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Apostille, power of attorney, important information: myths about documents that complicate the life of immigrants in the USA

I decided to write this column due to the fact that every day I encounter persistent misconceptions about notarial and legal matters. Sometimes for me and for employees my office one gets the impression that people who spread these misconceptions are specially paid extra for this, because it is difficult to imagine someone who would defend his wrong opinion with such zeal. But every morning when I log into Facebook, I see some people stubbornly pushing false ideas.

Photo: IStock

Misconception No. 1: an apostille is nonsense, documents for a foreign country must be issued at the consulate

What to do if a person is abroad, cannot go home (status, finances, family does not allow), but he really needs to inherit or sell property? Apostille comes to the rescue.

25 years ago, few people knew about the 1961 Hague Convention. In 1997, while collecting documents for a visa, I (personally) applied to the registry office to obtain a certificate of registration of my first marriage, which is issued instead of a marriage certificate in case of its dissolution. An employee of the registry office tried to refuse to issue me a certificate, because, in his opinion, I had the original marriage certificate in my hands. I went to appeal this refusal to the head of this department, who sincerely wondered why I needed a certificate if I had a certificate in my hands.

“Get an apostille and fly wherever you want,” she told me, and thus set the direction for my work for the next quarter of a century.

“What is an apostille?” I got interested in 1997. It turned out that this is such an international stamp that makes the document legal abroad. She nevertheless issued me a certificate, but I learned a new word - “apostille”, and it all started with that. When I received the status of a lawyer in 1999, private international law became my specialization.

It is difficult to count how many people have passed through my office. But over the past two years, it is not difficult to calculate - 1100 people are recorded in my register. And not a single issue arose with any power of attorney to my principals.

Why then do many insist on issuing a power of attorney at the consulate? Because this is no guarantee of the correct execution of documents. Powers of attorney issued in a handicraft way, based on online samples, are often not accepted, not because they are not issued at the consulate, but because they are not issued correctly. If your power of attorney meets the requirements of the current legislation in form and content and also has an apostille, it will be accepted.

Misconception No. 2: where to put an apostille

There are people who do not dispute the apostille, but use it incorrectly. Let's say you need an American marriage certificate with a translation and an apostille to use in Russia. Or, for example, you want to divorce your Russian wife. Or you want to immigrate to Latvia with a Latvian husband.

In these and many other similar cases, enterprising citizens (and non-citizens) follow the path of least resistance: they draw up a notarized translation of the document they have and put an apostille on the notarized translation. The document obtained as a result of such manipulations is popularly called a filkin's letter (an ignorant, illiterate document that has no legal force), and in the American people - Mickey Mouse Job, which means a job done incorrectly in an extremely poor manner using the simplest, easiest, cheapest and fastest way possible. In other words, this is not what you need.

On the subject: You are an insect without a piece of paper: what problems face immigrants in the USA due to lack of documents from their homeland

It should be remembered that the 1961 Hague Convention applies to official documents that were issued on the territory of one of the states that ratified the convention and must be submitted on the territory of another such state. Properly completed, it certifies the authenticity of the signature; the quality in which the person who signed the document spoke; and, in certain cases, the authenticity of the seal or stamp that affixes the document.

That is, when the government of a foreign state requires you to have a birth certificate, it is interested in the authenticity of this certificate, and not the authenticity of the signature of the notary who certified the copy or translation. The most common mistake is issuing an apostille on a notarized copy or notarized translation. To obtain a legitimate document, you need to put an apostille on the document itself. In some cases, you can put an apostille on an existing document, in others you will have to get a second document, but in none of them should you put an apostille on a notarized copy or a notarized translation - thus you will get a meaningless and useless document, which if they are accepted somewhere, it is purely out of ignorance.

Misconception No. 3: a power of attorney in the United States cannot be issued in Russian

If an American notary refuses to certify a power of attorney in a foreign language, it is not at all because such a power of attorney cannot be issued, but because he (the notary) feels uncomfortable certifying a document that he does not understand. In this case, the notary has every right to refuse you.

Although, if you look from a formal point of view, a notary in the United States is not responsible for the content of the document and certifies only the signature of the person who applied to him. Therefore, if one notary public refused you, then contact another.

And yes, it is in your interest to contact a Russian-speaking notary for the simple reason that some powers of attorney are subject to further verification, and the Sberbank security service (for example) may well call your notary to verify that a power of attorney has been issued to you. An English-speaking notary simply will not understand who, why and for what purpose is calling him. Most likely, he will not be able to remember you, even if we assume that a Sberbank employee will speak English with him. That is why you should not draw up legally significant documents at notaries in local banks and pharmacies - due to the large flow of customers, they will hardly be able to confirm the fact of your appeal to them.

