Apostille vs. notary: What’s the difference?

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As our life becomes more intricately connected on a global level, apostilles allow businesses and individuals to ensure the legitimacy of their international proceedings without significant delay. Though the situations where you may need an apostille vs. notary services are similar, there are critical differences between these two types of document certifications. 


To ensure either is performed in a valid and legally compliant way, it’s essential to be aware of the differences between the two. To help you understand when you would need an apostille or notarization, we break down the function and purpose of each and when you would need one over the other. 

What is an apostille?

An apostille is a certificate that authenticates a document to be used in proceedings in a foreign country. An apostille guarantees the authenticity of a document signature and any notarial stamps/ seals affixed to the document. 

Apostilles are attached to the original document they are certifying and ensure that the certification will be accepted in any other countries that are members of the Hague Apostille Convention

Apostilles are used to ensure that notarized legal documents are recognized as valid across borders. While every country has its own set of laws and procedures for notarizing documents, apostilles provide an international guarantee that these requirements have been met.

The types of documents that may require an apostille include:

  • Birth/ death certificates
  • Marriage/ divorce certificates 
  • Court documents
  • School records 
  • Immigration forms
  • Diplomas/ certificates 

Apostilles are issued either by the Secretary of State from the state in which it originated or by the U.S. Department Of State when federal documents are involved. 

What is a notary?

A notary public is an official authorized by the state government to serve as an impartial, third-party witness to document signings. Their job is to certify the identities of all parties who sign the document and ensure that they have signed it freely and willingly. 

In addition to physically witnessing a document signing, notaries are responsible for verifying the identities of all signing parties before the signing. This is usually done by having the signers present some form of state-issued identification, such as a valid driver’s license.

Once a document has been signed, the notary will apply their own signature and individual seal, which guarantees that the document signatures are legally valid, having been carried out per local state law.

While getting a document notarized traditionally required signers to schedule a time and place to meet with a notary, Remote Online Notarization (RON) has made it easier to create, edit, eSign, and notarize documents at your convenience.

Rather than requiring the signers and notary to meet in person physically, Remote Online Notary services allow everyone to meet online via a two-way audio-visual connection to complete a notarization. Not only does this cut down on the time and cost associated with traditional notarization, it also allows you to notarize securely from the comfort of wherever you work.

How to acquire an apostille

To obtain an apostille, you will need to have original copies of your documents organized, notarized, and ready to go. You will also need to specify which country the document will be used in to verify that you have met the requirements to obtain an apostille. 

Once you have this in order, you will need to present them to a state or federal office that is authorized to issue apostilles and pay the associated fee (which varies by jurisdiction). Once your apostille is issued, it will be attached to the corresponding document to send off to whichever country it must go.  

While notary publics are not usually permitted to issue apostilles, having your documents notarized accurately within compliance with all requirements can help to ensure the process goes smooth and quick. Remote Online Notarization (RON) not only helps ensure your documents are securely signed and stored, but it also allows you the peace of mind that comes with knowing the document signatures are valid and complete. 

Notarizing documents with PandaDoc Notary makes your life simple

While the purpose of an apostille vs. notary services may seem similar, apostilles specifically function as a way of upholding an internationally recognized standard for document verification. Although the procedure for obtaining an apostille has different requirements than notarization, RON can help you streamline the process by ensuring your documents are complete, valid, and ready to go.  

PandaDoc Notary provides a user-friendly and secure Remote Online Notarization platform that helps you cover all your notarization needs. Request a demo to learn more about how PandaDoc Notary can help you.

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