I had never been acquainted with the word “Apostille” until we began the process of making Aliyah. For this I am grateful, because to know this word is to despise it.
“Apostille” is French for “certification.” Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Like something the villagers might sing at the beginning of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Don’t let it fool you.
Per the Hague Convention of 1961, Apostilles are the international notary certificate for official documents – the barricade you must scale, battered and bloody, to prove to other countries that your papers are authentic.
It’s like “Les Mis,” but with paperwork.
If, for example, one wishes to move from the United States to Israel, one must acquire an apostille from the state in which each of their documents was issued. This goes for birth certificates, marriage licenses, name change forms, criminal background checks (required of all adults), among others.
Now imagine that a family of five is emigrating, all of whom were born in different states with different requirements for apostilles. Imagine that some of them were born in a prior century and their birth certificates cannot be certified with the original signatory. Imagine that one of them has been married (twice) and divorced (once) and changed his name. Imagine that one of them was born in New York State, the black labyrinth where paperwork goes to die. (New Jersey, The State that Wouldn’t Turn Left, is surprisingly efficient.)
Now imagine that there’s a global pandemic and most government offices are working at half capacity and with double the workload.
The deeper you go down the rabbit hole, the clearer the similarity between “Apostille” and “Guillotine.”
I have spent the last year chasing down apostilles for a dozen documents. I’ve used my professional phone voice more in that year than in my entire professional life. More frequently I’ve sworn at the phone after hanging up. I’ve had to work through deep resentments against The Hague Convention, muzak, and the Wayne County Clerk who only communicates by snail mail and fax. I’ve had it UP TO HERE with tarty little French words.
Thankfully, we only have three more apostilles to submit – but time is tight. With only seven weeks to go until Aliyah (fingers crossed), I’ve had to send in the big guns: my husband, who could sweet-talk Elon Musk into a free ride to Mars. Hopefully, he can work his magic on the New York Division of Licensing.
Then, all we can do is pray.
I have faith that this ghastly process will end eventually. But I promise you, once I am stamped and ready to roll, I will never say anything in French ever again. Not even “vinaigrette.”
On a side note, my sister-in-law bravely mentioned that she made aliyah just a few years ago, right before they started requiring apostilles.
C’est La Vie.