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July 14, 2015

Certified Copy of an Apostille?

Filed under: Ken Edelstein,Technical & Legal — Tags: , — admin @ 10:00 am

Certified Copy of an Apostille?
Sometimes I am in awe of the machinations suggested to reduce notary fees. I have just been asked to process a college degree with an Apostille. Routine. However, the client also has asked me to additionally prepare a “certified copy” of the Apostille bearing document! Of course this is totally illegal; and it’s worthwhile to explore the issues involved.

“Student Copies” of educational related documents (degrees, transcripts, etc.) are illegal to notarize in New York State. Photocopies do not include the anti-tamper protections commonly incorporated into the original documents. “Photoshop Magicians” have been known to change the grades; raising their grade point average from a dismal 2.5 to a laudable 3.7. All done with just a few clicks of the mouse. Worse, there have been cases where only the name is changed on the degree – instant college education!

To put an end to this fraud, New York State has added educational related documents to the list of “copy may not be notarized” documents. Already on that list are Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce and some other officially issued documents. With educational related documents, it is the Principal or Registrar who is the only authority to sign and be notarized. Their signature is on an original, even if it duplicates a prior issuance. Degrees are generally issued for Apostille processing as a letter, signed and notarized – attached to the actual degree. Both should contain the raised seal of the issuing institution.

Now to follow the processing trail. I notarize the signature of the Registrar on the letter with attached degree. My signature is authenticated by the State of New York and the signature of the County Clerk is added; attesting to my “good” standing as a New York State Notary. Then the document goes to the Department of State to receive an Apostille, after the signature of the New York County Clerk is verified. Finally the Apostille is added; with a tamper proof, non-removable grommet, such that pages cannot be added or removed.

The package now contains many signatures: The Registrar, the Notary, the County Clerk and the Secretary of State of the State of New York. Each one has added, in addition to their signature either a raised seal, or some other tamper resistant protection. It is for that reason that the package is acceptable for use in other countries.

Now comes a request for me, the humble notary to “certify” a copy of the entire package! It’s not even easy to make a copy because of the grommet holding the pages together. The only way to make a copy is to fold the prior pages “out of the way” leaving the grommet at the top left intact.

The photocopy would be a mess, and look it. But, it is technically possible; with parts of the underlying documents “cut off” because the non-removable grommet blocks the photocopying. OK, now http://kenneth-a-edelstein.com has a “somewhat” complete copy. How can I “certify” the copy? First, it’s illegal in New York State for a notary to certify ANY copy, only the owner of the document can make a statement that the copy is complete and unaltered; assuming it’s not on the “no photocopy” list. It’s common to notarize a photocopy of an electric bill to be part of proof of residency. But, it’s a long step from electric bill (with affiant present) to educational degree with Apostille attached and no affiant. The only legal way would be to do the complete job twice.

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