You’ve collected all of the required certified vital records, now how do you get Italy to recognize them as certified? Fortunately for us, Italy was a signatory of the Hague Convention (AKA “Hague Treaty”) as was the U.S. In a nutshell, this agreement specifies that a competent authority (as designated in the Hague Convention) can certify the authenticity of a document by filling out, signing and notarizing a standard sealed form called an apostille. The apostille is then stapled to the original record. Signatories of the Hague Convention will then accept the document as a legitimate and legal record. Depending on the consulate, this will likely include all records directly pertaining to the people in the Italian lineage you are claiming citizenship through, yourself and your minor children (if applicable). Some consulates, such as San Francisco, only require apostille’s for your records and those of your minor children. Others will require apostilles for all records except those pertaining to naturalization.
Most of the time, apostilles are provided by the Secretary of State’s office for the state that issued the original certified record. For example, if you were born in the State of New York and the State of New York issued your birth certificate, you’ll need to go through New York’s Secretary (AKA Department) of State’s office. You can get additional information on the cost and the process by going to that state’s Secretary of State’s website. To save some time, type in the state’s name followed by the word “apostille” into Google. The results should turn up the exact page on the state’s website that has this information. The cost will vary greatly by state from $1 (Hawaii) to $20 (California) and everywhere in between. When you make your request, make sure to specify that the apostille is for Italy. Once you get a record apostilled, it is important that the apostille not be removed or detached otherwise it will be invalidated. Turnaround and processing times will vary by state and the method by which you request the apostille (e.g. walk-in VS mail-in) but is usually around 1-2 days to up to 3 weeks (plus mailing time).
As recommended in a previous post, if you still haven’t requested the records from the state, city or county yet, check the Secretary of State’s website to find out what the apostille process is prior to sending in your request. Some states allow you to request the apostille at the same time you request the record which will save time. For example, the Hawaii State Department of Health will forward the vital record to the Secretary of State’s office for apostille if you specify this in your original request and send two checks (one for the record and one for the apostille). In addition, some states have special requirements for a record to be eligible for apostille which you may need to follow when requesting the record.
Before you send the records off for apostille, make sure to check the records for discrepancies and be aware of which discrepancies your consulate will accept and which need to be corrected. This way if any corrections need to be made, you’ll apostille the corrected document. Apostilles do not need to be translated into Italian.
On a side note, if you need to request a certified record from another country, a list of the the member nations of the Hague Conference can be found here. Click on the country to find out if they are a member of the Hague Convention that pertains to apostilles. This convention is officially titled “Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation of Foreign Public Documents”. The cost and process will vary greatly by country. Look for future posts where I will write about getting documents from other countries in greater detail.
Is there anything else you would like to know about the apostille process? What has been your experience with the apostille process? Was it pretty smooth for you or did you run into glitches?