One of the documents you need in order to work abroad is an FBI criminal background check. It can take up to 12 weeks to get one; Becky and I requested and received ours months ago. In order to be valid for use abroad, however, it also must be "apostilled." When our FBI checks arrived, they came with a letter on getting an apostille, which I didn't read very thoroughly...
I had never heard of an apostille until we began this process. Basically, having a document apostilled is like having it "super-notarized" for use in other countries. Its power stems from a treaty known as "The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents," which certifies documents for use in any of the 97 countries that are signatories to the treaty. We also had to get our diplomas apostilled, but that could be done by the office of the Wyoming Secretary of State. We just drove over to Cheyenne and dropped them off in person. The FBI check, however, has to be apostilled at the Federal level.
I misunderstood this process. I thought our FBI checks had already been apostilled (they had such a nifty embossed seal and official signature!) but it turns out that getting an apostille is an additional step. Once they mail the background check to you, you have to send it off again to be apostilled.
Normally, you have to mail your documents to the State Department in Washington D.C. in order to get this done. You can expedite with next day air mail both ways, but it still can take up to 15 days in their office. We don't have that kind of time, because we need to mail all of our documents to our recruiter in Korea as soon as possible. Luckily, we have a friend who lives in D.C. (Thanks Tessa!) who is willing to hand deliver our documents to the walk-in counter at the State Department's Office of Authentications; they offer service on a while-you-wait basis. I sent everything off to her today by next day air - with any luck she'll get them apostilled on Wednesday and we'll have them back by Thursday or Friday. We can then expedite them to Korea the next day. Between the cost of the background checks themselves, the next day air to and from D.C., the cost of the apostilles, and the expedited mail to Korea, the total cost of this process will be just a little over $100.
The moral of this story is start your document quest early, and pay close attention to your recruiter. We were told that we needed a State Department apostille, but I dropped the ball. Because of that, it has cost us more than twice as much as it would have because we are having to expedite all of the mailing. Lesson learned.