Apostille for a physically damaged diploma
August 2, 2013 3:45 PM   Subscribe

So I need to get an apostille or attestation for a university diploma as a condition for a residency permit for a job overseas. A fedex employee just tore the diploma in half. Is it still legally valid?

The diploma has to go to the University of Louisville, followed by the Jefferson County clerk's office, then it goes to Frankfort and the Secretary of State, at which point it comes back to us in another state.

Here's the catch: We were just at the Fedex office trying to explain this, and the clerk got confused and tore a Fedex envelope containing my degree in half and threw it in the garbage. We retrieved the remnants of the diploma and left in shock.

So, I'm wondering if trying to get a diploma that is torn in half attested/apostille, will send up a red flag, and if I should just order a new diploma and start over.
posted by mecran01 to Law & Government (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Holy shit. Whatever you wind up doing, see about getting FedEx to pay for it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:47 PM on August 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

You know, I've had to do the same thing, and you'll likely need a new document.

Being that FedEx majorly messed up, I'd have a new document expedited, couriered to you, and have FedEx pay for it... it's the least they could do!

Good luck!
posted by mamabear at 3:56 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

People often tear things in half to indicate that they are invalid. Regardless of legality, you can expect skepticism or refusal at every step of this process. I would start over.
posted by grouse at 3:56 PM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: The real problem with replacing the diploma is that it takes 4-6 weeks, and I need my residency permit within 30 days of arrival, not to mention that fact that I'll be trying to complete the apostille from 7200 miles away.
posted by mecran01 at 3:57 PM on August 2, 2013

Well, you can try to proceed with the torn document at the same time as requesting the new diploma. There's nothing to lose in trying both except some time and effort.
posted by grouse at 3:58 PM on August 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Will they accept a sealed and stamped transcript from your university instead? I used that instead of my diploma for a foreign university acceptance, and you might be able to have that expedited more quickly than a diploma. I don't know that the tearing in half would be an automatic fault (stuff happens to paper) but having a back-up would not be a bad thing.

I would also document this with FedEx as soon as possible, as they should definitely not do that with someone's documents (of any kind!) in the future.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:07 PM on August 2, 2013

I'd go back to the Fedex office ASAP, and get it in writing from the manager or some other responsible party that the diploma was damaged by Fedex on such-and-such date and that it was in intact condition beforehand.

Alternatively, if you can write to the institution that issued the diploma and ask the registrar or whatever for similar certification of when the diploma was issued and that you're in good standing, that might cover it as well.
posted by kagredon at 4:08 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Alternatively, if you can write to the institution that issued the diploma and ask the registrar or whatever for similar certification of when the diploma was issued and that you're in good standing, that might cover it as well.

The university where I was an undergrad would issue official letters saying you'd graduated with X degree on Y date because there was a significant lag between your degree being processed and you having a diploma.

My guess is you best option is to drown the country you're going to in paperwork: torn diploma, transcript, letter saying you've graduated (I assume this can be apostilled, maybe not the transcript in the envelope), copy of the form requesting a replacement diploma, etc. If they'll certify the torn diploma, all the better. I imagine the other country won't be happy, but they might be appeased.
posted by hoyland at 4:18 PM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, contact your (future?) employer. It's presumably in their interests that you get the residency permit.
posted by hoyland at 4:18 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The problem with going back to the Fedex office immediately is that I have never cursed so loudly in public in my life. I believe I slammed my fist down on the counter several times, and as I was leaving walked into a sliding door and may have knocked it off the track.
posted by mecran01 at 4:20 PM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

That's okay. Call ahead, and speak to the manager. Explain what happened, and that you're sorry you got so upset, but seriously, one of the employees tore up your diploma and that is a major, major problem.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:29 PM on August 2, 2013 [18 favorites]

Why is that a reason not to go back? On the contrary, that should have put them properly on notice that they screwed up big time and can reasonably expect some consequences. I'd be more worried if you laughed it off and left like it wasn't a problem.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:32 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

The problem with going back to the Fedex office immediately is that I have never cursed so loudly in public in my life

Hoo boy, did you ever have a reason!
posted by yoink at 4:32 PM on August 2, 2013 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: I carpet bombed that place. I'm not sure the office even exists, just smoking rubble. I'll call the manager.
posted by mecran01 at 4:34 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

If the manager gives you no help, there's a FedEx customer service twitter account which might be a suitable place to vent more spleen.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:39 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would not waste time going back to the FedEx to get documentation of the ripped diploma or whatever, and I wouldn't waste time trying to get the ripped one authenticated. Call up the University and see if they can expedite a new diploma. In the meantime, do some research to see if their are any substitutes for the diploma that can be authenticated. For that, you need to contact the embassy in the country you're going to.

