ documents to Global Affairs in person and then immediately submit the authenticated documents to the relevant embassy or consulate. We have close working relationships with the consular staff in Ottawa, and work directly with them to ensure your documents are legalized quickly. We also track the changing legalization requirements of over 200 diplomatic missions in Canada, to ensure your documents are processed right the first time.

In urgent cases we return processed documents to our clients in as little as 1 business day. In less urgent cases we will typically have your documents processed in 3-5 business days.

Where can I get more information on the Canadian apostille process?

We hope this article has given you a clear idea of how long the Canadian apostille process takes. We recognize that one of the biggest challenges you will face is obtaining the specific information that applies to your situation. Our website is a good place to start. Even better, we would welcome the chance to discuss your apostille needs with you. We’ll describe the process, answer any questions you have, and clearly lay out your options – no obligation and no pressure. You can submit our quick form and we’ll get right back to you, or phone us toll-free at 1-888-433-1011.