Important Update 09/18/18: The Philippines has acceded to the Apostille Convention on September 12, 2018, which is an international convention which will greatly simplify authentication services or “red ribbon” services abroad. Stay tuned for changes on this in the coming months.
Important Update 05/11/19: Apostille Convention in full effect on may 14, 2019. Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Here —> Apostille Convention, Red Ribbon and Authentication.
“You should write a blog post on this” my sister said. It started when my sister had to get some company documents “Authenticated” or get that things with a “Red Ribbon” at the Philippine Embassy in Singapore. I explained to her about the difference between Authentication and Acknowledgement, two services which are done at Philippine embassies and consulates (what’s the difference between a consulate or embassy?). You see, my sister is one of the smartest people and I know, and she must have been quite stymied that despite her Herculean research abilities, she did not come across the difference between the two.
The processes of Authentication and Acknowledgment are also sometimes called “consularized” or “certified”. But they usually still refer to either one of the two.
When are Authentication or Acknowledgment needed?
These two services, Authentication and Acknowledgement, are required in these common scenarios:
1. Your bank requires an “authenticated” or “consularized” Special Power of Attorney when authorize someone to act on your behalf, like applying for a loan to buy a condominium.
2. Your “authenticated” employment contract has to be presented by an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to get their Overseas Employment Contract.
3. Your authenticated school records are often needed for students transferring from abroad to the Philippines.
4. Your authenticated birth certificate (if you are a foreigner) is needed to get married to a Filipina in the Philippines.
5. You have a child who is a minor who must apply for a Philippine passport to visit where you live overseas. You’ll probably asked to execute an “authenticated” ‘Affidavit of Support and Consent’.
6. You (if you were a non-Filipino) have to execute an “Affidavit of Support or Consent” for your non-Filipino 14 years old and below traveling to the Philippines without their legal guardians (you).
Of course there are probably 1,234 other reasons why you would need to have a document Authenticated or Acknowledged at a Philippine embassy or consulate. But these are some of the most common ones. If you ask someone who’s gone through any of these process, they most probably describe it as having to process their documents get a “red ribbon” but not be clear on which they applied for. But in fact these are two different process – some of them are “authentications”, some of them are “acknowledgements”. At the end of this article let’s revisit these common situations and check which of these are usually Authentications and which are Acknowledgements.
You see, Authentications and Acknowledgements are two services commonly done by Philippine Embassies and Consulates around the world. As long as they see some kind of red ribbon and gold seal on the document, people are usually satisfied that the bearer of the document went through some kind of process at a Philippine embassy and consulate. On the consular officer’s end, in their experience as long they slap on some kind of red ribbon and gold seal on the OFWs contact, with a covering certificate full of officious sounding text, the bank, POEA or whatever official or office requests for it, the document will most likely be accepted.
This blissful lack of information on what is the difference between the two has gone on perfectly fine for so long I guess there isn’t really an need to differentiate the two. But, since we’re here already we might as we might as well go one, aye?
Why is there a confusion between Authentication or Acknowledgement
At first glance a document that has been Authenticated and one that has a Acknowledged indeed look the same. Both services involve a “red ribbon” threaded through an eyelet punched through the upper left hand corner of a document, tying it together to prevent tampering. The ribbon is then secured down with a gold-colored paper seal. True enough, lots people who deal with either of these processes, such as a Philippine real estate agent who deals with international clients, will just refer to either the process of authentication or acknowledgement as “red ribbon”.
Well, before I go on further. This article does not cover authentication as done in the Philippines by the Department of Foreign Affairs. If you’ve read this far wanting to read about authentication in the Philippines, I’m sorry. You have permission to look for a picture on me on this website and shout angrily at it. Or you could also read on and finish this article since you’ve gotten this far. There are links at the end of this article that will be useful for you.
By the way, if ever you are holding a document with a red ribbon and gold seal from a Philippine embassy or consulate and you want to know whether what you have is an Acknowledgement or an Authentication? If it is an Authentication, that fancy paper on top will say “Authentication Certificate”. If it’s an Acknowledgement, the fancy paper will say Acknowledgement. The text is also different but the big title on top is the only give away you need.
What is Authentication?
Okay, let’s go to the boring book definition before I try to explain it in normal English “Certificate of Authentication – When an officer in a foreign country other than an officer of the Philippines has performed a notarial or other official act for use in the Philippines, the official character of the executing officer should be verified by the diplomatic or consular officer of the Philippines. The diplomatic or consular officer shall then issue a certificate of authentication in order to give the service legal force and effect in the Philippines.”
Let’s use some real English now. So let’s say you have are going to get married in the Philippines and you need to have your marriage contract Authenticated at the Philippine Embassy. It’s different in every country and for each kind of document, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to give you the gist of things. Okay so this is how it goes…
You bring the marriage contract to the local office which issued the document or the public notary (that would be getting “Certificate of Notary” for you United States based peeps) —-> then, bring it to the ministry of foreign affairs where they will say “Yeah this is genuine.” and put a sticker or some kind of certificate on it (that would usually be the Office of the Secretary of State you people in the United States) —-> Then bring it the a Philippine embassy or consulate and they’ll put their official-looking certificate, red ribbon and gold seal on it. Viola!