Once you get the document, the authentication process actually happens very quickly. I had to get something authenticated last year, and the turn around was very quick from the county and the state. (It was Minnesota, not Kentucky, though; I guess things could be slower in Kentucky.)
posted by yarly at 4:42 PM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: All I need from the manager at this point is a letter, I guess. A replacement diploma is $20, it's just the 4-6 week delay (to process the new diploma) that is killing me. Louisville has been really helpful as we've processed other documents recently, so maybe they can expedite it. You know, every agency I've contacted in Kentucky has been really efficient and helpful.
posted by mecran01 at 4:43 PM on August 2, 2013

Also, if you post the country here, maybe people have experience getting documents authenticated there and will know if there's a substitute for a diploma.
posted by yarly at 4:44 PM on August 2, 2013

I seriously doubt a letter from a FedEx manager is going to be sufficient to make a ripped diploma authenticable. It might work, but you might get where you going and find out it's been rejected. Go ahead and try with the ripped one, but I'd also cover my bases by getting a new one ASAP.
posted by yarly at 4:45 PM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: The diploma is going to Qatar, and I'll be working at Qatar University. They just went on holiday until the eighteenth, but I have a faculty contect who might have suggestions.
posted by mecran01 at 4:47 PM on August 2, 2013

I would also post this question on a Qatar ex-pat board, wherever that may be.
posted by yarly at 4:48 PM on August 2, 2013

You could also try contacting the US Embassy in Doha - page on authentication.
posted by yarly at 4:50 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have never had to show my diploma when applying for a job or an academic position. The diploma itself was more of a decorative document. However, I have had to present official, sealed transcripts. These are franked by the school in question, sent from the institution to the employer and are usually difficult to counterfeit. See if you can offer an official transcript, instead.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:50 PM on August 2, 2013

(btw - you do know it probably has to go to the US Secretary of State and the Qatar embassy, as well, right?)
posted by yarly at 4:51 PM on August 2, 2013

Response by poster: We just received it back from the US Secretary of State with a letter explaining that they do not attest/provide Apostilles for diplomas, and haven't since 1983. As I understand it, the chain is:

1. University of Louisville--certification and notarization
2. Jefferson County Clerk's office
3. Kentucky Secretary of State
4. Qatar Embassy
5. Our new home in Qatar

Qatar University specifically requested the degree.
posted by mecran01 at 5:17 PM on August 2, 2013

When my then-husband had to show a diploma for a job he was taking in Romania, a job that absolutely required the diploma, not transcripts and not anything else, he was able to fax them a copy of the diploma (which in your case is something you could salvage I suspect) and then go in person with the actual diploma at a later time. The school should be able to find some other way of allowing you to present your bona fides in the meantime while you get your replacement diploma, it will probably just require a lot of fiddly nonsense and trips to various offices. I had a friend who is currently at the College of the North Atlantic in Qatar, if I can help, please drop me a note.
posted by jessamyn at 5:54 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who teaches at AUS (the American University in Sharjah). It's UAE, not Qatar, but if he might be of any assistance, memail me and I'll put you in touch.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:01 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know nothing about Qatar, but I do know about FedEx: that manager isn't going to attest to anything. Which is not to say the employee won't be penalized. If that sort of thing is a goal, don't feel like you have to be particularly on top of it; sometime in the next few weeks would be plenty soon enough.
posted by teremala at 8:05 PM on August 2, 2013

Would hiring a courier to actually go to the school in person help speed thing up? Just a thought, as the mailng process might be what slows things down somewhat.
posted by Vaike at 9:59 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I spent one of my law school summers interning with my secretary of state in the department that handled apostilles. I suspect I am the only person here with practical experience on issuing apostilles and their use abroad.

This is all governed by the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents. Your diploma is considered a "public document" because you went to a public university. Each state choose their own issuing authority, but most states have the secretary of state do it. That is how Kentucky does it, and here is how the process works.

