FAQ
Great Seal/Authentications
What is an "apostille?"

An apostille (French word meaning notation) is a standard certification provided under The Hague Conference on Private International Law: 1961 Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legislation for Foreign Public Documents for the purpose of authenticating documents for use in foreign countries. The treaty was ratified by the United States on Sept.1, 1981.

The apostille is formatted in numbered fields that allow data to be understood by the receiving country regardless of the official language of the issuing country.

 

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What does an apostille achieve?

The objective for using an apostille is to establish a simplified system replacing a signature chain with a standard certificate bearing one signature abolishing the requirement for diplomatic or consular authentication of the certificate.

 

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Who is authorized to issue an apostille?

Signatories to the Convention may designate those authorities within their jurisdictions that may issue apostilles. The United States has authorized the Authentication Officer of the United States Department of State, clerks and deputy clerks of the federal courts, the secretaries of state (or their counterparts) of the various states, and designated officials in the United States territories to issue apostilles.

The Michigan Secretary of State is among the authorities in the United States of America authorized to issue an apostille as referred to in the Hague Treaty.

The Michigan Secretary of State has solely authorized the Office of the Great Seal to perform this function. The Office of the Great Seal may issue an apostille on documents issued by persons on file, including: Michigan notaries public, Michigan county clerks, designated deputy county clerks, city registrars (Wayne County only), and the Michigan state registrar.

 

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Can you authenticate a document with a stamped notary public signature?

No. Original signatures are required on all notarized documents. Stamped signatures, photocopied signatures, carbon copied or signature facsimiles are not accepted.

 

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What is a true copy of a document?

A true copy is an exact copy of a document with no alterations or changes.

 

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What is a certified copy of a document?

A certified copy is a duplicate of an original document that is certified as a true copy by the officer having custody of the original. Michigan notaries are prohibited from issuing certified copies of any records or documents. Requests for certified copies should be directed to the agency that holds or issued the original.

 

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Can a notary public certify a copy of a document?

No. Michigan notaries cannot make a statement on a copy of a document that it is a true copy of the original document. The notary can only acknowledge the signature of the person making the original or true copy statement on the document. In Michigan, only the issuer or holder (person named on the document) can certify to the authenticity of a document and that it is an original or true copy.

For example, an official from the school that issued a diploma can certify that a duplicate of the diploma is a true copy of the original diploma. Or, the person named on the diploma can make a true copy statement on a copy of his or her original diploma.

 

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Can the Office of the Great Seal authenticate documents from a city clerk, court clerk, or register of deeds or from other states?

The Office of the Great Seal can only authenticate documents from: Michigan notaries public, Michigan county clerks and designated deputy county clerks, city clerk/registrar in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties only) and the Michigan State Registrar of Vital Records.

Documents from a court clerk, register of deeds or from other states can be authenticated, however, they must be notarized. Out of state vital records must be a certified copy.

 

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Where can I find a notary public to notarize my documents?

Many notaries only perform notarial services in the course of their employment. Please check your local yellow pages or other advertising source to locate notaries public who may be available to assist you.

Notaries public are generally available at most county offices, such as a county clerk, as well as insurance company, credit union, bank and law offices. Notary public services are NOT provided by this office.

 

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Can the Office of the Great Seal authenticate original birth, death, marriage or divorce records?

No, the Office of the Great Seal cannot authenticate original birth, death, marriage or divorce records. The record must be a certified document from the county clerk or Michigan state registrar. Vital records are available from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

 

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How do I obtain an apostille or certificate of authority?

You may appear in person at: Office of the Great Seal, Richard H. Austin Building 1st Floor, Lansing, MI  48918-1750 or visit one of our SUPER!Center offices.

Or, you may mail your document(s) to: Department of State, Office of the Great Seal, 7064 Crowner Blvd., Lansing, MI 48918-1750

 

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What do I need to send to request authentication by mail?

Please send the following:

  1. Document(s) to be authenticated.
  2. Cover letter including country of destination.
  3. Check or money order payable to the State of Michigan. (Fee is $1.00 per document, please do not send cash.)
  4. Self-addressed, stamped envelope or pre-paid air bill completely filled out including the account number and your address as the Sender. (The Great Seal will not pay for return postage.)
  5. All documents in foreign text that are presented for authentication are required to have all elements of the notarization in English.
  • If sending documents by mail with courier service, such as Airborne Express, Federal Express and UPS.
    • You must list yourself as the sender and receiver on the courier return air bill.
    • U.S. Post Office express or priority mail may not be delivered to the Office of the Great Seal any faster than regular U.S. mail. Turn-around time is 1-2 weeks.

 

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Is there an expedited authentication process?

No, requests are processed in date order received.  Documents sent by courier service (UPS, FedEx, etc.), USPS express or priority mail are not processed any faster then the regular U.S. mail received.

 

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What information do I need if I call to inquire on my document request?

Please have the following information:

  1. Name on request
  2. Date the check or money order was cashed
  3. Country of destination

 

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Can you provide me with the name of a resident agent for a certain municipal corporation for service of process?

The Office of the Great Seal does not have a list of resident agents. Section 1925 of the Revised Judicature Act of 1961 (MCL 600.1925) identifies which corporate officials or officers may be served. To obtain the list of corporate officers or officials, contact the agency or corporation directly.

 

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Where can I purchase a State of Michigan flag?

Please contact your legislator for information on ordering a State of Michigan flag. You can find your legislator at www.legislature.mi.gov.   

 

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I am starting my own company. Can you tell me if a certain company name has already been taken?

Information regarding corporations is furnished by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Corporation, Securities and Commercial Licensing Bureau. This agency may be contacted at 517-241-6470. If the business is not a corporation, contact the county clerk in the county where the business is located for d/b/a or assumed names.

 

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I need to obtain a certified copy of articles of incorporation for a specific Building Authority. Can the Office of the Great Seal provide this information?

Yes, the Office of the Great Seal can assist you. To access the information, you must provide the public act number and the year of the act that created the authority. You may be able to obtain this information and related matters from your local public library. Copies of public acts may be mailed or faxed for a fee.

 

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I need the Great Seal affixed to my document that I am sending overseas. Is there an office near my home where I can go?

Document certification services are now available at the Office of the Great Seal in Lansing, the Marquette County PLUS office, and all SUPER!Centers.

Or, you may mail your document(s) to: Department of State, Office of the Great Seal, 7064 Crowner Blvd., Lansing, MI 48918-1750

 

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