10. Department of State letter re authentication or legalization of certain documents (July 8, 2004)


United States Department of State

Washington. D.C. 20520

July 8, 2004



Dear Mssrs Ethridge and Reynolds:

A number of state Secretaries of State offices and state Notary Public Administrators have contacted the U.S. Department of State requesting guidance about the propriety of authenticating or legalizing certain notarized documents related to citizenship, passports, immunity and allegiance. The purpose of this letter is to provide the state Secretaries of State and Notary Public Administrators with guidance about these questions.


The specific questions raised by various states concern the following:


  • • Notarized documents that purport to relate to relinquishment or renunciation of U.S. citizenship;
  • • Notarized or authenticated documents that support application for a World Service Authority “citizenship” document;





Bru Ethridge


Notary Public Administrators

National Association of State Secretaries of State

Secretary of State -- Annex Office

202 N. Carson Street

Carson City, NV 8970 1-4201


Leslie Reynolds

Executive Director

National Association of Secretaries of State

Hall of States

444 N. Capitol St., NW

Suite 401

Washington, DC 20001

  • • Notarized documents which suggest that the affixing of an Apostille certificate under the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents conveys some form of immunity to the bearer of the document.
  • • Documents not intended for use abroad.


Interpretation of the Hague Legalization Convention and U.S. obligations under that treaty:

The Apostille does not provide any form of immunity. It is inappropriate to place the Apostille certificate on a document that suggests that the Apostille has such an effect. Moreover, the Apostille should not be placed on any document by state Secretaries of State or Notary Public Administrators if the document is intended for use in the United States or in a country not party to the Hague Legalization Convention. It is only for documents to be used in countries that are party to the Convention. See the Hague Conference on Private International Law web site at http://www.hcch.net/e/conventions/menul2ehtml for a current list of countries where the Convention is in force.


Citizenship, Allegiance and Sovereignty-related documents:


Documents concerning U.S. citizenship, allegiance to the United States or any U.S. state or other jurisdiction, sovereignty, Actual Notice of In Itinere Status and World Service Authority (or similar) so called “citizenship” documents, have no force or validity, and could be used for fraudulent or criminal purposes. Accordingly, the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad have been instructed to refuse to provide authentication or notarial services for such documents under the refusal authority provided in 22 CFR 92.9 and 22 CFR 131.2. The Department of State recommends that state Secretaries of State and Notary Public Administrators refuse to notarize, authenticate, or affix the Hague Apostille to such documents.


Information about obtaining copies of passport records, and Foreign Service reports of birth or death, is available at http://travel.state.gov/passport records.html and http://travel.state.gov/vital records services.html. Information about replacing a Certificate of Citizenship or Naturalization is available at

http://uscis.gov/graphics/howdoi/replace_cert.htm. Information about the need for original or photocopies of documents for presentation to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is available at http://uscis.gov/graphics/howdoi/hdiorig.htm.


We very much appreciate states bringing these issues to our attention. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.








Edward A. Betancourt



Office of Policy Review and Inter-Agency Liaison

Overseas Citizens Services