In The Bahamas, legal documents may be authenticated by several different methods depending on your use for the authenticated document: notarization, legalization, or apostille. This article explains what these three methods are and the differences between them.
Notarization refers to having a notary public formally attest to your execution (signing) of a document. Notary publics do not verify the truth of any facts contained in the document. Only specific people can be notary publics, including attorneys, the Registrars of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the Registrar General, Attorneys-General, and Magistrates. If you have a document notarized, the notary will require you to take an oath or affirm the matters contained in the document, and the notary public will sign and stamp the document with his seal after observing you sign it and verifying your identity.
To use certain legal documents outside The Bahamas, you may need to obtain legalization or an apostille. Legalization refers to a chain of government authorities authenticating a legal document, so that a foreign country's legal system will recognize the document as authentic, valid, and having legal effect. If the country in which you plan to use the document is not a party to the Hague Convention, you need to obtain legalization. The process is involved: you must have the document notarized, then have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs authenticate the notary's signature, and then the embassy or consular authority in the country in which you plan to use the document must verify the Ministry's authentication. However, in many cases you can use an apostille instead of legalization.
If the country in which you plan to use the document is a party to the Hague Convention, you will need only an apostille, not legalization. An apostille indicates authentication of the notary's seal by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is signified by attaching a certificate to the document. Unlike legalization, nothing further is needed after this. Documents that may need an apostille or legalization for use outside the country include certificates of incorporation, powers of attorney, and marriage certificates.
To find out more about notarization and document authentication in The Bahamas, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.