If you or your company has a legal matter before a court in China, there is a good chance you are going to need to submit evidence that has a U.S. origin. This evidence may be a government certificate, business foundational documents or something else.
Before you can use U.S.-originated documents in a legal proceeding in China, though, you must go through the authentication process. That is, unless special apostille rules apply, you must ask Chinese government officials to put a seal on your documents.
If you have a private affidavit, school diploma or any other document from a non-governmental entity, you must have a notary public notarize or stamp the document. According to the National Notary Association, you can typically locate a notary public at your bank, a library or even a shipping store.
Secretary of state certification
After the notarization of your document, you must ask the secretary of state to certify the notary’s stamp. He or she does so by affixing a seal or stamping the notarization. If your documents originate in Washington D.C., though, you may need to ask the U.S. State Department for additional certification.
Chinese consulate authentication
Finally, you must submit your certified document to the Chinese consulate or embassy. At this stage, an official affixes an authentication mark on the document. This completes the authentication process.
For records from California, there is a good chance you can use the apostille process for document authentication. Ultimately, though, if the apostille process does not apply to your documents, knowing how to properly authenticate them can save you both time and money.