An Apostille is an official stamp or note that guarantees a document is original and genuine. For example, a teacher working in Mexico may need to have their degree certificate from home apostilled to prove that it is from an accredited public university.
The regulations regarding apostilles are set out in the Hague Convention. Documents need to be certified in the country where they were issued and they only need to be certified if they are to be used in a country that has signed the Hague Convention.
As far as TEFL teaching goes, in the majority of cases schools or visa authorities will not ask for apostilles and – since they are often expensive to get – it is probably not useful to get them unless they are specifically requested.
Documents which can be apostilled are:
- degree certificates from public universities
- birth certificates, etc…
- criminal records check
- some TEFL certificates depending on provider
Apostille Issuing Authorities
In the USA if the document was issued by a state (e.g. degree or a birth certificate) then the apostille is issued by the Secretary of State for that state. If you are outside the state but need to have it apostilled by the state then you first need to get the document notarized to prove it is genuine, then apostilled.
In the United Kingdom it is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The document needs to be certified by a solicitor and then apostilled by the FCO.
In Australia, the office of Foreign Affairs and Trade; in New Zealand the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; in South Africa the Ministry of Education.
Canada is not a party to the Hague Convention so Canadian documents must be legalized instead. Documents need to be legalized by the Department of Foreign Affairs and then sent to the local embassy or consulate of the country you’re going to for further paperwork.
For TEFL teachers the usual stumbling block in Mexico is the apostille. Generally speaking getting the appropriate visa means having your birth certificate and degree apostilled (i.e. apostilled from the issuing state or country). However, some states of Mexico may require having the TEFL certificate apostilled also; other states may not and some may not require your birth certificate apostilled. It is usually best to approach the local office with your school owner who will be able to help here.