You can try to send the torn diploma to the Qatar university because there is no harm in trying, but I think you have to be prepared for the fact that they will not accept it. If the tear goes through the apostille stamp, I think your chances are a bit better. But as noted, tearing a document in half is a great way to invalidate it.

People say get a letter or transcript. Well, that is not what the Qataris have asked for, and any letter or transcript is still going to need an apostille because they are again, public documents. You need this for a residency permit, so this is a matter of appeasing the Qatari immigration authorities. I have no idea how much slack they like to cut, but I think I have a pretty good idea.

I think the five steps in your latest follow-up are too complicated. First, you didn't need to send the diploma back to the university. A diploma is not notarized because it is a public document. The diploma is already self-authenticating. Also, the local county clerk has no involvement - it would have sat on someone's desk for weeks because they wouldn't know what to do with it. The correct process would have been:

1. Send diploma to Sec. of State for issuance of apostille to be stamped on or allonged to diploma (I prefer stamped on the document)
2. Send to whomever in Qatar government needs your diploma (you give the address when you apply for the apostille)

I think what you need to do here is have the university expedite the issuance of a replacement diploma as soon as possible. Then, get it to the Sec. of State and put the address of the Qatari entity that needs it as the recipient. Then you are done. Raise a hue and cry with FedEx by all means, but that will do nothing to solve the problem of getting a replacement diploma.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:04 AM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

In New York at least, even a public document like my marriage certificate still had to be signature-authenticated by the issuing authority and by the county clerk's office before the Sec. Of State would affix an apostille. So the procedure described sounds about right to me.

I'm going to suggest something else that may take less time but be more expensive. Have you tried contacting an art restorer? The things a restorer can do with a torn document are nothing short of astonishing and if you need this now it's worth a try.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:10 AM on August 3, 2013

my marriage certificate still had to be signature-authenticated by the issuing authority and by the county clerk's office before the Sec. Of State would affix an apostille.

Sorry to drop in again, but a marriage license is generally issued by the county, which is why your county clerk was involved in that process. A diploma from a state university is issued by the state, so there is nothing for a county clerk to do with it.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:00 AM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Tanizaki: Thank you for your help. This is the information from the Kentucky Secretary of State that I'm basing my process on. There's another more detailed description but I can't find it.

Documents signed by a notary (adoption papers, grade transcripts/diplomas, powers of attorney, etc.) - must be signed by a notary registered in the Commonwealth of Kentucky; the notary's signature must be certified by the county clerk in the county where the notary took the oath of office and the documents must be submitted to the Office of the Secretary of State with the Request for Apostille or Authentication form and $5 per document fee. If the county clerk is not available, please confirm with the county clerk's office that the deputy clerk is authorized to sign for documents going outside the country.

And for what it's worth, Fedex has not responded to any of my complaints.
posted by mecran01 at 11:37 PM on August 6, 2013

I don't like having important documents sent from one external entity to another directly if there's no tracking system. In theory it should make things faster, but in practice, it means if something goes wrong they will just point fingers at each other and I won't be able to figure out what really happened.

Fedex has not responded to any of my complaints.

Try prodding @FedExHelp on Twitter.
posted by grouse at 7:51 AM on August 7, 2013

Thank you for the update. I think you have misunderstood the quoted description.

Please note that the phrase you are quoting is "Documents signed by a notary", which modifies the rest of the sentence. Was your state diploma signed by a notary when you got it at commencement? I would find that very, very odd. Most state diplomas are signed by the state's governor and the president of the university and a few other people like the dean or chairman of the board of trustees. As a notary myself, a notary has no reason to sign a diploma issued by a university that I can imagine. The reason is that the diploma is not an oath you swear, a statement of fact that you are attesting to, or any other such proper subject of a notarial act. See what I mean?

Too bad about FedEx. I think the best you could get from them is to try to get them to front you the cost of getting a replacement diploma, but if they tell you to take a hike, I would drop it with them.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:59 AM on August 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks--the U of L person just emailed me and is ordering me a new expedited diploma that will be here in a week. She indicated that notarization takes place in her office. So it looks like the crisis is averted. [Sigh of relief]
posted by mecran01 at 9:42 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

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