How to get an apostille for your degree

[Note: This post is part of a series on the paperwork you’ll need to teach English in South Korea.]

If you want to move to South Korea to teach ESL, you’ll need to get an apostille for your degree. An apostille is a like an international notarization that helps certify your degree’s authenticity. In plain English, it helps show that your degree is real.

Now if you don’t have a Bachelor’s degree, I’ve written a little about that. I can’t go into how to get one here. You’ll need one, but it can be in any field – doesn’t have to be English or Education or anything.

If you already have your degree, then that’s where I can help here. I can tell you how to get an apostille for your degree.

First things first, you’ll need to get your degree notarized before you can get it apostilled. And you have to get it notarized in the same state where you will get the apostille.

My degree is from Indiana University, so I went ahead and had it notarized in Indiana. But contrary to some of the rumors online, you don’t have to get your degree notarized and apostilled in the state where you received your degree. You can get it done in any state you want.

If you happen to live in Louisville and don’t mind taking a trip across the river, I’d suggest doing it all in Indiana. The apostille is free there, except shipping costs. Most other states, though, do it for about $5 or $10, so nothing to worry about.

But first you have to get it notarized.

Public Notary

I did it at the UPS Store. Google it – they’re all over the place. And then call ahead to make sure they’re available to notarize when you come in. Otherwise, just call around to find a notary public who can do your degree. Post offices, banks, schools – ask, and they’ll tell you.

Now here’s the thing. You don’t want them to actually notarize your original diploma. You’re going to send this to Korea, and they won’t return it. Instead you want them to notarize a photocopy of your diploma. So make a photocopy of your original and bring that along when you go to the office. They’ll look at your original to make sure the copy is good, and then you’ll do all the work on the copy.

[Note: call ahead to ask about what they need specifically. Some might require transcripts.]

This is what you need to make sure to get before you leave the notary (don’t trust the notary to know what to do):

  • Your name and signature
  • The notary’s name and signature
  • The notary’s seal
  • The date the notary’s license expires
  • The date you notarized it
  • The county and state where the notary is licensed

You and the notary are just going to write all this on the back of the copy of your diploma. I thought it seemed pretty lame, not all that official, but it worked.

Secretary of State

Once you have your diploma notarized, you can send it to the Secretary of State to get the apostille. You’ll need to get the apostilled in the same state where you got the diploma notarized. But otherwise, it’s a painless process.

You’ll send the notarized copy of your diploma along with payment for the apostille service (Google “secretary of state [INSERT YOUR STATE HERE]” to verify what kinds of payment they accept). You’ll also include a cover letter.

The cover letter is nothing to be scared of. I just typed up a piece of paper that looked like this:

Indiana Secretary of State
Authentication Department
(Apostille request)

Date: __________________
Name: _________________
My phone: ______________
My email: _______________
Country where documents will be sent: _____________
Please return documents via enclosed, postage-paid envelope

Signature: ______________

I filled out my homemade form by hand, and that was it.

Beyond that, I just had to get the whole round-trip mailing thing going again, same as I did for the background check. I paid for two envelopes with tracking for both, and addressed one to the Secretary of State (google to find the address for your state) and the other to me. Then I stuffed the second envelope inside the other envelope with the rest of the documents and sent the whole package.

The longest part of this whole process, for me, was figuring out how to do it. Once I knew what I was doing, I did all the paperwork and sent it off in an afternoon.

Then it’s just a matter of waiting to get it back, which took about a week or so for me.

Have fun.