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About Apostilles & Authentications

About Apostilles & Authentications

The Montana Secretary of State’s office can provide state certification for documents that bear the signature of a Montana notary public or other authorized notarial officer and are to be sent to, or used in, a foreign country. Both types of certification – Apostille and Authentication – verify that the Notary Public, Clerk of District Court, Clerk & Recorder, or Vital Records Administrator is authorized to provide the notarization or certification and that he/she has done so in accordance with the requirements of the Montana Code Annotated. Certification provided by the Secretary of State’s Office does not verify the accuracy or reliability of the contents of the record.

  • Montana uses a “universal certificate” that can be used as either an Apostille, for countries that are members of the Hague Convention, or an Authentication, for non-member countries.  Documents that are being sent to countries that are not members of the Hague Convention will require additional certification by the U.S. State Department, the country’s Embassy, or both.
  • Certification of a notary public by an official at the local or county level is not provided or necessary in Montana.
  • Our office will not certify improperly notarized documents. Notaries should be advised that they must complete statutorily appropriate notarial certificates for all documents they notarize. If the notary has any questions, he/she should refer to the Montana Notary Public Handbook or contact our office for more information.
  • Our office can only apostille or authenticate certified copies of official records issued in Montana within the last five years. If you have a birth, death, marriage, or court record that was issued more than five years ago, you must obtain a new certified copy from the appropriate state or county office.  
  • Our office may not certify records issued by any other state or by U.S. federal government courts or agencies.
  • Our office does not certify documents intended for use in Puerto Rico.  The U. S. State Department has advised us that, as a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico must give full faith and credit to public documents issued by the states, evidenced by Federal Rule of Evidence 902.
  • Our office will not certify documents if we have reason to believe that the documents may be used within the United States or for any unlawful, fraudulent, or improper use, including, but not limited to documents that relate to the relinquishment or renunciation of citizenship, sovereignty, or documents setting forth or implying a claim of immunity from the laws of the state of Montana or the United States of America.  Such documents may be turned over to the Montana Department of Justice for investigation.

The fee for an Apostille or Authentication is $10 per document/notarization, regardless of the number of pages.  If a document has multiple signatures and has been notarized by different notaries, the fee may be charged for each notarization.  Please contact our office for confirmation of the correct fee before submitting the order if you are uncertain of the amount.  Over or underpayments will delay processing and may result in documents being returned unprocessed.

The Process:
  • Notarized Documents:  To avoid delays and rejected documents, the Notary and Certifications Division of the Montana Secretary of State’s Office will pre-check notarized documents requiring certification prior to submission. Please scan the documents you want certified and email them to [email protected] to have this service provided at no additional charge.
  • Public Records:  Recently obtained certified copies of Montana public records (birth, death, marriage, or court records) do not usually require pre-checkingSuch records should not be sent over the internet for security reasons.  Please contact our office if you have questions about a public record.
  • Option 1:  You may submit your order and payment for Apostilles or Authentications online through the Secretary of State’s Online Portal.  Payment can be made with a credit or debit card when you submit the request online.  You may submit the documents either by mail or in person when you pay online.
  • Option 2:  You may submit a printed Certification Request Form  with payment by check or money order when submitting documents by mail or in person.  We cannot accept cash.
  • You must send the original, notarized, or certified record.  Note: Because a print-out of an electronically signed and notarized document (IPEN, RON) is considered an original for certification purposes, such documents may be submitted electronically.  
  • An Apostille and/or Authentication payment submitted via the online portal or by check or money order, or a document submitted without payment, will be held for processing no more than 90 days from the date of receipt.

We strongly recommend that you consider using a priority (tracking) service when submitting original documents to us.

Original certified or notarized documents may be mailed via the post office to:
Notary & Certifications Division
Montana Secretary of State’s Office
PO Box 202801
Helena, MT 59620 -2801

FedEx and UPS shipments should be addressed to:
Notary & Certifications Division
Montana Secretary of State’s Office
1301 E. 6th Ave
Helena, MT 59601

  • Provide a pre-addressed stamped return envelope or pre-paid shipping label. We again recommend that you use a priority mail service that provides tracking capabilities. Requests that do not include a return envelope or mailing label will be sent using standard postage to the address on the request form. We are not responsible for documents that are lost in the mail.
  • Normal processing time is 3 – 5 business days from receipt by the Notary and Certifications Division.  If documents cannot be certified for any reason, they will be returned for correction using the envelope provided.

Documents which have been pre-checked may be dropped off at the Secretary of State’s office:

Secretary of State’s Office
Room 260
Montana State Capitol Building
Helena, MT

You will be contacted by phone or email, usually within 2 business days, when your documents are ready for pick-up. You may leave a pre-addressed stamped return envelope or pre-paid shipping label and we will mail the documents to you.

Appointments for walk-in, same day service must be made in advance.  The Secretary of State’s staff offers notarization service for documents that have not been notarized.  There is no charge for notarization.

We will not make an appointment until the documents have been pre-checked.  Please call 406-444-1877 to schedule an appointment.

