21 January 2017

Naturalisation (2) — apostilles

[Here's a link to the first installment of this series.]

I knew the short form of the birth certificate wouldn't satisfy requirements in France because we'd already been caught in that trap. Walt's short form certificate had been accepted in Blois when he applied for his carte de séjour but rejected by the health insurance system here a few years later. He'd obtained the long-form document on one of his trips to Albany NY, translated it, and taken it to the health insurance people, who were then happy with it.

When we looked carefully at the birth certificates we had been able to get in North Carolina (example on the right) and in New York, we realized that they were pretty much illegible in many places. They had to be translated. How would a translator be able to decipher them? On the N.C. documents, it was handwritten information — people's names, signatures, place names — that was unreadable. On the N.Y. documents, it was the printed matter on the form itself that was illegible, because it was in such small type and the copies, made from microfilm, were of such poor quality.

Besides all that, we had to get special authentication papers called apostilles for every document we were going to submit. You can only get those in the states where the documents originated, but not at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, because the U.S. federal government does not keep records of things like its citizens' births, deaths, divorces, and marriages. Those are matters left for the individual states to deal with, and the U.S. states don't have embassies and consulates in other countries.

We had never before been asked to have apostilles for our birth certificates. During all those years when we turned in birth certificates and information about our financial resources, nobody at the local government level had ever required or even mentioned them. The apostille is a document that resulted from a treaty signed by European counties including France, along with the U.S., Australia, and Canada, as a way to guarantee that documents handed issued on one country and handed over in another really are authentic and are not counterfeit. It's a special kind of international notarization, and the French national government in Paris and the court system requires them.

To get the apostilles, I had to take or send my and my father's birth certificates, for example, to the office of the secretary of state in Raleigh, North Carolina. An official there would draft and sign the apostilles. In each case, the apostille I ended up getting was glued to the birth certificate to prevent the two pages from being separated. Each one required payment of a $10 fee by certified check or money order.

I was not aware of any way able to get a money order or a certified bank check in U.S. dollars here in France. So I had to do all that in N.C., or have somebody do it for me. On one of my trips, I mailed everything in rather than make the 300-mile drive to Raleigh and back from my home town. The original documents are mailed back to you if you send in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. In France, I didn't have any U.S. postage stamps, or any way I knew of to get any. So I had to go get them in the U.S. as well. For my mother's South Carolina birth certificate, the process was the same, but the fee was just $2.00. By the way, it's interesting that apostille is a French word but there's nothing in French on the document itself.

There was one other solution. There are outfits that will obtain the apostilles for you and mail them to you in France. The one we contacted in New York wanted $200.00 per apostille. Yikes! We have nine apostilles for nine separate documents at this point. The fee was too high.

Walt had the same issues for New York, or worse. Remember when I said that his parent's birth certificates were stamped "For genealogical research only"? They weren't certified, legal copies, because he was not allowed to obtain certified documents for his parents. It's the law there. And when Walt was in Albany, he learned that for uncertified documents you can't get an apostille.

The solution was for him to draft sworn affadavits to the effect that the genealogy research copies were, to the best of his knowledge, his parent's authentic birth certificates. Those, along with his own birth certificate, had to be authenticated and notarized at the county level, and then he could get apostilles from the state government office in charge of issuing them. Isn't it strange that one branch of the state government wouldn't issue an apostille for a document from another office of the state government unless it had first been authenticated by the county government?

Walt was lucky that he was born and grew up in the New York capital city, Albany. He was staying with friends and family there. All the state government offices are there. We don't really know if our parents' birth certificates need apostilles, but we know ours do. It was better to get the apostilles for everything while we were in the U.S. rather than find out later that we needed them and would have either to pay a large fee to get them sent here, or make another trip to the U.S. to get them.

The next step would be to get everything translated into French. We couldn't do the translations ourselves. They had to be done by a court-accredited translator.

More tomorrow...

21 comments:

  1. I paid for the apostille for my birth certificate by credit card online to the Australian passport office. I confused the births, deaths and marriages registry office though by dealing directly with them and with the passport office myself. It never occurred to me that one government department would be allowed to talk to another and so I had sent the apostille paperwork to the passport office with a note saying BD&M would send the birth certificate. Normally, apparently, people send all of the paperwork to BD&M, who then forward everything to the passport office who then send it back to the individual making the request. It would help if somewhere on one of their websites it said that that's how it worked, but if it does, and even after several email exchanges with both departments during the process, it didn't dawn on me.

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  2. Wait, you have to get your parents' birth certificates and apostilles for them to be naturalized?
    Thanks for sharing your journey on this. I am going to do it as well.

