Tutorial – how to authenticate a document

Published on Friday, July 5, 2019

Authenticating a document is a crucial step in the Canadian authentication and legalization process. The document authentication process – also known as the apostille process – is used to verify the authenticity of Canadian documents so that they can be officially recognized in another country. This tutorial will explain how to authenticate a Canadian document, whether by mail, in person, or using an expert authentication and legalization service.

About the document authentication and legalization process

There are three steps in the document authentication and legalization process. The first step involves preparing your documents for processing. This may involve:

  • notarizing the documents
  • making what is known as certified true copies
  • supplying supporting documents
  • obtaining a translation

When preparing your documents you will need to meet the requirements set by Global Affairs Canada for document authentication (see Step 2). You will also need to meet the specific requirements of the embassy or consulate that will be legalizing your documents (see Step 3). Read here for more information on preparing your documents for the authentication and legalization process.

The second step involves submitting your documents to Global Affairs Canada for authentication. We talk about this step in more detail below.

The third step involves legalization by the embassy or consulate of the country where you need to present your documents. The consular staff will review your documents, confirming that they have first been authenticated by Global Affairs Canada. They will also ensure your documents meet the specific requirements of this particular embassy or consulate. If they are satisfied that your documents meet all criteria they will place a stamp or sticker directly on the documents, confirming they have been legalized. Here is more information on legalizing your document.

How to authenticate a Canadian document

Document authentication is done by Global Affairs Canada. More specifically, document authentication is done by the JLAC department of Global Affairs Canada, located in Ottawa. The JLAC staff first reviews your document, ensuring that it meets their specifications. Many documents will first need to be notarized before JLAC will authenticate them. There are exceptions for some documents such as civil certificates and RCMP-issued certified criminal record checks. If some or all of your document is in a language other than English or French, you will need to have the document translated by a certified translator. When satisfied that your documents meets their requirements they will place a large red stamp directly on each document, confirming that it has been authenticated.

You have three options

You have three options for submitting your documents for authentication.

Your first option is to mail in your documents for processing. The JLAC website provides their address and instructions. If you are submitting your documents by mail, you will need to include a completed Request for Authentication Form (available on their website) and pre-paid self-addressed return shipping.

The downside of this option is that JLAC will take a considerable amount of time to process your documents. You should count on authentication taking at least three weeks, if not longer.  The other downside is when there is an error in how you have prepared your documents. If this happens you will get minimal to no feedback on what is wrong and how to fix it.

Your second option is to submit your documents in person to Global Affairs Canada. The JLAC department will process documents submitted in person while you wait. This is a great option if you live in the Ottawa area. The JLAC website (linked to above) gives their walk-in address and times that they are open. Hint – they are not open on Fridays. However, if you are not in the Ottawa area the downside of this option is obvious – the cost and hassle of getting to Ottawa.

Your third option is to use a company that specializes in navigating the authentication and legalization process on behalf of their clients. At International Documents Canada (IDC) we specialize in rapidly and accurately processing our clients’ documents. We return your authenticated and legalized documents in days instead of many weeks. We work with you to prepare your documents ensuring it is done right the first time, and then we handle the authentication and legalization process for you.

How much does document authentication cost?

Global Affairs Canada does not charge to authenticate documents. If you mail in your documents or submit them in person there will be no fee. If you use an expert service such as IDC there will be a fee for their services. When you contact us we will answer any questions you have about the authentication and legalization process, clearly explain your options, and give you a detailed quote so you have the information you need to make an informed choice.

Provincial authentication

In some cases it is possible to get your documents authenticated by a provincial authority, rather than at Global Affairs Canada. Each province in Canada has a designated government department that authenticates documents. However, not all embassies and consulates accept documents that have been authenticated provincially. Before considering provincial authentication you should determine what type of authentication will be accepted by the embassy or consulate that will legalizing your documents.

How can I get more information?

Our website has a wealth of information on the document authentication and legalization process, and it is a great place to start. The Global Affairs Canada website listed above also has information. Or better yet, contact our friendly staff – no pressure and no obligation! We would welcome the chance to explain your options and answer your questions. Contact us toll-free at 1-888-433-1011 or submit our quick form and we’ll get right back to you.