Authentication of Documents for Use in China

Revised: 2017-08-21

Jump to: Documents to submit | Fees and processing time | How to apply: Step by step procedures | Overseas applicants | Common errors

Document authentication is a complex thing, most of us do not know how the process works. Please spend 5-10 minutes finishing reading this page or one of the special topic pages. This page contains answers to 80% of questions you may ask. If you pick up the phone without reading, chances are we will end up spending more time. In the end, we will still refer you back to this page because the information here is more complete and most current. Please feel free to contact us if you still have questions after you finish reading this page.

The information contained in this page and linked pages are results of years of experience. Some of the document requirements here may differ from those on the official consulate web site as they lack details or not up to date. The sample documents provided are aimed at getting the job done at the consulate and do not represent legal advice.

This page is prepared for general Americans and businesses. If you were born in China, you MUST read the Chinese version , which has more targeted information specifically taylored to the needs of your group. Failure to do so may cause delay to your applications.

I. What is document authentication

Legal documents executed in US must be authenticated by the Chinese consulate in order to be used in China. What the consulate does is to verify that the last signature (usually from the Secretary of State Office) is true and valid. This process is usually called document authentication, and sometimes also called certification, legalization, and also (strictly speaking incorrectly) called apostille.

Type of documents can be authenticated include but not limited to:

  1. birth/death certificates, marriage certificates
  2. Consular report of birth abroad: children born outside of US
  3. diploma and transcripts, Teacher's certificate, TEFL certificate (Teaching English as Foreign Language)
  4. Criminal record check, including FBI criminal report
  5. Birth certificate
  6. power of attorney
  7. adoption application papers
  8. business documents: documents needed to open business in China, financial statements, etc
  9. true copy of original documents: copies of documents, passport, email, invoice, etc
  10. Affidavit of single status: for marriage in China

☛ If your documents will not be used in China, but will be used in one of the Hague Convention countries (e.g. Spain), we can also help. Please visit Apostille of documents for use in Hague Convention countries.

II. Service area, fees and processing time

We have been helping clients with authentication needs since 2005, both business related and personal. Over the years, we handled many cases involving celebrities as well as high profile cases of US and Chinese companies. We respect the privacy of our clients.

Our agency may act as your agent to obtain authentication from

  • Chinese Consulate in Houston (for documents from southern 8 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Flordia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas);
  • Chinese Embassy in Washington DC (for documents from Washington DC, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming).
  • Secretary of State authentication from states in our service area,
  • and US Department of State authentication.
  • Other states are not in our normal service area as they normally go to other consulates (we only have offices at Houston and DC). However, if you still want to use our service, we may add the US Dept of State step and then authenticate your documents at Chinese Embassy. Many customers do this way.

How long does it take? How much does it cost?

  • Consular authentication: 5 business days; consular fee $25 per document ($50 for business);
  • State step (Secretary of State certification): varies, but normally 10-15 days. SOS fee: $2-25 per document depending on state;
  • US Department of State authentication: 5 business days; DOS fee: $8 per document;
  • We charge a service fee of $56.96 per document for each step invloved (volume discount available if more than 2 documents).
  • Expedited services are available with extra fees, see calculations below.
Business document Num of copies Consular fee Service fee Processing time
Consular authentication processing 25 44.96 4 business days
Secretary of State certification 2-25 44.96 10-15 days
US Department of State authentication 8 44.96 4 business days
Subtotal: (excluding shipping fees)
Please note:

    1. There may be delays at the consulate. If your schedule is tight, please be sure to check the latest updates on processing time on our Home page.

    2. The fee calculation does not include costs of shipping to/from the office of Secretary of State and shipping documents back to you ($8-32 each). The acutal charge will be according to our current fee schedule or your order confirmation page.

    3. In general, the Secretary of State and US Department of State do not offer expedited service.

We will be happy to answer your general questions no matter you use our service or not.

III. General procedures to have a document authenticated for use in China

authentication procedure: notarized documents
Fig 1, Authentication procedure for notarized documents -- for other documents, the procedures are different. Please read the text below for details.

