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The web site for the US Embassy in Guatemala says that to get married in Guatemala, I must present my passport and birth certificate and that

Any non-Guatemalan documents presented to the marriage registrar must first be authenticated by a Guatemalan Consul in the United States

Is this accurate? Do I really need to get my birth certificate authenticated in the United States? I can't do that after I've arrived in Guatemala?

  • 1
    So you got an official answer from the consulate and decided to cross-check it here? – littleadv Nov 28 '14 at 5:03
  • @littleadv: As stated in the question above, the information I quoted is from the US Embassy, which hardly counts as official Guatemalan answer. US Embassy web sites are known to provide incomplete information about foreign governments, and specifically say that the information they provide about foreign rules should not be considered official. – Flimzy Nov 28 '14 at 6:17
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Yes, but an agent can do this on your behalf. Since Guatemala is not a party to the Hague Convention, you have to go through a different process. From the Department of State:

Guatemala is not a party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Legalization of Foreign Public Documents. Documents issued in the United States may be authenticated for use in Guatemala by (a) contacting the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office and (b) then having the seal of the U.S. Department of State authenticated by the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington, D.C. Documents issued in U.S. states must first be authenticated by the designated state authority, generally the state Secretary of State.

The process will vary depending on who is doing the inspection in Guatemala. Assuming that you are from Texas (as an example.), it should go like this:

  1. Obtain an official copy of your birth certificate from Texas.
  2. Have your birth certificate translated by a professional translator.
  3. Have the Secretary of State in Texas provide an "authentication" verifying that the official birth certificate is a true copy of the original Texas record.
  4. Have the U.S. Department of State provide an "authentication" (but not an apostille!) that the Texas Secretary of State's seal is authentic.
  5. Have the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington, D.C. authenticate the seal of the U.S. Department of State.

You may be able to skip step the Texas Secretary of State authentication, but that may depend on who has authenticated the "official copy" of your birth certificate.

It may seem ridiculous to have each level of government authenticate the seal of the previous level of government. And it is! That's why the Hague Convention Abolishing the Legalization of Foreign Public Documents was created. It allows you to skip some of the intermediate steps.

I did this while setting up a legal entity overseas in a country that is a party to the Hague convention. I was able to do all of the translation myself, and we only needed a few things to be apostilled. Those documents had to be "authenticated" first, however. Each step took precious time, and the overnight delivery service costs overseas were ridiculous. In the end, the result is what matters! Good luck on your wedding!

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I followed @Iswank's advice to the best of my ability.

  1. I obtained a new, official birth certificate from the state of Oklahoma
  2. I had it translated by a certified translator (in Kansas) (US$35)
  3. I took it to the Consulate of Guatemala in Houston, Texas

At the consulate, they told me the translation I had provided was not satisfactory, and that they would do their own translation, which they did on the spot for me, for US$10.

So, it's easier than I had anticipated.

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