The Role of Embassies in the Canadian Apostille Process

Published on Friday, October 18, 2019

The apostille process is used to certify the legitimacy of a document from one country so it will be officially recognized in another country. If you have Canadian documents that you need to present in a foreign country, you may need to obtain an “apostille” on these documents before they will be accepted.

We specialize in navigating the Canadian apostille process for our clients. Many of our clients are aware that embassies are involved in the Canadian apostille process, but are not sure of their role. This article looks at the role of embassies in the Canadian apostille process.

About the Canadian apostille process

If you already are familiar with the international apostille process you may be confused by the idea of embassy involvement, because in most countries embassies do not play a role in the apostille process. However, the process is different in Canada.

An apostille can be issued by any country that is a signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention. Each signatory country appoints a government agency that is responsible for issuing apostilles. You submit your documents to this government agency, they apostille your documents, and then your documents will be recognized by other countries that have signed the Hague Apostille Convention. Embassies are usually not involved.

However, Canada is not a signatory to the Hague Apostille Convention. This means Canada cannot issue an apostille. Instead, Canada has an equivalent process called document authentication and legalization. The term “apostille” is still frequently used in Canada, but technically the correct term for the Canadian process is “authentication and legalization.” Even though we know the term is not correct, we still use the term “Canadian apostille” because many of our clients use this term.

While both the international apostille process and the Canadian authentication and legalization process accomplish the same goal of verifying a document from one country so it will be accepted in another country, there are some differences. A document that has received an apostille will be accepted in most other countries that are signatories to the Hague Apostille Convention. A Canadian document that has been authenticated and legalized will only be accepted in the specific country which has legalized the document. The other major difference is that an international apostille is issued by an appointed government agency, while the Canadian authentication and legalization process involves both a government agency AND the embassy of the country in which you will be presenting your document.

The steps involved in the Canadian apostille process

The Canadian apostille process – properly called the authentication and legalization process – involves three steps:

Step 1 – Document preparation

The first step in the authentication and legalization process is to ensure your documents meet all the requirements of Global Affairs Canada (Step 2 below) and the relevant embassy or consulate
(Step 3 below). Each embassy and consulate sets its own unique requirements for how documents need to be prepared. So there is no universal way to prepare your documents for processing. Depending on the requirements for your specific situation, document preparation may involve having your documents notarized, having certified true copies made, having your documents translated, and providing required supporting documents.

Step 2 – Document authentication

Document authentication, the second step of the authentication and legalization process, is done by Global Affairs Canada. More specifically, this step is done by Global Affairs Canada’s JLAC division, located in Ottawa. The JLAC staff will review your documents to ensure they meet their requirements. When satisfied, JLAC will place a large red stamp directly on your documents, certifying that they have been authenticated.

Step 3 – Document legalization

This is where embassies play an essential role. The third and final stage of the Canadian authentication and legalization process is to have your documents legalized by the embassy or consulate of the country in which you will be presenting them. This final step of document legalization is described in detail below.

The role of embassies in the Canadian apostille process

The Canadian apostille process is not complete until your document has been legalized by the embassy or consulate of the country in which you need to use them. The consular staff will review your documents to ensure that A) they have been authenticated by Global Affairs Canada, and B) that the documents meet their specific requirements for legalization. If satisfied, the embassy will place a stamp or sticker directly on your documents. Some embassies and consulates also add an additional page to your documents. If your documents do not meet their requirements, they will be returned to you unprocessed. Unfortunately, if this occurs it can be difficult or costly to have these issues corrected in order to proceed with legalization.

A few things to watch for when legalizing your documents with an embassy

Here are a few things to watch out for when legalizing your documents:

Consular jurisdiction – Some countries have more than one diplomatic mission in Canada, involving both an embassy and one or more consulates. In these cases, each diplomatic mission may have jurisdiction over certain regions of the country. This means that if your document originated in a particular region, it can only be legalized by the embassy or consulate responsible for this region.

Supporting documents and translations – each embassy and consulate sets its own unique requirements for how documents need to be prepared and what supporting documents need to be supplied. In some instances, the embassy will even dictate how your document needs to be bound. If you want to move your documents smoothly through the document authentication and legalization process it is essential to get accurate information about what legalization requirements have been set by the relevant embassy or consulate.

Payment – the relevant embassy or consulate will charge a fee to legalize your documents. These fees range from quite modest ($5 per document) to expensive (over $700 per document), and they can change frequently. The legalization fee charged by some embassies and consulates changes monthly, based on fluctuations between the value of the Canadian dollar and their home currency. Most embassies and consulates will also specify which form of payment is accepted. Some require a bank draft or money order, some require payment in cash, and some have an online payment system. To further complicate the payment issue, some embassies and consulates require payment in Canadian dollars and other in US dollars.

How can I get more information on the role of embassies in the Canadian apostille process?

Sometimes an embassy has a website with relevant information, and this is a good place to start. Unfortunately, we have found that many diplomatic missions have minimal or inaccurate information online. It can also be difficult with many embassies to get a consular official to respond to enquiries.

In these cases, our website is a great place to turn. We have a wealth of information on the Canadian apostille process (document authentication and legalization). Recognizing the importance of embassies in the authentication and legalization process, we will be launching a series of web pages focused on specific embassies. Watch for these pages in the coming weeks.

We also invite you to give us a call to discuss your document processing needs directly. We manage the Canadian apostille process for thousands of clients every year, and actively monitor the changing requirements of over 200 diplomatic missions in Canada. When you contact us, we’ll discuss your situation, explain your options, and answer all your questions. No obligation and no pressure. Call us toll-free at 1-888-433-1011, or fill out our quick form and we’ll get right back to you.