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Canada joins international deal to make document certification faster, cheaper

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Canadians in need of document certification for use abroad will experience a quicker and more cost-effective verification process starting this year, as Canada has joined the largest international convention on this procedure.

The 1961 Apostille Convention simplifies the process to rationalize document certification for use in 125 countries that have signed the convention. Canada agreed to participate in the conference in May 2023, and the changes will take effect nationwide from January 11.

Under the convention, provinces such as Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Quebec will be able to unilaterally certify documents made by Canadians working or residing abroad. This includes various official government documents, financial documents, academic transcripts, legal documents, and more.

The remaining provinces and territories will continue to submit applications to Global Affairs Canada (GAC), where the certification process will be handled.

However, once a document is certified—whether by GAC or by one of the five self-certifying provinces—it can be used in any member country of the Apostille Convention without the need for multiple certifications.

This marks a significant advancement compared to the previous arrangement. Previously, Canadians had to submit certification applications to GAC by mail, with an expected processing time of 30 to 45 working days. Afterward, they had to present the certified documents to the consulates or embassies of the country they intended to use them in. This process had to be repeated for each document or copy of a document that an individual or business needed to use abroad.

Different Processes, Faster Times

The certification process will operate differently in each provincially authorized document certification jurisdiction. Residents in Ontario will be allowed to directly present their documents at specific locations, with the option to receive certified documents by mail.

In Quebec, Alberta, and BC, residents can use online forms and then send their documents to a centralized location. The estimated processing time is between 5 and 14 working days.

Any documents issued by Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut must be certified by Global Affairs Canada, regardless of where the certification requester currently resides.

Canadians abroad can request certification from consulates or embassies, but there will be a transitional period from January 11 to January 28 when only urgent requests will be fulfilled.

Canada, in general, does not require foreign documents to be certified. Instead, the federal government relies on other factors to determine the authenticity of foreign documents.

Ontario:

Starting from January 11, 2024, residents can directly bring their documents to locations in Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Thunder Bay, and Sault Saint Marie.
Residents can also send documents to the Official Document Service counter at 222 Jarvis Street in Toronto after receiving online approval and paying a $15 fee.The estimated completion time is 15 days, depending on the volume of documents.

Saskatchewan:

Documents must be sent by mail to the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General of Saskatchewan.
There is a $50 fee for each document.

Alberta:

Documents must be submitted to the Office of the Deputy Secretary General for confirmation.
There is a $10 fee for each document.
The estimated processing time is 5 to 7 days, depending on the quantity.

British Columbia:

Documents must be sent to the OIC Management Office under the Office of the Chief Executive Officer after completing the online Request for BC Document Authentication form.
There is a $20 fee for each document.
The estimated completion time is 15 days, depending on the volume.

Quebec:

Document certification must be requested through an online form. Certification is carried out by the Ministry of Justice.
There is a $65 fee for each document.

Rest of Canada:

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) will continue to provide services for the rest of Canada.
Any documents issued in Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Manitoba, PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, or Newfoundland and Labrador must be certified through Global Affairs Canada, regardless of where the certification requester currently resides.
GAC’s service is free, except for the cost of sending documents by mail.
The estimated processing time will “significantly decrease” from the current 30 to 45 working days, although GAC does not provide a specific target.

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