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    1. They want to have your parents' birth certificates so that they can start an état civil file for you. I don't know if the parents' birth certificates need to be certified copies, and if they are, whether they need apostilles. Walt and I decided to go the whole nine yards on our trips back to the U.S., just to be safe.

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  3. It's a French thing -- proving your parents' identity to prove your own. Luckily, as French residents born in a foreign country, all our French paperwork is registered at the Nantes office. But in order to get that status, whether citizen or resident, is a hard, bumpy road. Back when I did it, long, long, time ago, my simple birth certificate from PA was enough -- no apostille. Mine was naturalization by marriage to a French citizen and since he was born in Algeria, which was French when he was born, but by 1971, a foreign country, we had to prove he was French and produce his parents' documentation....

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    1. This is the first time I've ever had to have apostilles for my documents. I don't think the Loir-et-Cher bothers with them, but naturalization papers have to go to Paris for approval... or to Nantes.

      I wonder who hold the record as the oldest person ever naturalized in France. Maybe it will be me...

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  4. It is said that Germany and India have very bureaucratic institutions, but it seems they are not alone. A bit off topic but the UK or England tried to privatise the land titles office but eventually the plan was dropped because of fierce public opposition. Here the State of New South Wales is trying to do the same and I really hope it is dropped. No good will come at all from it and these are extremely important documents and of course historical too.

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    1. The last Bush administration wanted to privatize our social security retirement pension system, but there was a public outcry that squashed the proposal.

      Once Brexit goes through, British citizens... residents... subjects... I don't know what they are called, might have to go through the process that we Americans are required to complete. They should be prepared.

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    2. Rather amazing that it was ever a public system and not a private one. For most people here now, it is a private performance based system and the union based schemes are the best but there are some old codgers like moi who is in a very old defined benefit system. I didn't take the thirty pieces of silver to leave it like most did and I will be ok when I retire, unlike those aforesaid.

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  5. Our work to get all these things done for Argentina, took 3 years. Apostilles and all ....

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    1. Did it take a lot of trips back to NYC? Or did you have an agent in NYC doing the work? Three years is a pretty short time compared to our five years so far, but then we move pretty slowly these days. We have another 2½ years to go on our long-term resident cards.

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  6. Ken
    Have you been asked for a Certificat de moralité? I was asked for it and had to pay someone recommended by the Consulate to get one. All he did was to get a certificate from the RCMP that I was "good" as far as law and order are concerned. Surprisingly , Y didn't have to have one back in 1991 even though he was applying from abroad.

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    1. We would have been required to turn in a clean police report from the FBI as long as we had lived here for fewer than 10 years. Now we've been here longer, and I don't yet know what the requirement will be. Maybe a sworn declaration, stamped by the people at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, saying that we don't have criminal records in the U.S. Or maybe a statement from the mayor of our village vouching for us will do the trick.

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  7. Quel bordel !!! Hope things will be easier for Chang since Franck and she will get married this month. ..

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    1. Do they plan to come live in France? I'm sure that being married to a French citizen will help speed the process for Chang.

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  8. You will need a lot of champagne for the celebration you'll be having when you are finally French citizens!

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    1. Ha! That's true!

      So, Ken, would you say that an apostille accomplishes largely the same thing that a notary does, in the U.S.? And, speaking of notaries, I am surprised that, these days, a notary's stamp is just an ink stamp, now, it's not a raised seal-type stamp. It seems like it would be so ridiculously easy to counterfeit that on any document.

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    2. Evelyn,

      At the consulate , they served us champagne and mignardise -was a very interesting ceremony for the 20 + new citizens and their families.

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    3. Judy, yes, the apostille is a special kind of internationally recognized notarization that was created by a treaty negotiated in the 1960s. You can read about it on Wikipedia. It seems that Canada is not a signatory, but 112 other countries, including all the countries in the European Union as well as the United States (since 1981) and Australia (since 1995), have signed it. France and the U.K. signed the treaty in 1965. The latest countries to sign it are Chile, Brazil, and Morocco (all in 2016).

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  9. It's exciting that you will become citizens soon! Does that mean you will be able to adopt late middle-aged American democrats?

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    1. We have no idea how long the process might take, or even if it will ever happen. If Marine Le Pen gets elected president in France, U.S. Democrats might have a harder time getting into France, even if adopted by French citizens.

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  10. Excellent explanation Ken! Processing apostilles can be an uphill battle sometimes. In case you ever need some information about processing apostille in specific states in the United States , we have a very complete do-it-yourself guide.
    I believe we were in contact with you by emial.
    Best regards,
    Luis Massieu
    http://www.apostille.net
    (212) 495-9323

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