So this is how it works. Once you have that magical red ribbon that means the embassy or consulate has authenticated that the signature of the local foreign office (or foreign ministry or state department or whatever it is called in your country, you know what I’m sayin’), hence it is real. Now, whoever in the Philippines will use the authenticated document should know it’s real because a consular officer in the Philippine consulate or embassy took a look at it, and compared it with specimen signatures given to the consulate or embassy by that foreign ministry or department. Since that local foreign affairs office signature is real, it can be assumed that the certification of the public notary or issuing local office is real. So that’s a lot of hoops to tell you that your document is legit.
In short: Fancy red ribbon and certificate from Philippine consulate/embassy —–> this foreign ministry certificate is legit ——-> this issuing office or public notary is legit —–> My document is legit.
What is Acknowledgment?
If authentication and acknowledgment were two best friends, authentication would be a rock star mobbed by screaming fans whenever he goes to the mall. Acknowledgement would be that guys who is always with that rockstar but know one knows his name. Uhmm.. never mind, forget that analogy. Let’s just go straight to the book definition lawyers and other nerds love…
“Definition – an acknowledgement is the act by which a person who has executed an instrument goes before a competent officer and declares it to be his true and voluntary act and deed”
After he goes to the competent officer, the competent officer will then slap on his magic certificate.
“Certificate of Acknowledgement – when a person who has executed an instrument appears personally before an officer and makes an acknowledgement thereof, the officer shall execute a certificate of acknowledgement. An officer should make sure that the form of acknowledgment satisfies the requirements of Philippine law in each case…”
Think of acknowledgment of your Philippine notary public when overseas. When your document has been acknowledged it is like the you are saying “This document is legit. You can believe me because I went to a really important and trusted ‘consul’ guy in that fancy office downtown and told him that no one forged my signature or forced or tricked me into signing it. So you can trust this document just as much as you an trust that ‘consul’ guy.”
Okay, so what are the answers?
Earlier I gave six examples of common situations which require that magic red ribbon which fixes everything. I said earlier that some are Authentications and some are Acknowledgements. So wanna know the answers? Here they are…
1. Your bank requires an “authenticated” or “consularized” Special Power of Attorney when authorize someone to act on your behalf, like applying for a loan to buy a condominium. – This is an Acknowledgement.
2. Your “authenticated” employment contract has to be presented by an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to get their Overseas Employment Contract. – Where I work, this is usually an Acknowledgment.
3. Your authenticated school records are often needed for students transferring from abroad to the Philippines. – This is an Authentication.
4. Your authenticated birth certificate (if you are a foreigner) is needed to get married to a Filipina in the Philippines. – This is an Authentication.
5. You have a child who is a minor who must apply for a Philippine passport to visit where you live overseas. You’ll probably asked to execute an “authenticated” ‘Affidavit of Support and Consent’. – This is an Acknowledgement.
6. You (if you were a non-Filipino) have to execute an “Affidavit of Support or Consent” for your non-Filipino 14 years old and below traveling to the Philippines without their legal guardians (you). – This is an Acknowledgement.
A Few Important Resources
Okay, now let me throw in a couple of thinks that should be helpful to you. This article tells you what’s an authentication and acknowledgment in lot less words. It was produced by the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco.
Here’s another useful article by the Philippine Embassy in Singapore that talks about authentication of documents issued in the Philippines.
This is from the official website of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh which gives brief clean overview of the different requirements and processes for their Notarial services or Authentication, Certification and Certificate of Acknowledgment.
Here is a page on the DFA’s official site on authentication.
There’s a whole lot of other stuff on the vast interwebs, but these samples are pretty solid ones. Again, I put them up as examples. But hear me out. You MUST check the website of and, better still, contact the Philippine embassy or consulate where you plan to apply. Each country is different, and there may be slightly different procedures or requirements for each.
M’kay. Are we loud and clear with that?… Give me a ‘Thumbs up’ if you are.
Most Important Advice
Lastly, my most important advice. This article is just out of my own too limited experience. So, there are two steps you can do which will answer any questions you have remaining. One. Google the nearest Philippine embassy or consulate. Two. Pick up the dang phone and give them a call. I read that how far you will go in life is determined on how many uncomfortable questions you are willing to ask.
Send them an email if you really don’t wanna call them. If no one picks up the phone or answers your email within a reasonable amount of time? Call or email again. You’ll be surprised that in these offices there are warm living human beings ready to give helpful advice. And if you called once to ask, don’t be afraid to call and ask again, two, three four times or more if things aren’t clear after the end of the conversation. Go out of your way to find the answers you need is what I’m sayin’.
Okay, that will wrap this up. Peace out!