Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guest Post on Overseas Adoption Paperwork

The following is from my paper-pushing wife about just one difficulty in adopting from Haiti:

Lots of things are easy after you know how to do it, but nearly impossible before you know how to do it.  Getting an apostille is one of those things.  I've spent several months wondering, "What the heck is that, and how do we get it?"  Heck, my spell-check program doesn't even recognize the word, so how official can that be?

We're adopting from Haiti, which is not a signatory on the Haag Conventions.  Ordinary notarized documents aren't enough, we have to get things "super notarized" -- that's what an apostille is, a super-notarization (if that's a word).  Here is a specific example of how this worked in our case.

We need to have two official copies of our birth certificates.  You can get those from a commercial document service, but I went the cheaper route.  To get Neil's birth certificates, I  googled "birth certificate Massachusetts" and looked for a URL that includes a ".gov" address.  From there, I followed the directions on the web site, mailing in a check and a self-addressed envelope.

The birth certificates arrived in about two weeks.  THEN I needed to send them back to Massachusetts.  (Every document has to be apostilled in the same state where it was made official, so we can't apostille this in our home state, Pennsylvania).  Again, I went to Google, typing in "Apostille Massachusetts".  Again I skipped over the commercial sites and went for the ".gov" site.   I cut and paste the information there to come up with this letter:

January 12, 2012

Secretary of the Commonwealth
Commissions Section, Room 1719
One Ashburton Place
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

Dear Commissions Section:

I have enclosed two copies of my birth certificate, for which I would like an apostille.  We are hoping to adopt a child from Haiti.

I have enclosed a check for $12, made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I have enclosed a self-addressed envelope for return.

Thank you very much, 

Neil Gussman
[return address]

Different states charge different amounts.  In Massachusetts, where my husband was born, it's $6/document.  In California, my birthplace, it's a whopping $20/document.  In Pennsylvania, where the bulk of our documents will need to go for apostille, it'll be $15/document.  


  1. Neal you forgot a couple of things.

    Apostille is French for certification. Of course, the French have never signed on to do things the way everybody else. Haiti, with their French heritage, has been inherited this bureaucratic disease.

    An apostilled it stamped or what? How is it recognized vs a forgery?

  2. Dave--Exactly. It is no coincidence that bureaucracy is a French word carried over into other languages. The document is notarized before it is gets the apostille. That would be an elaborate fraud for some very ordinary documents!
    Hope you are doing well in the New Year.