Foreign property investors can avoid the need for frequent travel with an apostille. An apostille is a certification issued by a state government confirming that the official who notarized a document does in fact have the power within the state to do so. Apostille certifications are generally required whenever investors send legal documents to foreign countries, which is often a necessary part of purchasing property abroad.
Before sending documents to a foreign country, an investor must first get a consulate from that country to sign off on the apostille. A consulate is simply a representative of one country within the territory of another. Once the consulate signs off on the apostille, the documents can be used legally.
A power of attorney is the most common document for which investors need an apostille. By signing a power of attorney, an investor transfers certain rights to a person in the country in which they are doing business. This person is, more often than not, an attorney.
The following is a step by step breakdown of the entire process:
1. Visit the appropriate state’s website to learn how much they charge for an apostille (each state varies) and to find the mailing address to use for the appropriate documents. If the website has a search tool, just type in “apostille” and it should be easy to find. Entering “apostille” and a state’s name into a search engine is also effective.
2. Write a cover letter to the Secretary of State and ask for an apostille for an enclosed document. Also provide the country to which the document will eventually be sent. This is important; some countries have additional requirements for apostilles. Make sure to include a return address or a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
3. Send the letter, document and required fee to the address found in Step 1.
4. Upon receipt of the apostille from the Secretary of State, prepare a package to send to the consulate or take the documents in person to have them signed. To find the nearest consulate, enter the name of the country and the word “consulate” into a search engine. Be sure to find out how much the certification costs and what types of payment they accept.
5. If mailing the document to the consulate, write a letter explaining that certification for the enclosed document and apostille is needed. Mail the letter, fee, document and apostille, and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
6. Upon receipt of the certification, the document is legal and ready to use.
Investors can often avoid the process of getting an apostille by completing power of attorney paperwork while in the country in which the deal will take place. Even in that case, however, it might be necessary to obtain an apostille in the future.
Those who purchase property through a U.S. entity, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation, will typically need to get an apostille for the entity documents. In countries that allow ownership by U.S. entities, this will enable the entity to sign purchase documents and take title. The process of getting an apostille usually takes a couple of weeks at minimum, so investors should plan accordingly.