Many countries and international university may require Americans to get what is called an Apostille or Authentication of their Diplomas and other documents. If you are applying for a university abroad, a job internationally, etc. they will usually ask for your diploma and maybe a police background check as well. Initially, they will just ask you for a “photocopy” of the document, but maybe later they will want you to “authenticate the document” or include an Apostille.
What does this mean exactly? What it means is that they don’t trust your document precisely, in fact they don’t trust anyone’s documents. These countries are asking you for a “second-level” of security to make sure your document is not a fake or copy. It isn’t enough these days to just get an original copy of your document and mail that to them. Now, they want your state and federal government to also attest to their validity.
Basically, the international standard for “verifying the legality of documents” is to have the State and Federal government notarize or “certify them.” This involves sending the original and a copy to your state department, then send that to the United States federal government, and sometimes then onto that foreign nation’s embassy for a final stamp.
Obviously, such a process is long and costly in terms of time and money. So many countries got together and signed an agreement that you can instead get a document called the “APOSTILLE.” This document is given to you by your state department and does not require the federal or embassy steps. Much faster right? Sometimes — not all countries actually follow that rule, and it kind of depends on your state.
But regardless, you always have to start with this step – get the State Department to sign off on your document to prove it is legit. Below are links to the websites for each state where you can order document authentications and apostilles!