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I am in the process of applying for Spanish student visa, and I need it "legalized with the Apostille of the Hague Convention by the Department of State in Washington DC."

I have already received the PDF of the FBI background check. According to some guides, I just need to send "the FBI background check results (the printout of the PDF), Form DS-4194, payment, and return mailing envelope" to the Office of Authentication (source). However, the state department website says the document must be notarized and certified before sending in. (source)

So should I get the background check notarized and certified, or should I just send in the PDF printout?

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I got this answer from Reddit (@givemegreencard), thought I'd share.

I sent just a printout of the PDF in. The apostille is the US government attesting to the signature of the person signing the document.

For something that is not a government document, such as a contract, you need a notary (technically a government official) to sign your document. Then the Department of State of the state that appoints the notary (i.e. the State of California) issues an apostille.

If you need to apostille a birth certificate issued by a state, same thing -- you go to that state's Department of State to get an apostille to authenticate the signature of the state health official on the birth certificate.

In this case, you have the signature of a federal government official, someone in the FBI. So the federal Department of State must apostille it, and because it's the signature of a government official already, you don't go and get it notarized again.

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