Documents which are brought in without having been pre-checked or scheduled will be handled as mail-ins and will be processed in the order in which they arrived. You will be contacted by phone or email, usually within 3 – 5 business days, when your documents are ready.  If the documents cannot be certified, they will be returned for correction and must be submitted again.

 
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions:

Based on the experience of the Secretary of State’s office, there are some common errors that cause the documents to be returned. Be aware of the following:

  • Private documents must be properly notarized according to Montana statutes. There are statutory requirements for Montana notarial certificates, and we cannot certify the notarization if it is not correct.
  • Public documents, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, can only be certified by someone who works in the office where the original or official copy is kept. You must obtain a certified copy of those documents from the appropriate county Clerk & Recorder’s Office, Clerk of District Court, or Montana Department of Vital Records. State certification cannot be provided on certified public records that were issued more than five years previously.
  • Improperly notarized copies of private documents, including passports, driver’s licenses, and diplomas cannot be processed.  Pages 19 – 21 of the Montana Notary Public Handbook provide detailed information about certifying copies of such documents.
  • Documents that are submitted with a check or money order for the wrong amount.  The fee for certifying a document is $10, regardless of the number of pages.  We are not able to accept incorrect payments.

A properly notarized document will have four elements in the notarial certificate:  The Venue – the state and county where the notarization was performed; the Statement of Particulars – a sentence that contains the date of notarization, the type of notarial act, and a reference to the signer or the type of document (depending on the type of notarization); the notary’s official signature; and the notary’s official stamp.  There are numerous variations of acceptable wording and formatting for notarial certificates, but if your document contains only the notary’s signature and stamp, it will automatically be rejected and returned for correction.   Our office will pre-check your notarized document before you submit it to assure it has been properly notarized.

We have published various templates for Montana notarial certificates for all authorized notarial acts on our website.  You may download copies of the appropriate certificates to present to the notary with your document.

We are happy to assist you with any questions prior to having your documents notarized to assure the documents are notarized properly.

You have two options for obtaining an Apostille on an FBI background check (Fingerprint Search Results). You can have the report certified at the federal level. The instructions for completing this process are found on the websites of the FBI and the State Department Office of Authentications. This process currently takes approximately 8 – 14 weeks. The other option is to have a local notary certify a copy (a type of notarization) of the report that then allows the Montana Secretary of State to Apostille that record.

The Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State provided the following information: “There is nothing in U.S. federal law that prohibits notaries public from Montana or any other U.S. state from executing copy certifications of FBI Fingerprint Search Results.” Officials from the Department of State and the FBI have affirmed that FBI background checks may be apostilled by the Authentications Office of the Department of State without a notarization, or in states that allow copy certification (such as Montana) these records may be notarized locally and Apostilled at the state level.

No. Certified documents from Federal Agencies should be authenticated by the US Department of State. Federal court documents should be authenticated by the Federal Court in which it was issued.

 

You can obtain certified copies of the records you have filed with the Montana Secretary of State’s Business Services Division by logging into the SOS Enterprise Filing Portal and searching for My Business Records. At that time, you can make the payment for the Apostille as well. Once your records are downloaded, email them to [email protected] requesting an Apostille/Authentication. We will print them out and have the Deputy of Business Services sign them for certification purposes.

Copies of private business records and documents can be certified by a local or in-house notary and then sent to us for Apostille/Authentication. For information on how to properly certify private records, please see pages 19 – 21 of the Montana Notary Public Handbook. A loose certificate for Certification of a Tangible Record (#6 of 14 in the file) can be printed out from the templates provided on this website.

If the notarization has been done in English (as required by Montana law), it doesn’t matter what language the document itself is written in – we can provide the Apostille or Authentication. The Apostille/Authentication does not certify the contents of the document; it only attests to the authenticity of the notary public and the notarial act. (The notary/notarization attests to the authenticity of the document itself.)

Our office does not provide translation services. If your document needs to be translated, you should check to see if the translation also needs to be Apostilled or if it can be attached to the documents.

 

The Montana Secretary of State’s office can certify printouts of electronically notarized records. The electronic document should be emailed to [email protected]. At this time, we are only able to provide tangible Apostilles/Authentications, so the electronic record will be downloaded and printed out by our staff for processing. The hard copy of the certified record will then be mailed to you using the shipping label you must provide.

We are currently working with the Hague Convention to develop and adopt a fully electronic eApostille process for an end-to-end electronic experience.

No. Removing the Apostille from the underlying document, for any reason, will invalidate it and cause the record to be rejected. If you need to make a copy of an Apostilled record, you may carefully fold the Apostille over along the stapled side to photograph or photocopy the underlying record.

We ask that you provide a pre-paid shipping label or stamped envelope addressed to wherever you wish the document to be sent. We strongly recommend that you use a priority mailing service that offers tracking capability. Particularly, when sending the document overseas, we suggest that you use a “return address” of a friend or family member in the U.S. so that undeliverable packages will get to someone you know. We are not responsible for lost or undelivered mail.

