An Apostille or Apostil can describe two things in the English language. In its original meaning it was sometimes referred to as a postil and came to the English language from the French verb apostiller, to annotate. In this primary context it means a marginal annotation or gloss of a religious text, usually one of the four canonical books of the New Testament, a homily, or an epistle. However, the context in which this sense of the word has come to be used has broadened in recent times and is now commonly used to describe the marginalia, annotation, textual gloss or commentary of any text, religious or secular.
In its secondary sense, the word Apostille describes an international certificate that acts in lieu of another document and that is conferred with legal status among all signatories of the of Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Foreign Public Documents, passed on the 5th of October 1961. The Apostille obviates the need to carry and present the original documentation and is especially useful when a national from a foreign country needs to present legal documentation or papers to a local government or bureaucratic body. Under the terms of The Hague Convention, an Apostille is now valid in 87 countries, of which the United States of America is one, and has jurisdiction over all territories and possessions belonging to a signatory of the convention.
Documents that often need an Apostille include birth, marriage and death certificates, divorce documents, company registration documents, academic qualification certificates, and certified translations of documents bearing a Notary Public or Solicitor’s signature and seals. An Apostille confirming a divorce certificate, for example, would need to be issued to someone wishing to re-marry in a second country to a foreign national before the ceremony could go ahead.
An Apostille must contain ten piece of information for it to be deemed valid. These details are: the country of issue, the name of the signatory, the capacity in which the signatory signed the document, the details pertaining to the relevant seals and stamps on the document, the place of issue, the date of issue, the issuing authority, the certificate number, the seal or stamp of the issuing authority, and finally the signature of the representative of the issuing authority. In the United States Apostilles are usually issued and affixed by the secretary of state in the issuing state or territory.