- Authentication by Embassy legalization is widely used in international commerce and civil law matters in those jurisdictions where the simpler apostille has not been adopted (e.g.: Vietnam, China).
- Broadly speaking, the aim of any international document authentication process is to solve a fundamentally practical problem: how can civil and judicial officials reliably verify the authenticity of a document that was issued abroad? Legalization attempts to solve this dilemma by creating a chain of authentications, each by a progressively higher government authority so as to ultimately narrow the point of contact between countries to a single designated official (usually in the national department responsible for foreign affairs). Therefore, by authenticating the signature and seal of this final official a foreign jurisdiction can authenticate the entire chain of verifications back to the entity responsible for issuing the original document without scrutinizing each “link” individually.
Vernia wishes to obtain a divorce in United States but got married in Brazil. United States law mandates that Vernia must supply a copy of her marriage certificate in order to move ahead with divorce proceedings in that country. Vernia marriage certificate was issued by the local authority in her husband hometown in the Brazilian countryside. It would be risky and impractical for United States judicial officials to seek confirmation about the authenticity of Vernia’s marriage certificate by attempting to liaise directly with the village government in Brazil.
The solution, then, is to have Vernia submit her document to a controlled, sequential process of verification: legalization. The first step, in this example, is to have the certificate notarized by licensed Brazilian notary. The signature and seal of the notary are in turn attested to by the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations who also affix a stamp and signature to the marriage certificate. Finally, Vernia brings the document to the Legalization Section of the Embassy of United State to Brazil. Here American consular officials verify the markings affixed to the document by the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations and affix their own, final, authentication formally recognizing the marriage certificate as legally effective for use in the United States.