1. What is meant by certifying & authenticating documents? Why Certify and legalize documents?
* Certifying documents is a process of verifying documents that originate in one country for use in another country.
* The process is also called authenticating. Authentication is the process of certifying a document so a foreign country’s legal system will recognize it.
* It is a governmental act by which designated public officials certify to the genuineness of the signature and seal of the official who has executed, issued, or notarized a document.
* The process does not certify the authenticity of a document or give approval of its content; it merely relates to the signature, seal and origin of a document.
2. What types of documents can be authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides authentication, free of costs, of:
• Public records and public documents for use in other countries who are not members of the Hague Convention on the legalization of public documents.
• Public records (such as: birth and death certificates, marriage certificates, immigration documents, hospital records, and school records, etc…) which are issued by national institutions (such as the Vital Statistics Unit, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Immigration Department, etc)
• Official public documents. NOTE: MFA certifies the signature of the highest authority responsible for such documents, usually a government ministry or department. For example, a school diploma should first be legalized by the Ministry of Education, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs certifies the signature of the official at the Ministry of Education.
• Documents that are notarized by a notary public in Belize. These are considered documents which can be certified at MFA.
3. What is an Apostille?
Alternatively, persons can authenticate documents using Apostille which, when affixed to a document, certifies the authenticity of the signature on the documents, the capacity in which the person signing the documents has acted, and identifies the seal and/or stamp that the documents bear.
(a) Is there a difference between an Apostille and a certifying statement?
* Yes. Apostilles are in a specific form and are issued by the competent authority, being the Registrar General in Belize. There is a charge of $50 for an Apostille.
* Certifying statements are less formal than Apostilles, there is no charge for them, and in Belize they are issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not the Registrar General.
*Certifying statements are to be used for countries which have not signed or are not participating non-member states to the Hague Convention (Read more).
* Certifying statements are also used for educational records which must be sent to certain foreign universities.
* Note the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cannot authenticate an apostille. Persons should first determine if the country in which the document will be used is a member of the convention so as to determine whether it should be taken to the Registrar for an apostille or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the authentication of the signature of the Notary.