In accordance with international practice and consular practice in China, the purpose of consular authentication is to ensure that notarial deeds issued in one country remain the due legal effect and can be acknowledged by the relevant authorities in another country with no suspicion of the authenticity of the seal and signature on the deeds.
To ensure that the document could be legally used in China, the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General in the United States need to authenticate notarial deeds and the certified documents, which are issued by the relevant authorities in the United States, certified by the Authentication Office of the U.S. State Department or the Secretary of a state in US.
However, consular authentication by the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General in US is not required for the documents which are prepared to use in Hong Kong SAR or Macao SAR of China. As long as these documents are notarized by a local notary public in US and apostilled by the Authentication Office of the US State Department or the Secretary of a state in the format called "APOSTILLE", they can be used directly in Hong Kong and Macao.
I. Application Requirements
A document to be authenticated should meet the following requirements:
1. The document should be authenticated by the Authentication Office of the US State Department before being sent to the Chinese Embassy, and by the Secretary of a state before being sent to the Consulates General.
2. The document should be truthful and legal without any violation of China's law or any potential threats to China's national and public benefits.
3. The document with more than two pages should be properly bound as a volume to prevent fraudulent removal and reattachment. Sealing wax, paging seal or steel seal shall be adopted to ensure the integrity of the documents.
II. Authentication Procedure
Firstly, the document needs to be notarized by a local notary public.
Secondly, the document needs to be certified by the County Clerk after being notarized by a local notary public.
Thirdly, the document needs to be certified by the Secretary of a state after being certified by the county.
Some documents, such as Decree of Divorce, original certificate of birth, marriage, death, etc., should be filed as a certified document by the authorized office rather than the notary public, and then could be sent to the Secretary of a state for authentication.
Some documents produced by the Secretary of a state, such as Statement of Information, Articles of Incorporation, can be authenticated directly by the Secretary's office. It's unnecessary to send such documents to a notary public or county clerk.
Within the consular districts of the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, the authorized state officials for Step 3 are as follows: the Secretary of the State of California, Arizona, New Mexico and American Samoa, Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa, Attorney General of Guam, Assistant Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
Lastly, the document should be, according to the division of consular districts, submitted for consular authentication to the Chinese Embassy if it is within the Embassy's consular district, and to the Consulate General if it is within the Consulate General's consular district. (Please click for consular districts of the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General)
The Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles only authenticates the document within its consular district.
III. Documents Required for Application
1. One fully-completed Notarization and Authentication Application Form.
2. The original document which has been certified by the Secretary of a state and a copy. The document shall not be disassembled when a copy is made.
3. The applicant's passport and a copy of the passport page which identifies the applicant's photo and personal information.
4. If the applicant entrusts someone to submit the application on his/her behalf, a copy of both the applicant and the trustee's ID (e.g. the passport or driver's license) is required.
5. If the document is of business type and for commercial purpose, please submit the company owner's ID (e.g. the passport or driver's license) and the company official document (e.g. State of Information, business license) that identifies the company owner's and the agent's name as well as the business type.
6. Any additional supporting documents may be required by the consular officers.
IV. How to apply
1. You could submit the application and get the certificate by yourself, or entrust someone to do it for you. In some cases, an entrustment letter may be required by the consular officers if necessary.
2. No appointment.
3. In some cases, if required by the consular officers, the applicant should come in person for an interview.
V. Processing Time
Regular service: Authentication certificate will be issued in 4 business days. It does not include the time for submitting additional supporting documents, consulting or verifying the necessary information with the relevant authorities back in China, or delays caused by force majeure. No express service will be provided unless emergency. Express service needs approval of consular officials, and extra fees may apply.
VI. Pick-up and Payment
1. The applicant should take the pick-up receipt to the Chinese Consulate General to pay the fee and get the certificate on the pick-up day. If the applicant fails to pick up the certificate in 6 months since the pick-up day, the Consulate General will no longer keep it. The applicant is solely responsible for any consequences arising therefrom. It may affect your other possible application in the future.
2. Regular service:
Civil documents: $25 per document;
Commercial documents: $50 per document.