Karina Duval. Photos from the personal archive

Misconception No. 4: notarized translation of documents for Russia can be done in America

It is forbidden. Notarized translation of documents must be done in the country in which you plan to use them. If the documents are issued for Russia, then they need to be translated in Russia, if for Ukraine, you need to contact the Ukrainian translation agency. Do not waste your money and time on making an illegitimate transfer. Making a notarized translation of official documents in the United States is legitimate when the documents will be used in the United States, and not abroad.

Misconception No. 5: You can get a certificate of no criminal record at any police station

It is forbidden. If the competent authority of a foreign state requires a certificate of no criminal record from you, then such a certificate in the United States is issued by the FBI. It must be a genuine certificate, not a scan, so that it can be apostilled. I am often asked mirror questions about a certificate of no criminal record from the country where the person used to live. In Russia, the authority that issues such documents is the Information Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. When immigrating to many countries, applicants are required to provide certificates from all places where they have ever lived at the age of 14 or 16.

Misconception No. 6: A power of attorney cannot be issued for two or more people

Can. At least for two, at least for 200 people. You can include in the power of attorney a list of people you trust. The main thing is that you know all these people well enough and do not trust too much. Trusting 10 representatives at once is dangerous, sometimes unreasonable, but from the point of view of the law it is quite possible, and it will be legitimate. Do not forget to indicate in the power of attorney the cherished phrase “all together and each separately”.

Misconception No. 7: to check out from an address in Russia, you need a personal presence. And another (mirror) delusion that you can check out without personal presence by proxy

Both statements are wrong. Discharge without a personal trip to Russia - yes, you can. Discharge by proxy - no, you can't. “What is the correct answer?” - you ask. The correct answer is to sign out on a personal statement (it can be issued in the USA by a notary public with an apostille). Such an application has a limited validity period, therefore, in order not to run in circles, contact a professional who is familiar with the procedure for deregistration in the absence of an applicant, and he will do everything for you in the best possible way (our firm, for example).

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York

Misconception No. 8: a birth / marriage / divorce certificate is lost, and it can only be restored at the consulate

And again no. Our office, in particular, restores registry office documents from any countries of the former USSR.

Misconception No. 9: when entering into an inheritance, you need to have time to arrange everything within 6 months

If you have opened an inheritance, the law gives you a six-month period to enter into an inheritance. This term is given to you, not to the notary. You are obliged to submit an application to a notary within 6 months from the date of opening of the inheritance, the notary should not and will not fit within this period.

Mirror delusion - you need to contact a notary public six months after the opening of the inheritance. In fact, if you miss the six-month period for entering into an inheritance, you will have to recover the missed period through the court.

Misconception No. 10: to enter into an inheritance, you have to go home

And again no. You can enter into an inheritance, from “a” to “z”, through a representative. Our office specializes in inheritance cases and you definitely won't have to travel anywhere if you contact us. Even if you apply after the deadline, in this case we can help you.

Photo: IStock

Misconception No. 11: if you live in America, then you must get a divorce in America

Also no. In many cases, you can get a divorce in your home country. You will always have a choice of jurisdiction if the other spouse lives there. In some cases, you can get a divorce abroad, even when both spouses live in the United States. More information on this topic can be found on my professional website.

Many of you have more options for divorce than you think. Many of you do not have to go through a series of legal battles and spend years getting a coveted document. Many marital problems have a more elegant solution.

Misconception No. 12: if he received American citizenship, then he is no longer a citizen of Russia / Ukraine / Israel, etc.

And here it is not. The acquisition of another citizenship does not terminate your existing citizenship, and you may well become the owner of two, three, or even more passports.

You don't have a passport, you didn't renew it? This fact also does not terminate your citizenship. The United States does not prohibit dual citizenship (yes, dual citizenship, see the literal translation of DUAL CITIZENSHIP). Most world powers do not recognize dual citizenship, that is, they do not recognize the fact that they have another citizenship for their citizens, but they do not prohibit this either (does not require renunciation of existing citizenship and does not deprive holders of a second passport of citizenship).

Your question Karine Duval

Material prepared in partnership with

Karina Duval - lawyer, notary, expert in international law

Russian registration: #78/857
NYS registration: 4775086
Notary public, registration: 02DU6376542

tel: + 7 (495) 662-8721 (in Russia) / + 1 (212) 205-2211 (in USA)

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