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How to write a formal letter for the authentication of documents

Updated April 17, 2017

Documents are often used worldwide in business and investment deals. Documents that will be used abroad should be authenticated with the Seal of the U.S. Department of State for any U.S. citizen or national. Obtaining authentication (also known as apostille) requires submitting a small fee and a cover letter. This formal cover letter details the prevalent information for the Department of State so that they may legalise each document. The requirements for authenticating documents varies by individual state.

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  1. Write the date on the top left corner of the cover letter. Underneath the date, place your name, with your address just below your name. Include a daytime telephone number just below your address so that the Department of State may contact you.

  2. Write a line that indicates where each document you want to legalise will be used, for example, "Country Each Document will go to: Argentina."

  3. Write a statement indicating how many documents will be included with the cover letter. The Department of State has a set fee for each document. Calculate how many documents you are sending and the total price, for example, "Number of Documents: 5 x £5 = £26." Include the details of how you will pay, such as money order or personal check.

  4. Write a small section explaining that you would like your documents returned. This section of the letter is optional, to be included if you want your originals back. Indicate you want them returned and that you will include a self-addressed, prepaid envelope.

  5. Include a final section with any notes or special instructions regarding the documents. For example, they may be easily damaged or should be kept cool. Sign your name at the bottom of the formal letter.

  6. Tip

    Use the sample cover letter provided by the Department of State on their website. Keep the language simple and direct because the office requires only the essential information. For the requirements for authenticating documents in your state, contact your Secretary of State's office.


    As of 2011, documents take four weeks to process after receipt, according to the U.S. State Department. If you do not include a return envelope and postage, your documents will be sent back to you by regular mail, possibly delaying the process by two to three weeks.

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About the Author

Sarah Vrba has been a writer and editor since 2006. She has contributed to "Seed," "AND Magazine," Care2 Causes and "202 Magazine," among other outlets, focusing on fashion, pop culture, style and identity. Vrba holds an M.A. in history with an emphasis on gender and fashion in the 19th century.

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