An Apostille (AP-o-steel) is a certification of a public document or a notarized document which can be used in countries that are parties to the Hague Convention. Certification by apostille means that a document will be recognized in the country of its intended use without further certification or legalization by the embassy or consulate of the foreign country in which the document is to be used. Apostilles cannot be used in countries which are not members of the Hague Convention. These countries require regular certification through the U.S. Department of State’s Authentication Office. To access a list of countries that are parties to the Hague Convention, please visit the following website: http://www.hcch.net.
Apostilles and Certifications (also known as the Great Seal) are State Certification of the signature of an official who has signed a legal document. Therefore the signer of the legal document must be an elected or appointed official whose signature is filed with the Office of the Secretary of State. Additionally, documents that have been notarized by a commissioned South Carolina Notary Public may be certified with an apostille.
Submit the following information to the Secretary of State’s Office for an apostille:
- South Carolina Authentication Office Cover Letter;
- Self-addressed stamped return envelope;
- Personal or company check or money order made payable to the Secretary of State’s Office or cash in the amount of $2.00 for each document; and
- Documents to be authenticated.
Documents should be mailed to or sent by UPS/FedEx or hand-delivered (between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm) to:
SC Secretary of State's Office
1205 Pendleton Street, Suite 525
Columbia, SC 29201
- Be sure to check your documents for correctness before calling, and also check again for correctness before leaving the Secretary of State’s Office.
- Documents that appear to be contrary to state or federal law, interest or policy will not be certified.
- All documents that are notarized in a foreign language must be accompanied by an English translation signed by the translator with the translator’s signature notarized.
- A public copier is not available in our office. Please make copies before submitting originals for apostille or certification. Do not remove apostilles or certification once they are attached.
Certifications by Elected or Appointed Officials
- The Secretary of State’s Office can verify the signature of any elected or appointed official whose signature is filed with the Office. The document must be signed by the elected official, NOT a Deputy or Assistant.
- The only exception to the above rule is that office employees in the Office of the Probate Judge in Richland, Greenville, Horry and Charleston counties who are authorized to certify marriage licenses for these counties may sign documents as their signatures have been filed with our Office.
- Certified copies obtained from the county must bear the original signature of the elected official of that office (i.e. County Probate Judge or County Clerk of Court). Addresses and telephone numbers for County Government Offices are available at: http://www.sccounties.org/counties/default.aspx
- If the county official is not an elected or appointed one, his or her signature must be notarized.
Certifications by Commissioned South Carolina Notaries Public
- Documents that are signed by individuals who are not elected or appointed officials whose signatures are not on file with the Secretary of State’s Office must be notarized by a commissioned South Carolina Notary Public.
- School transcripts, report cards or letters MUST be signed by a school official and the official’s signature MUST be notarized.
- Records checks from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), local sheriffs or police departments must be signed by an official from that office and his/her signature MUST be notarized. The Secretary of State’s Office cannot authenticate a records check obtained from the Internet.
Certification of Vital Records
- Photocopies of vital records are not acceptable. All vital records must be certified by the issuing government agency.
- A Marriage License may be obtained from the county Probate Judge bearing the signature of the Probate Judge only or the license can be obtained from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC)’s Vital Records Division.
- A Divorce Decree may be obtained from the County Clerk of Court bearing certification including the signature of the Clerk of Court only, or obtained from DHEC’s Vital Records Division.
- A death or birth certificate can only be provided by DHEC’s Vital Records Division.
To obtain these items from DHEC you may visit www.vitalcheck.com or call 1-877-284-1008. You may also get these records from:
SC DHEC, Division of Vital Records
2600 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Certifications for countries that are not members of the Hague Convention
If the document is going to be sent to a country that is not a member of the Hague Convention, an apostille or certification by the Secretary of State’s Office will not be sufficient. These documents will require a regular certification that is required to be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State after receiving State authentication.
You may review the South Carolina Notary Public Reference Manual for additional information on apostilles.