While we await our I-171H, I decided to get all our other docs certified (in which the County Clerk certifies that the notary who notarized the doc is indeed a notary), authenticated and state sealed (in which the Secretary of State certifies that the County Clerk who certified the notary is indeed the County Clerk) and copied (in which I stand in front of a copy machine for two hours and copy a stack of stapled docs that cannot be unstapled lest the state seal be voided). For those of you about to prepare your dossiers, here are a couple of things I learned:
Certification - Not all states require this. If yours does, I suggest calling ahead to the County Clerk's office and giving the notary department a list of all your notaries and how many docs he/she notarized. They can prepare the paperwork, and all they have to do is staple their sheet to each of your docs when you arrive. Otherwise, you could wait hours or be asked to come back. I also recommend you ask the clerk to double check the notaries' expiration date against their records. One of my notaries wrote in the wrong date.
Authentication - I've been told you can't call ahead to the Secretary of State. You just have to go. I've also been told morning is less busy -- but bring a book. I waited about half an hour. Here, you have to get your docs "authenticated" or "state sealed," NOT "apostilled" as this is a requirement of Ethiopia. Your SoS should be aware of this. If you have out-of-state docs like birth certificates, they have to be authenticated in those states, so you may have to mail them off. I would recommend doing that right away -- my birth certificate has still not come back from the Alabama Secretary of State. **Added: Holly says make copies before you state seal. This is good advice so you don't have to contend with as many staples. Wish I'd done that!
Copied - You can't unstaple anything so copying takes a while. I'm glad I got it done because when that golden ticket arrives, I plan to go directly downtown -- not to Kinko's!