1. Prepare your document, then sign before a notary public, or obtain certified copy of the document from state agencies, federal government agencies, US consulates aboard.

  • Normally this step can only be done by you, except for certain business documents.
  • Certain government or court documents do not need this step, they can be certified directly by the Office of Secretary of State. These include Court Decree, Marriage License, Birth Certificate, Articles of Incoporation, Account Status (good standing), etc. Please contact Secretary of State Office of your state for details.
  • (2015/02/10) For marriage certificate from a state covered by Chinese Embassy (DC, DE, ID, KY, MD, MT, NC, ND, NE, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WY), it must be obtained within last 6 month, from the Vital Statistics department of the state.
  • Any notary public is fine. Your bank may offer free notary service.
  • Contact information of the Office of Secretary of State.
  • If you need multiple copies of the same document authenticated, you need to produce multiple copies at this stage. The consulate will not be able to produce multiple copies of authenticated document from one "original document".

1a. Some states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland) require the notarized document to be sent to the notary public's county clerk for verification before presenting to the Office of Secretary of State.

  • This step must be done by you.

2. Certify by the Office of Secretary of State of the state where the document is executed.

  • We can help you with this step. In addition to the Secretary of State certification fee, there is a shipping fee to/from the Office of Secretary of State.
  • If you do yourself, please request a "certificate", not an "apostille".
  • Some states only certify government or court documents issued within last 1-2 years (e.g. Oklahoma).

3. (DC Chinese Embassy states only) Authenticated by US Department of State

  • We can help you with this step.
  • Houston consulate states do not need this step.

4. Certified by the Chinese consulate.

  • We can help you with this step.
  • Your application must be submitted to a Chinese consulate which holds consular jurisdiction over your state.
  • Chinese Consulate in Houston covers: AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, OK, TX
  • Chinese Embassy in DC covers: DC, DE, ID, KY, MD, MT, NC, ND, NE, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WY
  • We only accept authentication applications for documents certified by the Secretaries of State Office of Houston consulate and DC ChineseEmbassy states
  • Contact information of the offices of Secretary of State.

IV. Documents needed for application of authentication in the Chinese consulate

1. One Authentication Application Form. The form must be completed and signed by the applicant.

  • Please follow the instructions on "Form download" page when filling out the authentication application form.
  • The applicant is the person who submits the application -- he/she may or may not be person who owns/signs the original document to be authenticated, but must be the person who signs on the Authentication Application Form. For business document, put the applicant's name in the "Name of Agent" (see section 2 of the application form).
  • 2010/11/10: it is highly recommended that the person who owns/signs the original document to be authenticated to serve as the applicant. For company documents, if the applicant (agent)'s name is not on the original document, it is advised that the company president, VP or manager writes a letter stating the position of the application in the company (or an outside lawyer hired by your company) and that he/she is authorized to submit authentication applications on behalf of your company (e.g. To whom it may concern: xxx is the vice president of yyy company and is authorized to apply for authentication on behalf of the company).

2. Photocopy of the applicant's passport (page with name and photo).

  • If you are not a US citizen, please also provide copy of your current immigration document (e.g. green card, I-20, H1B).
  • If you are Chinese citizen, or if you were a Chinese citizen before, please visit the "Chinese version" of this page for important information.
  • You may supplier a copy of your driver's license in lieu of passport, but ONLY if you indeed do not have a passport.

3. The "original" document to be authenticated.

  • If you have already done the Secretary of State step, this includes the Secretary of State authentication page (normally stapled or binded together using rivet, see sample authentication certificate).

4. The "photocopy" of the "original document".

  • Photocopy of all pages of the "original documents" must be enclosed.
  • Please do NOT take them apart when making copies -- doing so will invalidate the document.
  • When you have multiple documents with the same content, you may not just copy from one document, as the signatures will be different on each copy. We will not be responsible for any dealys if you do not follow this instruction!