3. Express service: an additional fee of $20 or $30 per document will be charged.
4. Please pay by Master/Visa credit card, money order or cashier's check. Cash or personal checks are not accepted. Please make check and money order payable to "Chinese Consulate".
VII. Other Important Information
1. According to the regulations in China, a single status affidavit used for marriage registration in China is only valid for 6 months since the date of certificate issuance. The applicant needs to apply for a new affidavit if the previous one expires.
2. Documents used in China for adoption, such as status of marriage, health, income, proof of finance, no criminal record, can be authenticated if the period of time between the document-notarizing date and the application date of adoption registration (excluding the reviewing and inspection time taken by China Center for Adoption Affairs) does not exceed 6 months.
3. Consular officers of the Embassy and Consulates General will review the document submitted for authentication. If there is any problem, such as incomplete procedure, illegal content and alteration, wrong document format and binding, fraudulent removal and reattachment of the document, etc., the application will be rejected.
4. The document that has been authenticated by the Chinese Embassy and Consulates General shall not be willfully unbound, rebound or altered, even when the applicant needs a copy of the authenticated document. The applicant is solely responsible for all consequences and legal responsibilities arising from his/her unauthorized unbinding, rebinding or altering of the document.
5. Consular officers reserve the right to request any additional documents from the applicant.
VIII. Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do all the documents prepared to use in China need to be authenticated?
Answer: In order to facilitate document exchanges across countries, consular authentication has gradually become universally accepted in the international diplomatic and consular practice. With the increasing international exchanges, consular authentication helps to distribute a great number of documents of various types among different countries who have their own individual requirements and formats for notarial deeds and business certification. The consular authentication system is based on a chain process ending with county A's diplomatic or consular mission in county B certifying the authenticity of the last seal and signature on the documents of country B, so as to ensure that the documents can be accepted by the relevant departments and authorities in country A without any suspicion of the authenticity of the documents. In this way, the documents can be successfully recognized and used across countries.
To make the document legal and acceptable to the relevant Chinese departments and authorities, the document is suggested to be authenticated by a Chinese Embassy or Consulate General in the foreign country. However, whether the document could be finally accepted by the relevant Chinese authorities depends on whether the document content could meet their requirements. It is the document producer rather than consular authentication that is responsible for the content of the document.
2. Is it ok if I only get consular authentication from the Chinese diplomatic or consular missions in a foreign country, and do not have authentication by the Foreign Ministry or other authentication offices of the foreign country?
Answer: Firstly, the Chinese diplomatic or consular missions in a foreign country usually only authenticate the seal and signature of the foreign country's Foreign Ministry or authentication offices. Secondly, the Chinese diplomatic or consular missions do not keep samples of the seal and signature of the notaries public or the business document producers in the foreign country, and cannot verify the authenticity of the document. Therefore, the document should be authenticated by the foreign country's Foreign Ministry or authentication offices before applications are submitted to the Chinese diplomatic or consular missions for consular authentication.
3. How to apply for consular authentication if the notarial deeds and business document are issued in China?
Answer: Foreign-related notarial deeds and business document issued in China for use in a foreign country should firstly be authenticated by the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, or by the authorized local Foreign Affairs Offices of China. Then the documents should be authenticated by the foreign country's diplomatic or consular missions in China. It is called "Double Authentication". However, in some cases, the foreign country will accept the document even if the document is not authenticated by diplomatic or consular missions of the foreign country in China. It is called "Single Authentication".
Please click www.mfa.gov.cn for details about authentication requirements of the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the relevant foreign diplomatic or consular missions in China.
4. If notarial deeds or other documents issued in China have been taken to a foreign country without being authenticated in China before, can they be authenticated by the Chinese diplomatic or consular missions in the foreign country?
Answer: The Chinese diplomatic and consular missions in a foreign country do not accept such authentication applications, because the missions do not keep samples of the seal and signature of Chinese notaries public or the business document producers, and thus cannot verify the authenticity of the documents. The applicant should deliver the document back to China to apply for authentication in the Department of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China or the authorized local Foreign Affairs Offices of China, and then apply for authentication by a diplomatic or consular mission in China of the country where the document will be used. If the applicant can't go back to China personally, he or she may entrust someone in China (e.g. a friend, a relative or a lawyer) with the relevant formalities.