Are You Certifiable?

Recently, my office has received quite a number of requests from international students (graduated students) to have their degree parchments “notarized”. We have received similar requests from international government agencies as well.

For example, here’s what a recent request looked like, “One of the necessary documents is a copy of my diploma with notarization and apostille.”

I had to look up the word “apostille.” In case you do too, here’s a good website explaining it.

At first, I thought “Why would anyone think this is necessary? Our degrees all have the original embossed seal and signatures on them.” It didn’t make any sense to me. However, after querying a number of my colleagues in the Association of Registrars of Universities and Colleges in Canada, they made me aware that it’s actually the copy of the diploma that needs to be authenticated.

Call me a little slow, but now I understand. In fact, a colleague noted that one of their students had submitted the original degree parchment to a government agent who kept it! This happened twice to that student who had to request a replacement degree each time. This is concerning. I understand the need for certified copies.

But I am not convinced that our office is the one to provide this service.

Why not?

There are two reasons.

First, several requests cite the necessity of using a Notary Public and Apostille. We don’t have such an officer in our university. Therefore, whatever service we do provide would not suffice.

Second, I contacted several Notaries Public and spoke to a lawyer, all of whom described how much confusion there is amongst their clients over what services are required. I’m not interested in contributing to more confusion, nor am I knowledgeable enough about the topic to try to explain it to students.

The service already exists. There are professionals who do this kind of work as a profession. I am comfortable directing students (graduates) to them to fulfill this need. I think students will receive better service this way.

What does your university or college do in this situation? Please leave a comment to explain.


5 thoughts on “Are You Certifiable?

  1. At King’s when the certification of a copy does NOT require a notary public/commissioner of oaths, we will make a copy of the student’s parchment (which they have to provide; we do not retain copies) and sign and seal it as a copy. I would rather not provide this service because as I understand it our certification of a copy has no legal force and so is somewhat useless outside of academic institutions. Moreover, finding a “notary public” is difficult because, at least in Alberta, this is mostly a service provided by law offices. But to date we have handled the few requests a year we get.

    We had an interesting variation on this kind of a request: a student needed a certified copy of her degree parchment,but the original was in a gallery quality frame. Hence copying was not possible, so she requested a replacement parchment. However, we normally do not replace a parchment unless it has been lost or destroyed. The cost of un-framing, copying, and re-framing was more than the cost of a replacement parchment, however, so the student wanted to pursue this. After playing a bit of catch-22, eventually a copy of the framed parchment was managed by a creative Staples employee. So now along with my little note to graduands about ensuring they keep their parchments safe, I need to note that they need to keep them copyable!


    1. Thanks, Glenn. Something I’m not sure I understand is why our own certification of copies of degrees we issue isn’t acceptable – yet, like you, I have been told it’s not. But at the same time, we get contacted all the time by some government officials in Taiwan or Nepal or wherever, asking us to verify a graduate’s degree parchment. They send us a faxed or scanned version and ask us to confirm whether it’s legit. Yet we can’t provide a certified copy in advance? It doesn’t add up. But until we know better we will be supporting our local Notary Public folks 🙂


  2. Grant,
    My professional association (BCHRMA) states that, should I require further copies my CHRP certification document, I must take the original to a Notary have it copied and notarized by them. My association does not provide additional ‘certified’ copies beyond the original.


      1. Yes!
        There are thousands of CHRP’s in Canada and I know the cost would be prohibitive. As there are thousand’s of TWU grads I suspect TWU will feel the same although there will likely be pressure.


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