5. Supplemental documents

According to the documents you submitted for authentication, there may be different supplemental documents needed. Unless specifically noted, you may submit copies instead of originals for all supplemental documents.

  • Authentication of corporate/company documents
    1. Please provide a copy of Articles of Incorporation, unless the document to be authenticated is the Articles of Incorporation.
  • Marriage license authentication
    1. Provide copies of passports of both husband and wife (page with name and photo).
    2. (2015/02/10) For marriage certificate from a state covered by Chinese Embassy (DC, DE, ID, KY, MD, MT, NC, ND, NE, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WV, WY), it must be obtained within last 6 month, from the Vital Statistics department of the state.
  • Property related power of attorney
    1. [Houston consulate only] Provide a copy of document showing that you own the property.
    2. For married couple, copies of marriage license, passports (photo page), and current immigration documents (e.g. green card, H1B) from both husband and wife will be needed, even if the property only belongs to one party.
    3. If the property belongs to one party only, the other party should provide a brief written statement (" ... xxx property belongs to yyy only and I have no objection as to how yyy dispose it. I certify that this statement is correct under the penalty of law..."), the statement must be signed before a notary public.
  • Affidavit of single status
    1. Please provide a copy of your fiancee/fiance's Chinese ID card (both sides).
    2. Provide a copy of your divorce decree, or death certificate of your spouse, if applicable.
  • For Chinese passport holder, please always provide a copy of your current immigration document (e.g. green card, I-20, H1B) along with a copy of passport (pages with photo, name, and passport extension).

6. Online order confirmation page of our agency.

Important notes:

  1. The consulate "authenticates" the signature of the Secretary of State by attaching a certificate onto the back of the page with the signature of the Secretary of State.
  2. If you want to authenticate multiple copies of the same document, you need to get multiple copies from your Secretary of State.
  3. Certificate of single status (marriage status) must be submitted to the consulate for authentication within 3 months of notarization. Certificates related to adoption must be submitted within 6 months of notarization.

V. How to apply: Step by step procedures

With our service,
  • You mail the application to us, avoid the trouble of going to the consulate in person, save time and money;
  • We check your application throughly before submission, avoid common errors.
  • We are experienced, provide reliable service, see Testimonials.
To apply using our service,
  1. Please fill out the online order form of our agency.
  2. Print two copies of the confirmation page. You order ID, our mailing address, payment information (including credit card payment) and other instructions are shown on the confirmation page.
  3. Mail us the documents listed in the "Documents needed" section above.
  1. We are an independent company providing services by mail and charge a service fee. We are registered with the Chinese consulate, but we are not part of the consulate.
  2. To apply using our service, please follow the steps on the left.
  3. To apply at official locations, please visit:

    Chinese consulate in Houston
    Offices of Secretary of State

Please note that the Chinese consulate may not offer service by mail -- you may apply in person, ask a friend to apply for you, or use services provided by us or similar agencies.

What to do/expect after you mail your order

  1. Tell us the time and method you mailed your documents, including tracking number, so that we can track the movement of your mail.
  2. We submit your document authentication application to the consulate, pick it up, and mail it back to you.
  3. You may track order status or submit additional information online at any time.
  4. We update your order status by email and online when we: a). receive your documents; b). submit your application to the consulate; c). pickup and mail back your documents. We usually send emails and update status in the evening hours, but if there is anything goes wrong, we may contact you during the day.

VI. Questions and Answers

If you wish to authenticate personal (non-business) documents and you read Chinese, you may check out the Chinese version of this authentication page, which contains more detailed information pertaining to the needs of your group.

Q: Why you only do authentication for documents from selected states?

A: Document authentication must strictly follow justisdiction of the consulates. Secretary of State of each state only files his/her signature and seal with the Chinese consulate that has jurisdiction over that state. Houston consulate does not have information from other states and thus cannot authenticate the signature of the Secretary of State from a state outside of its jurisdiction.

From March 2013, we added DC area (Chinese Embassy) states to the list.

Q: Why should we use your service?

A: We are experienced. We have been serving our clients on their document authentication needs since 2005.