Obtaining Montana Official Records

Coordination with Local or State Agencies

We can only apostille or authenticate certified copies of official records issued in Montana within the last five years. If you have an older copy of an official record, you will have to obtain a new certified copy from the appropriate agency.  

Not all departments or agencies are able send certified copies of your records directly to us. You must specify at the time you place the order that the document must be certified or notarized by department staff before being sent to the Secretary of State’s office for the Apostille/Authentication and request that the certified copy be sent to us if possible. It is your responsibility to provide any pre-paid shipping labels or envelopes necessary for documents to be sent to or from one agency to another.  

The Secretary of State’s Office will make every effort to work with you to facilitate the process of obtaining and certifying official records coming from other offices, however it is your responsibility to manage the process to assure a positive and timely experience.   

You will be ordering the document(s) from the appropriate agency(ies) and also ordering the Apostille(s)/Authentication(s) from the Secretary of State’s office.  You are responsible for making sure all involved agencies are aware of your request because these orders always require special handling.  Orders involving multiple records coming from multiple sources demand careful coordination from start to finish, particularly because these transactions are usually time critical.  

Payment for the Apostille/Authentication must be made directly to the Secretary of State’s office, regardless of where the documents come from.  Payments for records from other agencies do not include the fee for the Apostille/Authentication.   

Contact information for the most frequently requested records: 

Office of Vital Records –Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Letters of Marriage Eligibility:   

 The Montana Office of Vital Records provides certified copies of birth or death records originally issued in any county in the state.  Orders may be placed online through a third-party service, Vital Check, or by mail.  When ordering a birth or death record that will need to be Apostilled/Authenticated, it is imperative that you clearly indicate whether you need a long-form or short form record, and also inform them that the document is to be forwarded to the Secretary of State’s Office.  The online service offers optional shipping via UPS at a very reasonable price; if you choose to use this service, please use the address where you want the document to be sent after it has been Apostilled/Authenticated; use your address as the “sender”.    

Letters of Non-Marriage may also be provided.  The Office of Vital records can search the database for records of marriages and divorces that have occurred in Montana during a specific period of time.  Submit the Application for Search of Marriage & Divorce Indexes and indicate that the letter should be sent to the Secretary of State’s office for Apostille/Authentication.  

 County Clerk & Recorders’ Offices – Birth CertificatesCertified copies of recorded documents 

 The Clerk & Recorder in each Montana county can issue birth certificates for any person born in Montana.  This may be an option for Montana residents, since you can obtain the records in person and then send them to our office for certification.    

The County Clerk and Recorder can also provide certified copies of any record (such as a property deed) that was recorded in the office. 

 Addresses, phone numbers and general information for each county Clerk & Recorder’s office can be found with a simple internet search.

County Clerks of Court  

 The Clerk of District Court in the county where the marriage, divorce, or other court action (adoptions, name changes, etc.) occurred can issue certified copies of those records.  Contact information for each county Clerk of District Court can be found with a simple internet search. 

State Criminal Background Checks    

The Montana Department of Justice, Criminal Records Identification Services Section, provides fingerprinting and state-level background check services. You will need to let them know that the record must be notarized and sent to the Secretary of State’s office for certification.  

Local Background Checks:    

Searches of criminal activity at the city or county level can be done by the local sheriff or police.  Letters of the      results must be signed and notarized by designated personnel before they can be submitted for certification.   

FBI background checks: 

Montana Secretary of State’s office cannot certify FBI background checks.  Please visit the FBI website for information on obtaining Apostilled/Authenticated copies of an FBI background check.  Be aware that the timeframe for procuring certified copies of an FBI background check may be several weeks.  

You can obtain certified copies of your business records that have been filed with the Montana Secretary of State through the Online Filing Portal at Online Business Services | Montana Secretary of State (sosmt.gov).  Sign into the portal, then search for your business registration.  Click on its name to open, then use the “Request Information” form to request, pay for, and download certified copies of your documents.  At that time, file and make payment for the apostille as well.  (Apostille instructions.)  Email your documents and certificate to [email protected] requesting an Apostille/Authentication.  We will print them out and have the Deputy of Business Services sign them for certification purposes. 

Copies of private business records and documents (such as articles of incorporation drafted by your attorney) can be certified by a local or in-house notary, then sent to us for Apostille/Authentication.  For information on how to properly certify private records, please see pages 19 – 21 of the Montana Notary Public Handbook.  A loose certificate for Certification of a Tangible Record can be printed out from the templates provided on this website.  Once your notarized records and apostille request have been received, they will be certified for authenticity.  

Copies of professional licenses may be obtained from the Business Standards Division of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry – (406) 841-2300. 

Office of Public Instruction: http://opi.mt.gov/MTLicensingFAQ. 

For licensees requiring an apostille or authenticated copy of your active Montana teaching license to be sent to a foreign country, please send an email to [email protected] requesting a notarized copy of your license, indicating the country you are requesting the license for.  Your message needs to include your full name, your license number if you have it, your date of birth and the last 4 digits of your social security number.  Usually, within 24 to 48 hours your certificate will be sent to Secretary of State office along with a copy of your email. Licensure adds the request to the licensee’s file for future reference.  

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