Posted by: 1of10boyz | August 27, 2013

Authenticate Me – Part 1

Have you ever seen something that you can’t believe and you know that no one is going to believe it? Was that really what I just saw? Is that really how that happens? Can this really be the normal way this happens? I had one of those experiences.

The immigration laws in China changed recently and the process for my spouse to be in China is now standardized all across China. The problem is that where I have been living the standard wasn’t up to the new country standard. The standard requires that our marriage certificate be authenticated.

So you might wonder what that really means, as I did. It isn’t like the document has changed over the past 28+ years so what are they going to do to it you might wonder? I have learned a little about that process now.

Your average marriage certificate in the US is issued by the country clerk from the country where you bought your marriage license. You bought it, went to the person that performed the ceremony, in my case an LDS Temple, where they end up signing the document with witnesses that says you got hitched. That signed document gets sent back to where you bought the license and becomes the record that proves you did actually say I Do, I Will, or Yes. That location becomes the permanent home for this document, FOREVER. So that little courthouse in Paris, ID has my marriage certificate, my parents’ marriage certificate, and my grandparents’ marriage certificate.

Now, if you need a copy of that document to prove to someone that you actually did get married the officials in that office will make a copy. If you want a copy of the this document you can send the county clerk a few bucks and this person will make a copy of the original stored there and put it into a little seal machine and create a nice raised seal copy of the original. In every situation I have ever been in while in America this is all I have ever needed. It was good enough to prove that we were married when I joined the US Navy, it was good enough for the Social Security folks to allow my wife to change her name, and it was good enough to allow the US Government to issue her a passport with the name she has gone by for the past 28+ years. However, that isn’t much good outside of the USA. In case you are wondering there are two additional levels of proof that it is an original document.

The next level is to have it certified. This is done at the state level for the state your marriage license was issued in. This means that the Secretary of State for the State of Idaho where my marriage certificate resides will also add a letter to the front of my marriage certificate that certifies that the county clerk that issued the document was actually the county clerk and was authorized to create the copy that now has the letter from the Secretary of State for the State of Idaho attached to it.

The next level is for this certified marriage certificate to be authenticated. This requires that this group of documents is now submitted to the Secretary of State of the United States of America. Yup, Mr. John Kerry himself – ok, maybe not THE Secretary of State, but someone in that office will now authenticate the document. I understand that someone in this government office will look at the marriage certificate and its associated Certification Letter from the State of Idaho. The State Department will now Authenticate that the Secretary of State for the State of Idaho really is that person and will attach another letter and documents to the marriage certificate that indicates that the Secretary of State in Idaho really is allowed to Certify the raised seal marriage certificate that was issued by the county clerk in Paris, ID.

That authenticated marriage certificate will now be a “valid instrument” that is recognized by other countries as a “real” document. In my case it will be then submitted to the Chinese Consulate in Washington, DC so that they can then agree that the machine stamped signature of Mr. John Kerry is a real signature and they will attach another bunch of papers to that authenticated marriage certificate with a Chinese chop (the equivalent of the raised seal) to prove to the local government here in Yantai, Shandong, China that the marriage license is ok to prove that LaDawna and I are really married. This will now allow her to continue to reside with me in China.

So, lets break this down; the county clerk issued a raised stamp document that has the following attached to it; a letter from the Secretary of State for the State of Idaho that says the county clerk was the country clerk and that the raised seal stamp is valid on the copy of the original, the Secretary of the United States of America authenticates that the Secretary of State for the State of Idaho really is the Secretary of State of Idaho and that he/she could actually know that the county clerk was allowed to make the original, and then it has a document attached from the Consulate/Embassy for the Peoples Republic of China in Washington DC that agrees that the Secretary of State of the United States of America is really the Secretary of State of the United States of America which proves that the document is OK to use as proof that my wife is my wife and the prefecture government in Yantai, Shandong China can use it to issue her a 1 year visa to live in China because I am an Expert Permit holder. Whew!

You might imagine that this is a difficult process to manage, I mean I am getting the Secretary of State, the person that is 4th in line to be the Presidency of the United States, to authenticate that I am married to this woman. I mean that is like little baby George in order to the throne of England. Actually it is not as complicated as it sounds, you can do it for less than $50 USD if you are willing to let the USPS do it with first class mail and a little patience. Nearly all of the forms are on the internet and would only require that you go down to your local bank and sign your name in front of a Notary Public.

Since I am living in China and I need this document ASAP, LaDawna’s residence permit expires this month, I don’t have the leisure to wait and we are trying to hurry up and get a copy to use. This requires that we use some of the resources that make a living off of working through the sometimes complex process of immigration, otherwise known as lawyers and law firms. Not that this is really a problem either, a few power-of-attorney forms and they can pretty much do anything you need them to do. Again, a trip to the local Notary Public and everything will run smoothly.

Wait a minute, Notary Public is not something I have seen or needed much in China. How the heck does that work? Sure it is easy if you live near or travel to Shanghai or Beijing or Hong Kong, you just run over to the consulate or embassy and they have someone there that can take care of it for you. Sure there is a little more paperwork and it will cost a little more than you might pay for it in the good old USA (ok, maybe a lot more, $50 USD per experience or document it isn’t quite clear from the State Department’s website). Problem is I don’t go to those places very often; in fact I try to avoid those places for lots of reasons. So what are my other alternatives and are they even going to be valid once they get sent to the US?



  1. We all have the same problem. If you have Ladawna (still at home I think?), fill out the form to the china consulate in the USA, she can sign the release in front of a notary. That’s what I’m doing.

    • The problem is I have to sign to allow the legal-eagles to function as my surrogate. That means that I have to do notary here. Part 2 has the story of how that really works, you will never believe how complicated it is. I ask them to see if the consulate/embassy in DC would give it back for my book of WTH about China. It is so crazy it deserves its own story, part 2.

  2. […] I need to authenticate my marriage certificate. You can read more about what that means in Authenticate Me – Part 1. It is all about meeting the requirements that are now consistent across China for my wife to get a […]

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