A: Compared to visa applications, document authentication applications are complicated in that the consulate often asks for supporting documents based on the type of, and sometimes exact wording of the document to be authenticated. We examine every document before submitting to the Chinese consulate.

A: We found that there is a much higher rate of missing supporting documents in authentication applications than in visa applications. Missing documents may be returned by the consulate, causing you money and time. We help you avoid most common mistakes, and, if other supporting documents are needed, we can quickly relay information to you, thus saving you valuable time and money.

Q: We are really in a hurry, can you sumbit my order the same day? (Can you get it back to me by ...?)

A: We do not promise to submit your order the same day, but we will get the documents back to your hands in the shortest time possible. We know we are doing better in this area than others. We do not want to make empty promises to lure your business first and then tell you later that we cannot do it because of such and such.

  1. For authentication, Houston consulate only accept applications with regular processing in the afternoon, and the cutoff for express/rush is 11-11:30am.
  2. Many authentications are not complete (e.g. missing supporting documents or necessary copies of the originals), and we need to spend time to check the contents to get them ready for submission. If we submit your documents to the consulate in a hurry and without thorough checking, it may be returned and in the end it takes more time.
  3. We need to have someone standby and rush your documents to the consulate (the cost is VERY high), and even when we can get there in time, there may be a line at the consulate and we still could not get it submitted before the cutoff.

We understand that most people would rather hear an empty promise, but we would rather speak the truth. Trust us, we will normally do better than we promise and we know we are doing better than others in this area. To help you speed up, we can mail your finished documents directly to China.

Q: Our company would like to open an operation in China, what documents do we need to provide?

A: You will need at least two documents authenticated: articles of incorporation and good standing. You may also need a letter from your bank. Find out exactly what you need first to avoid wasting valuble time and money -- we frequently see companies do these documents one at a time. You may visit the authentication of business document page for more details, including how to obtain those documents.

Q: I now live in Michigan, and I want a birth certificate from Florida to be authenticated. Which consulate should I use? Can I use your service?

A: Since the document was from Florida, and bears the signature of the Secretary of State of Florida, it needs to be authenticated in Houston consulate. Yes, we can help you.

Q: The office of the Secretary of State stapled the document together. Can I take them apart in order to make copies?

A: No, please do not -- taking them apart will invalidate the document. We saw this happening from time to time.

To avoid the difficulty of copying, you may make copies before you send the documents to the office of the Secretary of State.

Q: I have some business documents (e.g. invoices) that need to be authenticate by the Chinese consulate. How can we do that?

A: It should follow the same general procedure. The first step is to make a certified true copy of original documents. Please follow the "procedures for making a true copy certification".

Q: I have some electronic documents, like invoices, email communications that are needed to be authenticate by the Chinese consulate. How can we do that?

A: Email communication and other electronic records are relatively new. In the spirit of the relevent laws, the notary public should print, or supervise someone to print a copy of the email or electronic record and then certify the "true copy" of the electronic documents or emails.

Q: I printed an electronic certificate from the Secretary of State's web site stating my company is in "good standing", can I use that for authentication at Chinese consulate in Houston?

A: The answer is No.

Electronic certification of good standing is pretty common, but for consulate authentication purpose you still need to request a paper copy. For authentication, the consulate verifies the signature and seal of the Secretary of State on a certificate printed on special papers with security features. If the copy is not directly from the Secretary of State's office, the consulate will have the burden to verify every details in the document you provided against the SOS web site, which is an error prone process and defeats the whole purpose of multiple stage certification/authentication.

For Florida, if the PDF contains an authentication ID number, it can be sent directly back to FL Secretary of State for authentication, without requesting a new one.

Disclaimer: All information provided on this web site, through email communications, or over the phone, are for reference only and do not constitute legal advice. We shall not be held responsible if loss or damage occurs. Please seek legal advice from law professionals for your document authentications if needed.

Created: 2006-03-20
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Document can only be authenticated at a consulate based on the state that issued the document, not where you live now.