The Legalization Process


Authentication with Speed and Security for Global Business

If you are in engaged in marketing products such as medical devices, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics or foods internationally, your company will be required to have certain regulatory, quality or supporting technical documents legalized or authenticated.

Broadly, health ministries of foreign countries where a company plans to sell its products require assurances that the products are safe, effective and conform to certain standards. Depending on the country, the ministries may require copies of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval certificates and other certifications such as (but not limited to):

  • Certificate to Foreign Government (CFG);
  • Certificate of Exportability (COE); or
  • Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product (CPP)
  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Certification; or
  • Free Sale Certificate (CFS)

To prove that these documents are authentic, they must be legalized, authenticated or apostilled depending on the requirements of the country.

Alternatively, if you are an individual planning to work or study abroad, you may also be required to authenticate certain documents (eg. diploma, transcripts, personal document, etc.).

This is what we refer to as document legalization.

WCS has three decades of specialized experience in this space. We take extra efforts to manage the entire process so our clients don’t have to worry about it. However, it can help to have a broad sense of the process.


Identify Country and Document Type

The process or steps required for your document/s is determined by two factors–destination country AND document type.


Many countries, as signatory nations to The Hague (Convention) Agreement of 1961 that established a common form of international authentication known as Apostille, require a document to be Apostilled.

The countries that have not signed the Hague Convention, follow a more complex “chain of authentication,” which involves specific requirements as outlined by the country’s Embassy.

Thus countries are categorized as – Hague vs. Non-Hague OR Apostille vs. Embassy Legalization.

Document Type

The type of document also determines the legalization process. We categorize documents in three ways:

1. Government Document/s

Government-issued documents are any document or certificate issued by a Federal, State or Local govt. entity.

Examples of Government Issued Documents:

  • Documents issued by federal agencies such as the: Food & Drug Administration (CFG, CFS, COE)
  • U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, etc
  • Personal Documents such as Birth, Marriage, Divorce, Death certificates and FBI Background Checks.

PLEASE NOTE: That WCS is only able to Apostille a personal document (birth, marriage, divorce, death certificate) that was issued in Maryland or the District of Columbia.

2. General Document/s

General documents are any document or certificate NOT issued by the Federal government. This is the largest catch-all category.

Examples of General Documents:

  • Corporate documents such as:
    • Powers of Attorney
    • Corporate Formation Documents
    • Distributorship Agreements
    • Company bylaws
    • Good standing certificates
    • Minutes of board meetings
    • Affidavits
  • Academic documents such as:
    • Accreditation letters
    • Authorization letters to obtain academic records
    • Bar certificates
    • Degrees
    • Diplomas
    • Official transcripts
    • Practice licenses for nurses and physicians
    • Statements of study major
    • Teaching certification
    • Verification letters from the registrar's office
  • Other Documents that are NOT issued by a Govt. entity where authentication may be requested.

3. Commercial/Shipping Document/s

Documents used for shipping product out.

Examples of Shipping Documents:

  • Commerical Invoices (CI)
  • Certificates of Origin (CO)
  • Bill of Lading
  • Packing Lists, etc.

icon_worksHow it Works

Once the destination country and type of document have been determined, the actual process varies depending upon the specific requirements of offices and embassies regarding fees, forms of payment, turnaround times and mailing/courier requirements. It can be as simple as obtaining an Apostille from the U.S. Department of State, Authentications Division or as intricate as following a series of steps to authentication beginning with a local Notary Public and ending with legalization of document/s at an Embassy.

Typically, documents that we process require all or some of the following services (in order):

  • Certification of documents from the Secretary of State of Maryland, DC Office of the Secretary, or DC Treasury
  • Authentication from the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC
  • Legalization from the required consulate or embassy.

It can be a tedious undertaking to manage this process on one’s own while often handling numerous documents destined for multiple countries at one-time. That is where we can come in and be of service to you.

The WCS team (legalization experts + couriers) works with each client individually to:

  1. Determine specific needs and requirements;
  2. Carefully manage your documents (upon receipt) through the necessary authentication steps, running your documents to the relevant legal entities; and
  3. Deliver the legalized documents to your doorstep through the shipping method of your choice.

Learn more about the Apostille? process.

Learn more about the Embassy Legalization process.

Feel lost? Don’t worry. Just drop us a line. We are here to help.

About WCS

Washington Consular Services (WCS) is the trusted, premier provider of document legalization and authentication services for global business--proactive, efficient and always at your service. Learn more>>


BBB Rating: A+

Authorize.Net Verified Merchant Seal™

Connect With Us